Early voting begins on Monday for not only the Lockhart City Council but for several proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution. In general, constitutional elections are held after the Texas Legislature meets in regular session to implement laws specific to only certain parts of the state. However, because of the way the Texas Constitution was drafted, denying the State all powers not specifically granted within the Constitution, any governmental changes must be ratified by the voters through amendments to the Texas Constitution.
Over the course of history, the Texas Constitution has been amended 474 times, many of those amendments relating only to specific counties or political subdivisions. Often, according to turnout data provided by Secretary of State John Steen, Constitutional elections are plagued by low voter turnout.
In Caldwell County, for instance, only 1,570 of the county’s 19,939 registered voters came to the polls to weigh in on the amendments.
This year’s proposed Constitutional amendments address a variety of issues, including ad valorem tax issues for disabled veterans and surviving spouses.
The following is the amendment language provided on the ballots, along with the explanation of each referendum as provided by Steen’s Office
“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 a surviving spouse of a member of the armed services of the United States who is killed in action.”
The Legislature has proposed a constitutional amendment to authorize the legislature to provide by statute 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 United States armed services who is killed in action, as long as the surviving spouse has not remarried. An eligible spouse who later qualifies a different property as the surviving spouse’s residence homestead could be authorized by statute to receive an exemption from ad valorem taxation in the same amount received for the first qualifying homestead during the last year in which the surviving spouse received the exemption.
“The constitutional amendment eliminating an obsolete requirement tor a State Medical Education Board and a State Medical Education Fund, neither of which is operational.”
A joint legislative resolution proposes a constitutional amendment to repeal the constitutional provision requiring the creation of a State Medical Education Board and a State Medical Education Fund, neither of which is in operation. No new loans have been made from the fund by the board in more than 25 years, and the board currently has no appointees and receives no program funding.
“The constitutional amendment to authorize a political subdivision of this state to extend the number of days that aircraft parts 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.”
A joint resolution would authorize local political subdivisions to extend the length of time that aircraft parts could remain temporarily in this state before being subject to ad valorem taxation. Under current law, merchandise, wares, and goods (including aircraft parts) may remain in this state temporarily for up to 175 days before being subject to ad valorem taxation; the proposed amendment would permit taxing entities to extend the exemption up to 730 days after the date that a person acquired or imported aircraft parts in the state.
“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.”
House Joint Resolution 24 proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow 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 at no cost to the veteran by a charitable organization.
“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.”
Senate Joint Resolution 18 would amend the definition of “reverse mortgage” to authorize the making of reverse mortgage loans for the purchase of homestead property in addition to the current legal uses of those loans, and would give lenders recourse against borrowers who fail to timely occupy the homestead properties purchased with such loans. SJR 18 would also add to the definition of “reverse mortgage” an extension of credit that is not closed before the 12th day after the lender provides to the prospective borrower a written notice summarizing risks and conditions of a reverse mortgage. The language of the required notice is prescribed in the resolution.
“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.”
A Senate joint resolution would create the State Water Implementation Fund as a special fund inside the state treasury and outside the General Revenue Fund. Money in the fund would be administered by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) and would be used to implement the state water plan, as adopted by general law, by TWDB.
“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.”
House Joint Resolution 87 proposes a constitutional amendment to allow home-rule municipalities to adopt charter provisions authorizing the filling of vacancies in the governing body by appointment, but only when the remainder of the vacant term is less than 12 months. Under current law, municipal voters may adopt terms of office for municipal officers longer than two years, but upon approving longer terms of office, any resulting vacancies in office must be filled by special election. The proposed amendment would provide an option for home-rule municipalities to fill short-term vacancies through appointment.
“The Constitutional Amendment repealing Section 7, Article IX, Texas Constitution, which relates to the creation of a hospital district in Hidalgo County.”
This joint resolution would repeal the Texas Constitution’s maximum tax rate for a Hidalgo County hospital district; the maximum rate is currently set at 10 cents per $100 valuation. This rate is lower than the maximum tax rate allowable for hospital districts in all other counties in the State (75 cents per $100 valuation). The repeal of the constitutional cap would authorize hospital district tax rates in Hidalgo County equal to the hospital district tax rate laws applicable to all other Texas counties.
“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.”
Senate Joint Resolution 42 would expand the potential sanctions that the State Commission on Judicial Conduct can issue following a formal proceeding. This constitutional amendment would allow the Commission to issue an order of public admonition, warning, reprimand, or a requirement to obtain additional training or education in addition to the Commission’s current authority to issue a public censure or recommend removal or retirement of a judge.