By Lauren LaFleur
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third 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.
The countdown to election day has begun, and with early voting ending in Cherokee County Friday and the polls opening Tuesday, voters still have plenty of opportunity to help decide the fate of 11 proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution.
Propositions 7, 8 and 9 would allow members of the state militia to hold other civil offices, help pave the way for veterans’ hospitals in the state, and define what is a state-owned public beach, respectively.
If passed, Proposition 7 would allow officers or enlisted members of the Texas National Guard or other state military forces or militia to hold other civil offices. Currently, members of those groups are not included in the list of those who are allowed to hold dual civil offices.
The proposed amendment would appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment to allow an officer or enlisted member of the Texas State Guard or other state militia or military force to hold other civil offices.”
For: Supporters of this proposed amendment say it simply corrects oversight in previous amendments to the Texas Constitution by adding these groups to the already existing list of those civil officials allowed to hold an additional office. The National Guard and military reserves are already listed as those groups in which someone may serve their country and simultaneously hold another civil office. Supporters also argue serving in the Texas State Guard or militia is not incompatible with holding civil office, such as serving on a city council or school board.
Against: Although adding this exception to the prohibition against dual-office holding by civil officials would be justified, passing it would only add to the problem of having to amend the constitution for every specific office. Opponents say all such exceptions should be eliminated from the Texas Constitution and replaced with a general ban against holding two offices at the same time. The legislature should then be authorized to make needed exceptions to this ban by statute. Additionally, the Texas court system has standards by which to determine the compatibility of two offices held by the same person. Determinations of overlapping authority or conflicting interests should be made on a case-by-case basis rather than attempting to anticipate every possible exception.
The resulting amendment, if Proposition 8 is passed, would allow the state to contribute money, property and other needed resources for the establishment, maintenance and operation of veterans’ hospitals in Texas.
The proposed amendment would appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the state to contribute money, property, and other resources for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of veterans hospitals in this state.”
For: Currently Texas lacks the authority that would allow contributions to a veterans’ hospital. This amendment would provide the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs an incentive to partner with the state and local communities to establish these types of facilities. Past amendments have allowed similar measures for veterans’ rest homes and cemeteries, and this amendment would be a means by which Texas voters could express their desire to help provide and improve medical access to Texas veterans.
Against: This would be an unnecessary amendment, if passed. As it stands, the Texas Constitution would not prevent the state from contributing land, money or resources for the establishment of a veterans’ hospital. In fact, the legislature enacted a statue earlier this year to allow such a contribution without making such authority to be based on an amendment. Previous amendments regarding veterans’ rest homes and cemeteries did not authorize the state to contribute to these but rather outlined the mechanism by which such programs would be funded. The federal government would not likely take such an amendment as enticement to establish such an institution in the state — the federal government has already begun contracting with private hospitals in order to serve in-patient and emergency medical needs of veterans.
This amendment would determine what is a state-owned public beach and give the public unrestricted right to use and the right of ingress to and egress from such a beach. This amendment would allow the legislature to enable laws to protect these rights.
The proposed amendment would appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment to protect the right of the public, individually and collectively, to access and use the public beaches bordering the seaward shore of the Gulf of Mexico.”
For: This amendment would strengthen the Texas Open Beaches Act by preserving it in the Texas Constitution and by putting it to a public vote to demonstrate public support for the conservation of public beaches. The amendment would alter no current practices but would rather highlight core principles in current law that are acceptable and acknowledged in common law and in state statutes. Additionally, this amendment would preserve Texas public beaches from any future legislative or judicial action that could weaken these legal principles. Adding this amendment to the Texas Bill of Rights would guarantee that access to and use of Texas beaches is a fundamental right.
Against: The Open Beaches Act already grants the state too much authority to restrict private landowners’ right to enjoy their property. This statute would strengthen already excessive state practices that in essence punish owners of land near public beaches for events beyond their control. This amendment would forever lock into place law that allows the state to force owners of property that has suffered from erosion or weather events to remove structures that, once on privately owned land, end up on public beaches.
By Lauren LaFleur
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