by Sen. Carlos Uresti
Before we enjoy the holidays and the promise and excitement of a new year, there's some constitutional housecleaning on our agenda, and I urge everyone to participate. Every two years, Texans get a chance to have a direct say in reshaping our state Constitution, and this time there are a number of items on the ballot that will affect homeowners and military veterans and their families.
Each of the 11 proposed constitutional amendments on the Nov. 3 election ballot passed the Texas House and Senate by overwhelming margins. But their fate is now up to you. Everyone should take the time to read and understand them and decide what's best for Texas.
Propositions 6, 7 and 8 address veterans issues, including the state's long-running and successful Veterans Land Fund and the Veterans Housing Assistance Fund. Proposition 6 will give the Veterans Land Board new bonding authority so it can continue to help qualified veterans buy land or secure a home loan.
Proposition 7 would allow an officer or enlisted member of the Texas State Guard or other state militia or military force to hold other civil offices in Texas, and Proposition 8 would authorize the state to contribute money and other resources to establish and operate veterans hospitals in Texas, which is home to 1.7 million military veterans.
According to the Texas Legislative Council, there were 4.3 million outpatient visits and 47,000 inpatient visits by veterans across the state in fiscal 2007. Texas has nine inpatient VA hospitals in Houston, Temple, Waco, Bonham, Dallas, Kerrville, San Antonio, Amarillo and Big Spring. For many veterans, these facilities are difficult to reach, and that can delay or even prevent care. This amendment would give the state the authority to contribute to a veterans hospital and encourage the VA to partner with the state and local communities to establish such facilities.
Three proposed amendments will be of interest to property owners. Propositions 2 would ensure that homes are taxed solely on the basis of their value as a residence homestead, not as potential commercial property; and Proposition 3 would provide for uniform standards and procedures for property appraisals.
Proposition 11 would strengthen the state's eminent domain laws by prohibiting the taking, damaging, or destroying of private property for the primary purpose of economic development or enhancement of tax revenues.
Also on the ballot are amendments authorizing cities and counties to acquire buffer spaces or open land near military bases to protect them from encroachment, and creating a fund that would enable major research universities in Texas to acquire national tier one status.
For a complete analysis of all 11 amendments, go to the Texas Legislative Council's website at www.tlc.state.tx.us/pubsconamend/analyses09/analyses09.pdf and don't forget to vote on Election Day. Remember, it's your Constitution and you have a voice.