By Lauren LaFleur
Editor’s note: This is the second in a four-part series about the proposed constitutional amendments that will appear on the Nov. 3 ballot. Information for analyses of each proposition came from reports published by the House Research Organization and the Texas Legislative Council. Views expressed are not those of the Jacksonville Daily Progress or its staff.
Tuesday’s election will allow Texans to decide the fate of 11 proposed constitutional amendments that will change how property is appraised, the definition of a state-owned public beach, and even the terms under which the state can use eminent domain to claim land for public use.
Linda Little, Cherokee County tax assessor/collector, said Monday voter turn-out in early voting has been low and urged voters to research the proposed amendments and get to the polls.
“I know people are not interested, but this election will affect them — forever,” Little said.
Little said those wishing to cast their ballots Tuesday need to bring with them their current voter registration card, driver’s license, Social Security card or a utility bill in their name in order to vote.
The Texas Legislature’s proposed 11 amendments to the Texas Constitution could affect people in this area if passed. Propositions 4, 5 and 6 deal with research universities’ funding, appraisal review boards and allowing the Veterans’ Land Board to issue bonds.
This proposed amendment would provide a source of funding to give emerging research universities in Texas a way to develop into major research institutions. The amendment would require the legislature appropriate state revenue for use in the national research university fund as well as transfer the balance of the existing state higher education fund to the national fund. The legislature would also have to set the standards by which a university would qualify to receive and use money from the research fund.
The proposed amendment would appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment establishing the national research university fund to enable emerging research universities in this state to achieve national prominence as major research universities and transferring the balance of the higher education fund to the national research university fund.”
For: With only two public tier-one, nationally recognized research institutions in the state (University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M; University) and one private tier-one research university (Rice University), Texas is below the curve when it comes to cutting-edge research. Institutions with the funding to become nationally recognized research universities attract students. With more applicants each year than the two established research institutions in the state can accept, Texas is losing its best and brightest future researchers to doctorate-granting institutions in other states. This amendment would put to use dormant higher education funds, provide guaranteed funding for emerging research universities, and allow those universities to attract and keep the state’s top talent while generating research that will benefit the state and the nation.
Against: With state resources already spread thin, Texas should focus its resources on the universities already close to tier-one status. Fiscally speaking, it would make more sense to devote resources to targeting universities further along the path to national recognition rather than spread the funding among the seven institution designated as emerging research universities. Also, the funding criteria in this proposition’s enabling legislation sets the bar at what could be too high a level for some universities, especially historically underfunded institutions and those that primarily serve minorities.
Proposition 5, if passed, would allow the Legislature to allow for a single appraisal review board for two or more adjoining appraisal entities that choose to provide consolidated reviews of tax appraisals.
The proposed amendment would appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to authorize a single board of equalization for two or more adjoining appraisal entities that elect to provide for consolidated equalizations.”
For: The Texas Constitution already allows the legislature to authorize counties to consolidate appraisal services, if they wish to — this amendment would then allow the legislature to authorize consolidated appraisal review boards that consider appraisal appeals. Consolidation of review boards could allow the boards to run more efficiently and could prove to not only save counties money, but it would also benefit rural counties, giving them a larger pool of prospective, qualified candidates from which to pick board members. Also, counties opting to form consolidated boards would have to be contiguous, so board members would be familiar with local markets and land valuations.
Against: Only residents of a particular county should have the authority to decide appeals of property appraisals. Allowing outsiders to have a say in these matters could result in loss of local control. Also, the proposed amendment does not provide enough provisions for consolidation issues. In areas where consolidation of a review board would be beneficial, it stands to reason consolidation of appraisal operations would also benefit the county, and vice versa. Review and appraisal consolidations should be done simultaneously.
The Veterans’ Land Board would be allowed to issue general obligation bonds in order to sell land and provide home or land mortgage loans to Texas veterans, if Proposition 6 is passed. These bonds would be subject to certain constitutional limits.
The proposed amendment would appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the Veterans’ Land Board to issue general obligation bonds in amounts equal to or less than amounts previously authorized.”
For: The Veterans’ Land Board offers lower-than-market rates on financing for mortgages and land purchase financing to veterans as a reward for their service. Under the current structure, the VLB must ask the legislature and voters every four years to secure bonding authority. This amendment would do away with such measures and allow the VLB the authority to issue bonds, as long as the amount of bonds issued does not exceed the total amount allowed in previous amendments. Texans have never voted down these types of measures in past elections, and have approved $4 billion in these types of bonds, $2 billion of which has already been issued or later retired or redeemed. This amendment would allow the VLB to issue bonds on those already retired or redeemed.
Against: This amendment would allow the VLB to issue more than $2 billion in new state-backed bonds for land-purchase and mortgage-loan programs — this backing would be added to the state’s debt. Voters would essentially be re-authorizing the issuance of bonds already issued as many as 60 years ago and since paid off and retired. These types of bonds are considered long-term debt because they are generally not paid off and retired for decades after their initial authorization. Re-authorization of bonds allowed by Proposition 6 should apply only to those bonds previously authorized and retired as of 2009, and any bonds retired in the future should have to go to a public vote before they can be reissued.
By Lauren LaFleur
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