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Voters presented with nine amendments

Early voting began Monday on nine proposed Texas constitutional amendments. Proposition 6, concerning Texas water, and Proposition 5, concerning reverse mortgages, have generated discussion from those supporting and opposing them. The other propositions have received little attention.

Below is the ballot language of the proposed amendments, a summary, and some of the arguments that have been made for and against each proposition. Much of this information was obtained through the Texas Leauge of Women Voters and other internet sources.

Proposition 1

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 member of the armed services of the United States who is killed in action.
Explanation - The proposed amendment would allow the surviving spouse of a member of the U.S. armed services who was killed in action to be exempt from paying local property taxes based on all or part of the total appraised value of the homestead.
Arguments For - The proposed amendment would allow local governments in Texas to assist surviving spouses of U.S. armed services members who have been killed in action.
Arguments Against - School districts and local governments would receive less revenue from property taxes.

Proposition 2

Ballot language - The constitutional amendment eliminating an obsolete requirement for a State Medical Education Board and a State Medical Education Fund, neither of which is operational.
Explanation - In 1952, the State Medical Education Board (SMEB) and a scholarship fund were created to issue loans to medical students who agreed to practice in rural areas of Texas. No new loans have been issued since January 1988. Direct loans are now used for this purpose. The proposed constitutional amendment would remove references to these defunct entities in the constitution and state law.
Arguments For - Since the SMEB and its education fund are no longer operational, references to them should be removed from the state’s unwieldy constitution.
Arguments Against - The SMEB and its education fund are obsolete, so a constitutional amendment to remove references to them is unnecessary.

Proposition 3

Ballot language - The constitutional amendment to authorize a political subdivision of this state to extend the number of days that aircraft parts that are exempt from ad valorem taxation due to their location in this state for a temporary period may be located in this state for purposes of qualifying for the tax exemption.
Explanation - Currently, the Texas Constitution allows local taxing authorities to exempt some property that is in Texas temporarily. This tax exemption is commonly referred to as a “freeport exemption.” It is limited to 175 days. The proposed amendment, if passed, would extend that limit up to 730 days (two years) for aircraft and aircraft parts.
Arguments For - The proposed exemption would provide an economic development tool. Texas is one of only a few states with a tax on inventory.
Arguments Against - Singling out one group for special tax exemption status raises issues of uniformity in taxation. Granting an extension reduces tax revenues for local governments.

Proposition 4

Ballot language - The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of part of the market value of the residence homestead of a partially disabled veteran or the surviving spouse of a partially disabled veteran if the residence homestead was donated to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization.
Explanation - This proposed amendment would provide an exemption to a partially disabled veteran or surviving spouse, if the homestead has been donated by a charitable organization at no cost to the veteran. The amount of the exemption would be a percentage of the market value of the residence homestead that is equal to the percentage of disability of the veteran.
Arguments For - Charitable organizations have given homes to disabled veterans, but in some cases the veteran is unable to pay the property taxes, resulting in forclosue. These veterans have sacrificed for our country and are deserving of help. The cost of the exemption is small because only a dozen or so homes per year are donated cost-free to disabled veterans.
Arguments Against - Singling out one group for special tax exemption status, even though deserving, raises issues of uniformity in taxation and could open the door to continued erosion of the tax base.

Proposition 5

Ballot language - The constitutional amendment to authorize the making of a reverse mortgage loan for the purchase of homestead property and to amend lender disclosures and other requirements in connection with a reverse mortgage loan.
Explanation - The proposed amendment would enable Texas seniors to use “reverse mortgages for purchase” to acquire a new residence. It would also require reverse mortgage lenders to expand currently required counseling to borrowers to include disclosure of the specific behaviors that can lead to foreclosure on a property.
Arguments For - This proposition saves costs for seniors by allowing a reverse mortgage loan to be set up as part of a purchase rather than after a purchase to eliminate duplicative processes. This helps seniors relocate to other geographical areas or downsize to homes that better meet their needs.
Arguments Against - Homeowners can lose a lifetime of home equity as a result of fraud, scams, misleading advertising, aggressive sales tactics and discriminatory practices sometimes associated with reverse mortgages.

Proposition 6

Ballot language - The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas to assist in the financing of priority projects in the state water plan to ensure the availability of adequate water resources.
Explanation - The proposed amendment authorizes the transfer of $2 billion from the economic stabilization fund, commonly known as the Rainy Day Fund. Money in the fund would be available to provide support for low-interest loans, longer repayment terms for loans, incremental repurchase terms for projects in which the state owns an interest, and deferral of loan payments.
Arguments For - Ensuring an adequate water supply is essential to the public and economic health of Texas. Responding to the current drought emergency is an appropriate use of the Rainy Day Fund and will provide a better return on investment than if the money were left in that fund.
Arguments Against - While TWDB needs to proceed with priority projects, taking money from the Rainy Day Fund is inappropriate. Reducing the amount in this fund could reduce the state’s excellent credit rating and affect the state’s ability to respond to a natural disaster or other emergency situations.

Proposition 7

Ballot language - The constitutional amendment authorizing a home-rule municipality to provide in its charter the procedure to fill a vacancy on its governing body for which the unexpired term is 12 months or less.
Explanation - Would allow a home rule city, with more than 5,000 people, to fill a vacated position by appointment if there is less than 12 months remaining in the term.
Arguments For - Proposition 7 would cut taxpayer costs. When an elected city official dies or otherwise leaves office, the Constitution currently requires the city to hold a special election within 120 days even if only a few months remain in the term.
Arguments Against - Proposition 7 might increase the opportunity for corruption by allowing city officials to appoint one another.

Proposition 8

Ballot language - The constitutional amendment repealing Section 7, Article IX, Texas Constitution, which relates to the creation of a hospital district in Hidalgo County.
Explanation - Proposition 8 would remove from the Texas Constitution a 1960 amendment that authorized the creation of a hospital district in Hidalgo County with a maximum tax rate of 10 cents per $100 valuation of taxable property. This would allow the voters in Hidalgo County to create their own hospital district and set their own tax rate.
Arguments For - Hidalgo is the only county in the state with a tax limitation, and is also the largest county without a hospital district. This proposition could help the county establish a hospital district and obtain federal funds.
Arguments Against - Passage of this proposition would likely increase the taxes for property owners in Hidalgo County.

Proposition 9

Ballot language - The constitutional amendment relating to expanding the types of sanctions that may be assessed against a judge or justice following a formal proceeding instituted by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Explanation - Currently, after a formal disciplinary proceeding, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct (SCJC) may issue an order of public censure or recommend removal or retirement of the judge/justice. If this proposed amendment passes, the SCJC may at its discretion issue a private or public admonition, warning, reprimand, or requirement that the person obtain additional training or education, as well as the censure or formal recommendations of resignation or retirement.
Arguments For - Proposition 9 would lead to greater public accountability for judges and justices.
Arguments Against - Stronger measures than those provided by Proposition 9 are needed to reinforce the SCJC’s authority to discipline judges and hold them accountable for judicial misconduct.