Bailey continues review of Constitutional Amendments on November ballot

State Representative Kevin Bailey continues this week with a brief discussion of constitutional amendments. These propositions are challenging issues to deal with and our constitution requires your vote on them. That is way they are on the November 6 ballot.

AMENDMENT NO. 5 would authorize municipalities to donate outdated or surplus firefighting equipment, supplies, or other materials to an underdeveloped country.

REASONS TO CONSIDER VOTING FOR THIS AMENDMENT: The proposed amendment would allow Texas cities and towns to assist Mexico by donating equipment that no longer meets departmental standards in the state but is still useable. Dry southwestern landscapes are vulnerable to fires, and uncontained fires along the border could spread to Texas. Because some firefighting forces in Mexico have no appropriate gear or equipment, Texas’ outdated equipment would help our international neighbor with public and firefighter safety and would be a significant goodwill gesture.

REASONS TO CONSIDER VOTING AGAINST THIS AMENDMENT: Some fire departments in Texas and bordering states do not have enough firefighting equipment and rely on donated equipment and gear to protect their communities and land from fires. Given the limited supply of equipment, donations to Mexico or other foreign countries would deprive some Texas cities of this equipment Currently, there are more than 2,500 outstanding requests for equipment donations and only 128 donors through Texas Forest Service Helping Hands Program. Texas local governments should receive priority over foreign far equipment donations.

AMENDMENT NO. 6 Under Article 2. Section 1 of the US- Constitution, the President and the Vice President are to be chosen by electors. Each state must appoint, in a manner directed by the legislature, a number of electors equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the state is entitled in congress. In most states, including Texas, the entire slate of electors pledged to a presidential ticket are chosen if the ticket receives the most votes statewide in the election.

REASONS TO CONSIDER VOTING FOR THIS AMENDMENT: The national controversy over the razor-thin presidential election in November 2000 and the subsequent recount in Florida has prompted a re-examination of voting procedures in Texas and other states. Proposition 6 would provide clear guidelines for the governor to call a special session for the Legislature to choose presidential electors in the event of an election contest such as the one in Florida. Under current law, it is not clear whether the governor constitutionally could be required to call a special session for this purpose.

REASONS TO CONSIDER VOTING AGAINST THIS AMENDMENT: Proposition 6 is not needed, because current statuary and constitutional law already authorizes the governor to preside over contests of presidential electors and to make the final determination, as well as to call a special session of the Legislature. Moreover, it could allow a partisan legislature to circumvent the will of the voters and appoint a slate of electors pledged to a presidential candidate other than that chosen by the voters.

AMENDMENT NO. 7 would allow the Legislature to authorize the Veterans’ Land Board (VLB) to issue up to $500 million in general-obligation bonds to benefit the Veterans Housing Assistance Fund II. The amendment also would permit using funds from the veterans’ land and housing assistance programs to plan, design, operate, maintain, enlarge, or improve veterans’ cemeteries.

REASONS TO VOTE FOR THIS AMENDMENT: Proposition 7 would provide much-needed support to meet the increasing demand for veterans’ home mortgage loans, which have grown in popularity since the Legislature raised the cap on these loans from $45,000 to $150,000 in 1999. Prudent loan and investment practices have made the veterans’ programs self-sufficient, and veterans using the program, rather than the taxpayers of Texas, would be responsible for retiring the debt and paying the interest.

REASONS TO VOTE AGAINST THIS AMENDMENT: Texas veterans deserve aid, but they already are eligible for many benefits, including federal Veterans’ Administration housing loans, college tuition assistance, and hiring preference for federal and state civil-service jobs. Regardless of need or income, veterans can obtain government-subsidized mortgages at interest rates lower that those available to other homebuyers. Furthermore, voters should be wary of authorizing more state debt

AMENDMENT NO. 8 The Texas Constitution prohibits state debts. It generally requires the Legislature to submit for voter approval proposals authorizing general obligation bonds backed by the state’s credit, usually by constitutional amendment. The Texas Public Finance Authority (TRFA) may only issue bonds for the acquisition or construction of a building for a state agency if the legislature has authorized the specific project or the maximum amount of bonded indebtedness that may be incurred by the issuance of the bonds,

REASONS TO VOTE FOR THIS AMENDMENT: Using bonds for capital improvements would be an appropriate way to stretch state dollars to pay for long-term projects, such as for construction and repair. In the current budget cycle, most of the agencies that the proposed bonds would benefit submitted large exceptional-item requests for crucial repair and maintenance projects that could not be addressed fully because of the limited availability of funds.

REASONS TO VOTE AGAINST THIS AMENDMENT: Because the proposition is worded as a vote on the entire bond issue, voters would have no clear indication of how money would be allocated among individual projects. Bonds should not be issued to finance repair projects. Repairs are predictable costs for which agencies can and should budget. The state has failed to keep up repairs even during prosperous years.

If you would like additional information on these and the other proposed amendments, feel free to call the office of State Representative Kevin Bailey at 281-847-9000.