The Nov. 5 election is coming up, and our legislators have again tinkered with the Texas Constitution.

According to the information provided as a public service by the Legislative Reference Library website, the Texas Constitution is one of the longest in the nation, and is still growing.

Since 1876, and through Nov. 7, 2017, the legislature has proposed 680 constitutional amendments; and 677 have gone before Texas voters. Of these, 498 have been approved by the electorate, 179 have been defeated, and three amendments never made it to the ballot.

While not looking to evaluate the past 498 adopted amendments or propositions, I would like to know if adopted amendments resulted in measurable benefits to us. Do we really know if what we approved helped us — were the propositions beneficial to us, and if so how?

As such, I would like to focus on just these specific constitutional amendments regarding the Texas Water Development Board:

• The Nov. 6, 2007, ballot included Proposition 16: To provide for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the development board in an amount not to exceed $250 million to provide assistance to economically distressed areas. Proposition 16 passed with 61 percent of the votes.

• The Nov. 8, 2011, ballot included Proposition 2: To provide for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $6 billion at any time outstanding. Proposition 2 passed with 51.5 percent of the vote.

• The Nov. 5, 2013, ballot included Proposition 6: To create 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. About $2 billion would be withdrawn from the Texas Economic Stabilization Fund — “the Rainy Day Fund.” Proposition 6 passed with 73 percent of the vote.

On Nov. 5, we’re again asked to consider Proposition 2: To provide for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the development board in an amount not to exceed $200 million to provide financial assistance for the development of certain projects in economically distressed areas.

Unquestionably, water issues are critical, but so is the use of our money. So, in considering our vote regarding Proposition 2, it seems that we should be made aware of some related issues, such as:

• How effective have these previous programs been?

• How have we spent the funds amounting to $8.250 billion as approved in 2007, 2011 and 2013? If any funds remain, how will they be used?

Finally, it seems to me that all these amendments are procedural. The Texas Constitution should be developed and written as a “policy” document defining the “what needs to be done.” Leave the “how to accomplish” to a local level government “procedure.” Therefore, our effort should be directed to redesign our constitution instead of tinkering with more amendments.

José Boix lives in Texas City.


(5) comments

Jim Forsythe

Tax on Individuals Amendment (2019)

Texas Proposition 4, the Prohibit State Income Tax on Individuals Amendment, is on the ballot in Texas as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment on November 5, 2019.

A "yes" vote supports this amendment to prohibit the state from levying an income tax on individuals.

A "no" vote opposes this amendment, thus continuing to allow the state to enact a tax on individuals in the future through a statewide referendum.

Proposition 4 would replace the referendum requirement with a ban on enacting an income tax on individuals. Removing the ban in the future would require a constitutional amendment, which needs a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber and voter approval.

Alan Waters

Jim: You are right on target. This amendment is written opposite than what people would think. It needs to be read very closely. A no vote means you are in favor of a state income tax, not that you are against it. It will be very easy for people to vote the opposite of what they wish, by accident, if they are in a hurry.

Jack Cross

Jim am Alan, here is my take on this amendment: it is nonsense, the state constitution already prohibits a state property tax, this just ties the hands for future legislators, as Jim points out by requiring a super majority.

What the state is not addressing is the fact that we do have a state property tax. The state decides the amount of funding per student, the state puts a cap on the tax rate set by the school board for maintenance and operations. This means that when appraisals increase plus new construction is added to the property value pot of money, this money is off limits to the school board so that they could lower the tax rate. The state takes this pot of local property value taxes and put it in the state budget to use on programs other than education. ( that is a state property that) and it is legal. So when legislators say they are going to lower your property tax, all they have to do is leave the $3.7 billion dollars they harvested this legislative session for your property appraisal increases. Another note; the state comptroller is te governing agency over CADS, not the elected board of directors. The state peoperty tax division forces CADs to appraise at 100 percent of market value. This is state law but as you can see ,it is the state, not taxpayers who benefit from high appraisals. In a twisted way, it is like the fox guarding the chicken pen.

Jose' Boix

Is this basically and ultimately, the result of the vote on Proposition 4? "The vote will not determine whether Texas has a state income tax." My recollection is that Texas has never had a state income tax, and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. I read that "In 1993, Texas amended Article VIII of the constitution to ensure that the legislature couldn’t impose an income tax without a referendum of the people. Now Texas looks to amend Article VIII again." However, this time a "YES" vote will make certain the potential referendum of the people never happens. A "NO" vote will still require a public vote/referendum regarding a State Tax.

This is another example to get some energy for our legislators to revamp the Texas Constitution into a "policy" rather than "procedure" manual.

Bailey Jones

I remember when I was in school - middle school or high school, I forget, and some people were proposing a new state constitution that would allow Texas to be governed by law rather than amendment. As I recall, it did not fare well.

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