7 PROPOSED AMENDMENTS – Put Through The Test

An NFL referee can’t perform his duty if he’s not well educated on the 200+ page rule book. Voters can’t expedite their duty if they don’t know the rules restricting government  – that is the Supreme Law of the land; the 34 page U.S. Constitution.  It is upon these principles that our Texas Constitution and statutes are supposed to be enacted.

If you plan to vote on the 7 proposed amendments to our 200+ page Texas Constitution, you should have consistent rules by which you judge every amendment.  I consistently use the U.S. Constitution as my benchmark.   My three test questions are found here because every law increases the size, scope, and cost of government.

Here’s a summary of the 7 proposals and their constitutionality…

PROP # 1
Property Tax Reforms

He who pays the mortgage makes the house rules.homestead-exemption
This bill is tantamount to the Legislature taking ownership of what used to be a local issue. He who likes this minimal tax reduction, may also believe that because he has checks in the checkbook, he also has money in the bank.  Here are some points you may not have considered;
Prop # 1 proposes:
• Local school taxes – Increasing the mandatory homestead exemption by $10K on the appraised value.  The elderly & disabled will see an additional homestead exemption. But rural school districts not realizing rapid population growth and inflationary home values will see a negative “local” revenue flow. All local revenue losses will be subsidized by the state. Can you say Robin Hood financing?
Repealing the requirement of State Comptroller’s report of value for each school district computed without any deduction for residence homestead exemptions, making it more challenging for taxpayer to follow the money
Cost to the State General Revenue Fund on ISD portion of Prop #2: $1.2 Billion through the biennium.
• Prohibits a school district, municipality, or county that has adopted an optional percentage homestead exemption for the 2014 tax year under Section 11.13(n) Tax Code from reducing or repealing the exemption for a period extending through the end of tax year 2019.
• And finally, the only good part of Prop #1: Prohibits a future Real Estate Tax Transfer Tax, or a sales tax when real estate is transferred

This proposition should have been split into 3 separate ballot items. The taxpayer delusion that the minor decrease in homestead taxes will be significant will most likely carry this amendment. For those who understand differently, the Real Estate Transfer prohibition certainly will.

Constitutional Test…There are 3 elements to Prop #1:
I. Proposing an amendment to the state constitution to increase the amount of the residence homestead exemption from property taxation by a school district from $15,000 to $25,000; and provide for a reduction of the limitation on the total amount of school district property taxes that may be imposed on the homestead of an elderly or disabled person to reflect the increased exemption amount (through a complicated accounting formula); with state subsidies making up any shortfalls to local ISDs (Robin Hood funding)
II. To authorize the legislature to prohibit a political subdivision that has adopted an optional residence homestead property tax exemption from reducing the amount of or repealing the exemption
III. To prohibit the enactment of a law that imposes a transfer tax on a transaction that conveys fee simple title to real property (real estate transfer tax).

1.) Is it “constitutional”?
(Supports the constitutional republic)

NO (element I.)
Although reduction in property tax is a positive move toward property tax removal, this element falls short by selectively supporting the life, liberty, and property of homestead property owners but does not extend to rental property , and redistributes the wealth statewide (Robin Hood financing) for areas that may see a decrease in local funding; incrementally increasing state leverage to implement federal policies.  Moving the funding to the state, away from the local level, is a bad idea for many reasons.
NO (element II.)
Selectively supports the life, liberty, and property of certain homesteaders at the expense of those property owners not “qualifying” for the exemptions
YES (element III.)
Supports limited government

2.) Is there a need?
(Do all the People have a need for and benefit from the proposed government intervention?)

NO (element I.)
Not all people need the exemption nor do all benefit equally. Those districts not realizing population growth with inflated property values will see a decrease in local revenue, making them more dependent on state subsidies.
NO (element II.)
Not all people need the exemption nor do all benefit equally.
YES (element III.)
All people benefit from limited government intervention

3.) Affordability?
(Can the People afford it? Is the cost equal and uniform?)

NO (element I.)
Selectively excludes rental property; shifts the burden to all taxpayers (Robin Hood system) for those rural areas that will realize a decrease in local funding
NO (element II.)
The Texas Tax Code is extensive, as are the numerous ad valorem tax exemptions extended to selected classes of property owners, thus the prohibition of future repeal of certain tax exemptions will ensure a perpetual and un-equal tax and increased burden for non-qualifying property owners.
YES (element III.)
Supports limited and uniform taxation


PROP #2
Property tax exemptions for ALL surviving spouses of 100% or totally disabled veterans

This amendment will allow ALL surviving spouses of 100% or disabled veterans to fallen soldier_2inherit the 100% exemption on property tax on their homestead.  Every proposed amendment on homestead exemptions favoring our veterans since 2007 has passed.
Prop #2 proposes:
• Increase the estimated number of qualifying homesteads by 3800 in the state. For those taxing districts with higher populations of disabled veterans, the state will take your taxes and subsidize these cities for local service expenses
• The tax exemption amount follows the surviving spouse to future homesteads
• There is no sunset provision or value threshold provision on Prop #2.  Young widows could avoid property taxes for a lifetime if he/she does not remarry
• This homestead exemption is available to ALL surviving spouses that move to Texas from other states

1.) Is it “constitutional”?
(Supports the constitutional republic)

NO
Selectively supports the life, liberty, and property of certain homesteaders, increasing the burden on those not qualifying for the exemption

2.) Is there a need?
(Do all the People have a need for and benefit from the proposed government intervention?)

NO
Selectively creates a special class of homesteaders at the expense of those not qualifying for the exemption

3.) Affordability?
(Can the People afford it? Is the cost equal and uniform?)

NO
Selectively benefits a special class of homestead property owners but does not extend to rental property and increases the perpetual funding burden to non-exempt property owners


Prop #3
Repealing the requirement that statewide elected officials live in Austin

Despite the fact that their jobs happen to be located in the capitol, full time employees

of the People should show up at the office and manage their large staffs
• Full time statewide officials should be available to handle the state business and meet with state leaders as necessary
• State wide travel reimbursements could increase (would depend on future legislation to set covered expenses)

1.) Is it “constitutional”?
(Supports the constitutional republic)

Does Not Apply
The question of the physical whereabouts of a taxpayer funded, full-time, state official, is complicated by today’s advances in transportation and technology. There is possible misuse of this Proposition if passed (see “Affordability” below)

2.) Is there a need?
(Do all the People have a need for and benefit from the proposed government intervention?)

NO
Only the elected official and his/her family will benefit

3.) Affordability?
(Can the People afford it? Is the cost equal and uniform?)

UNKNOWN
Future Legislatures will determine the cost to the People for covered increase in travel and housing expenses through law


Prop #4
Allowing Charitable Raffles for Pro Sports Teams

• For purposes of Prop #4, professional sports teams are defined as Texas teams that Raffle_cullinanelawbelong to one of these:
1. Major League Baseball
2. National Basketball Association
3. National Hockey League
4. National Football League
5. Major League Soccer
• Would only apply to entities defined as a professional sports team charitable foundations on January 1, 2016

1.) Is it “constitutional”?
(Supports the constitutional republic)

NO
Governments are not instituted to pick winners/losers, especially in matters of charity

2.) Is there a need?
(Do all the People have a need for and benefit from the proposed government intervention?)

NO
The government is not required to inspire charitable donations

3.) Affordability?
(Can the People afford it? Is the cost equal and uniform?)

NO
All government actions require funding by the People. Prop #4 increases the scope and cost of government to administer, monitor, and penalize the actions of such foundations and charitable raffles suggested in Prop #4


Prop #5
Raising Population Cap for counties that may build private roads

• Increasing the population cap from 5000 to 7500 for counties that may contract with Road-construction_1landowners to build private roads

1.) Is it “constitutional”?
(Supports the constitutional republic)

NO
Government contracting for a private purpose is not a public purpose

2.) Is there a need?
(Do all the People have a need for and benefit from the proposed government intervention?)

NO
Not all landowners exhibit a need

3.) Affordability?
(Can the People afford it? Is the cost equal and uniform?)

NO
All county property owners share in the cost to employ government workers, pensions, and equipment, yet not all property owners benefit from work performed for private purposes


Prop #6
Establishing a “right” to hunt, fish, & harvest wildlife

To establish hunting & fishing as the preferred methods of managing and controlling hunting buffalo_1wildlife, Prop #6 causes confusion between a person’s right to hunt and fish and the role of the state and federal government in enacting laws that regulate those activities.  Right to Hunt and Fish constitutional amendments have been adopted by 18 other states
• Prop #6 is preemptive action against future government over-reach; the line between regulation and right is fuzzy, not to mention future legislatures can alter those definitions.

If Texas is trying to address future legislation that would hinder the right to hunt wildlife, consider this:
In the matter of same sex-marriage, both the People and the Texas legislature have spoken:
• The Texas legislature passed a law found in our Texas Family Code, section 2.01 which states – quote: “A license may not be issued for the marriage of persons of the same sex.
• In 2005, Texas voters amended our state constitution“Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.”
• And yet, in June of this year, 5 of 9 un-elected lawyers [SCOTUS] located in a 10 square mile district, 1500 miles away, opined that same-sex marriage is the law of the land.  Never mind the glaring fact that SCOTUS lacks jurisdiction in this matter, but if the People spoke at the ballot box and the Legislature spoke through state law in the Family Code, then what prevents the EPA from opining and trumping our Texas Constitution in matters of hunting wildlife?
Why isn’t our governor interposing, drawing the line in the sand, and simply telling DC to take their opinions on marriage elsewhere, that they have no standing in this matter in Texas? The 10th Amendment is very clear.
Considering the lack of action by our Governor on marriage, how would he or future governors stand up for any hunting & fishing language in our state constitution?

Privilege v Right
If before undertaking some action one must obtain a permit (permission), the action is a privilege, not a right.  A right is the sanction of independent action and can be exercised without permission.  A privilege granted can be withdrawn.

1.) Is it “constitutional”?
(Supports the constitutional republic)

NO
Governments do not grant “rights”.  If before undertaking some action, permission must be obtained, then such an act is a privilege, not a right.

2.) Is there a need?
(Do all the People have a need for and benefit from the proposed government intervention?)

NO
Rights exist without government permission.

3.) Affordability?
(Can the People afford it? Is the cost equal and uniform?)

NO
Not all people can afford the “licenses” charged to hunt and fish and it is unknown what laws/fees future legislatures will enact


Prop #7
Dedicating a portion of sales tax revenue to the state highway fund (for NON-toll purposes)

• Directs up to $2.5 billion of any sales tax proceeds in excess of $28 billion to the state transportationhighway fund in each fiscal year starting with fiscal 2018 and ending with fiscal 2032.
• Directs 35 percent of any motor vehicle sales, use, and rental tax proceeds in excess of $5 billion to the state highway fund in each fiscal year starting with fiscal 2020 and ending with fiscal 2029.
• The Legislature could reduce these deposits to the state highway fund by up to half with a two-thirds vote of each house, as long as the reduction was only for the current fiscal year or the two immediately following.
• The Legislature also could extend either constitutional dedication in 10-year increments by a majority vote of each house.
• Funds could be used only to construct, maintain, or acquire rights-of-way for roads other than toll roads or to repay bonds issued by the Texas Transportation Commission
FOR MORE INFO on Prop #7: www.TexasTURF.org

1.) Is it “constitutional”?
(Supports the constitutional republic)

YES
The right to travel is necessary to all the People, and is one of the few core responsibilities granted to government

2.) Is there a need?
(Do all the People have a need for and benefit from the proposed government intervention?)

YES
All the People have a need and a benefit in sound public roads funded by the public treasury

3.) Affordability?
(Can the People afford it? Is the cost equal and uniform?)

YES
All the People can afford sound public roads when the government prioritizes those few core functions granted to it. Roads tolled in perpetuity are not affordable or uniform.

7 thoughts on “7 PROPOSED AMENDMENTS – Put Through The Test”

    1. Hello Joy. I am the author – Barbara Harless. I apologize, I should have posted that at the end of the article, especially since I used the 1st person several times.

  1. Dear Barbara Harless,

    Barbara, You did a really good job and it is well thought out and also easy to understand.

    Keep up the great work Barbara, as you are doing really good.
    I am so very Proud of you,
    Sincerely,

    J. R. Fulton

    PS Wish that I was physically able to come and help you.

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