Vote No on All of Texas’ 2017 Constitutional Amendments

Texas has seven constitutional amendments to be voted on Election Day, Tuesday November 7 (early voting starts October 23). I urge voters to reject them all. 

It feels heartless to oppose Propositions 1 and 6. These amendments would provide property tax relief for disabled veterans and the widows of first responders, respectively. I believe that these two groups are deserving of our support. Veterans as well as first responders, whatever your view of government, did risk their lives in service to something greater than themselves. We have a collective responsibility to help care for the needs of them and their families.

Despite that, there are good reasons to oppose Propositions 1 and 6. For those that see these amendments as tax cuts (albeit for narrow constituencies), neither is. The amendments in no way cap property taxes. They effectively only shift the tax burden to the rest of the tax-paying public. The biggest problem, though, is that they continue a long tradition of government identifying special groups for special consideration through some form of tax reduction. This practice needs to stop. There are better ways to care for those who have served us.  

Proposition 2 would make changes to regulations of home equity loans, primarily relaxing the conditions under which a loan would be permitted. These are positives. However, the amendment would also lower the cap on loan fees from 3% to 2% while exempting other fees. It’s not clear how the law would affect total fees, but it (again) puts the state in a position of micromanaging the pricing of a commercial product. The amendment smacks of a deal made with home equity lenders – relaxation of regulations in exchange for a minor change in fees.

Proposition 3 would disallow the current situation whereby certain non-salaried positions appointed by the Governor can carry over past their term expiration. Proposition 3 would force the Governor’s hand in appointing replacements, thus ensuring a higher rate of turnover in these positions. It does nothing to eliminate these positions nor impose any additional requirements. Other than forcing turnover or resulting in periods of appointee vacancies, there seems to be little practical effect that would result in better government.

Proposition 4 would place restrictions on the state’s highest courts by requiring a notice to the Attorney General and a 45-day waiting period before a law could be declared unconstitutional. Our important separation of powers doctrine should not put restrict the court’s ability to declare laws unconstitutional. That judgement should rightfully be made by the courts not by the legislative or executive branches. Texas voters have a remedy for bad courts since all our judicial offices are elected.

Propositions 5 and 7 would allow two preferred groups (sports team charitable foundations and financial institutions, respectively) to engage in raffles. I believe that both groups, as well as everyone else, should be allowed to engage in raffles. However, as with Propositions 1 and 6, these amendments carve out special privileges for preferred constituencies. This practice is so egregious that it should be resisted at every possible juncture.

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