Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Amending the Texas Constitution for the Umpteenth Time

This November 8, Texans will once more go the polls and vote on a slew of proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution.

Proposition 1: Homestead Exemptions for Disabled Veterans' Surviving Spouses

Ballot Language: "The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a 100 percent or totally disabled veteran."

That's the first of ten such amendments. I know what you're thinking -- why is a constitutional amendment needed to make a minor tweak to the homestead exemption for property taxes? Don't we elect representatives to make informed decisions for us on such details? The answer is that, historically, Texans so mistrusted government that we enshrined many details of governance in our constitution, thus requiring a vote of all Texans to decide even the most mundane issues. Because of this, not surprisingly, the Texas constitution is a mess. Even the tea party agrees, and you would think that if anyone would be sympathetic to shackling the powers of elected representatives, it would be the tea party.

After the jump, how you should vote.

Now that I enticed you down this far, I'm going to pull the old bait-and-switch and not tell you how you should vote. It's probably a moot point anyway. Again, I agree with the tea party when they look at history and conclude that the constitution is a mess because every amendment proposed in the past was approved by the voters (a fact check would almost certainly reveal that's not exactly accurate, but it's close enough for government work).

Instead, I'll just link to some others who have something to say about each and every one of those proposed amendments. You'll have to do the hard work of clicking on the links, reading the recommendations, then making up your own minds.

  • The Constitutional Amendment Voters Guide by the League of Women Voters of Texas. This is a non-partisan explanation of the pros and cons of each proposed amendment. If you want to claim you are an informed voter, this guide is a must-read.

  • The Burnt Orange Report's Overview of Amendments 1-5 and Overview of Amendments 6-10. Although the Burnt Orange Report is a liberal website, these overviews summarize the positions of left, right, and center publications and include the LWV-Texas non-partisan description of each amendment. So, if you're going to read just one guide, maybe this is the one.

  • The North Texas Tea Party's recommendations. This includes a table summarizing the Yes/No position of eight conservative organizations. It offers the least description of the amendments or rationale for their recommendations, so read this one if all you care about is how the Tea Party wants you to vote and not what it is you'll actually be voting on.

  • The Dallas Morning News's recommendations. Call the paper liberal, conservative, moderate or what-have-you, one thing it's not -- it's not in alignment with the tea party on this one. Read it for, let's call it the establishment viewpoint.

1 comment:

glbeach said...

Regarding Amendment 2: "The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board in an amount not to exceed $6 billion at any time outstanding."

While I agree the ceiling for the bond debt should probably be lifted somewhat, I find a jump from $2 billion to $6 billion to be a mighty big step. Thus far I have found nothing to give any assurance the TDWB is capable of maintaining the bond quality on a 3x increase.

I will vote against this one, but would probably support it if it were a smaller step and included some type of oversight/transparency measures.