Bailey discusses constitutional amendments

State Representative Kevin Bailey has been providing us with a brief overview of constitutional amendments that will appear on the ballot in November In the 2001 regular session, the 77th Texas Legislature passed 19 joint resolutions proposing constitutional amendments.

Read these amendments. With 19 propositions on the ballot, there is something that will affect you, your family, or your business. Each and every Texan has the opportunity to vote on the merits of each proposition.

PROPOSITION NO. 9 states that when a vacancy occurs in either house of the Legislature, the governor or the person exercising the governor’s power must call an election to fill the vacancy. This amendment would authorize the Legislature to cancel a special election for a vacancy in the Legislature if only one person qualified and declared a candidacy in the election.

REASONS TO CONSIDER VOTING FOR THIS AMENDMENT: Proposition 9 would spare the state and counties the unnecessary expense and administrative burden of holding special elections to fill vacancies in the Legislature when candidates are unopposed. If a candidate is unopposed, the race essentially is decided already. Under current law, if the ballot contains only a single unopposed candidate, the election becomes an expensive but constitutionally required formality.

REASONS TO CONSIDER VOTING AGAINST THIS AMENDMENT: Even if voter turnout is low because there is only one candidate on the ballot, those who take the time to become informed and vote are exercising their right to endorse the candidate they want to represent them. It also would deprive candidates of the opportunity to gain visibility by campaigning. The privilege of voting is important and should not be taken lightly, even for the sake of convenience or saving money.

PROPOSITION NO.10 would authorize the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation property that is stored temporarily en route to another location in Texas or outside the state. Exempt property would include the same types of goods and products eligible for the freeport exemption. The property would have to be acquired in or brought into Texas and stored at a location not owned or controlled by the property owner for not more than 270 days after acquisition or importation.

REASONS TO CONSIDER VOTING FOR THIS AMENDMENT: Proposition 10 would be an important first step in helping Texas regain its share of lucrative warehousing and distribution markets. Voter approval would allow the legislature to act to stem the loss of customers and jobs to other states. Surrounding states offer much more favorable inventory tax treatment. Many manufacturers began storing their products outside Texas, costing the state an estimated 27,000 jobs.

REASONS TO CONSIDER VOTING AGAINST THIS AMENDMENT: Any measure that could erode local tax bases further would be imprudent, especially in a time of revenue shortfall and fiscal uncertainty. Since 1994, state and local tax revenues have declined as a percentage of personal income. Creating a new exemption would result in substantial costs to the state as well as local governments. The state should impose a moratorium on new tax exemptions until the efficiency and appropriateness of existing exemptions are determined.

PROPOSITION NO. 11: The Texas Constitution prohibits a person from holding more than one civil office for compensation. State employees and others, such as current or retired public school teachers, who receive all or part of their compensation directly or indirectly from state funds, may serve on the governmental bodies of school districts, cities, towns, or other local government bodies, provided that they receive no salary for such service.

REASONS TO CONSIDER VOTING FOR THIS AMENDMENT: Proposition 11 would remove an antiquated prohibition that makes it difficult for teachers to serve as members of’ the governing boards of local government bodies. Those who wish to serve must give up any salary or other compensation normally provided for hours of public service. Many people who have run for these offices have been unaware of this prohibition and later have been forced to repay their salaries.

REASONS TO CONSIDER VOTING AGAINST THIS AMENDMENT: Good reasons exist for the constitutional prohibition against a person who is paid with taxpayer dollars holding more than one public position. When taxpayers are paying a person’s salary, they expect that person’s total commitment to the job. When a person accepts two offices, at some point those offices will come into conflict as to the amount of time required to do each job well.

PROPOSITION NO. 12: The Texas Constitution originally was adopted in 1876. Since then, the Legislature has proposed 567 amendments, of which Texas voters have approved 390. Various provisions have been rendered obsolete by federal judicial decisions or enactments, repeat the same or similar language or refer to programs and entities no longer in effect.

REASONS TO CONSIDER VOTING FOR THIS AMENDMENT: Proposition 12 would streamline the existing Constitution by deleting obsolete, inconsistent, and moot provisions, by relocating provisions to more logical places. and by renumbering provisions with duplicating numbering. All the proposed changes are relatively minor and non-controversial. None of the revisions warrant separate propositions and no one provision would justify rejecting the entire slate of changes.

REASONS TO CONSIDER VOTING AGAINST THIS AMENDMENT: Rather than amend and repeal sections of an out-of-date constitution, it would make more sense to overhaul the document to make it a leaner, more responsive blueprint for government for the new century. The sheer volume of unnecessary provisions being removed by Proposition 12, following two similar revisions in 1997 and 1999, shows the need for a complete overhaul.

If you would like additional information on these and the other 15 proposed amendments, feel free to call the office of State Representative Kevin Bailey at 281-847-9000.