Sunday, November 6, 2011

NOV. 8, 2011 PROPOSITIONS 6-10

Official Ballot Language
The constitutional amendment clarifying references to the permanent school fund, allowing the General Land Office to distrubute revenue from permanent school fund land or other properties to the available school fund to provide additional funding to public education, and providing for an increase in the market value of the permanent school fund for the purpose of allowing increased distributions from the available school fund.
The Permanent School Fund (PSF) was established in the Texas Constitution of 1876, which set aside half of Texas' remaining public lands to help finance public schools.  Several different terms are used in the Constitution to refer to this fund, and Proposition 6 would replace other terms with the single term,"Permanent School Fund" in all references.
The proposed amendment also provides for potential increases in distribution from the PSF to the Available School Fund (ASF) , which provides funding to school districts on a per-student basis and supports classroom instructional materials and technology.
  Currently the General Land Office is responsible for managing the public school lands; proceeds from the land and mineral rights are held in the PSF.  The State Board of Education (SBOE) manages the investment of the PSF and, if the fund's investment performance permits, makes distributions from the PSF to the ASF.  Only interest or revenue income from the PSF can be spent; the principle amount remains intact and will contine to benefit the public schools of Texas.
  The proposed amendment would permit the distribution of some revenue derived from the public school lands directly to the ASF.  The GLO, or another entity other than the SBOE with the responsibility of management of public school fund land or other properties, would be permitted to transfer up to $300 million per year of revenues derived from the public lands that year.  This provision addresses problems found by the Attorney General in a previous statute allowing such distributions.
  The proposed amendment would also change the way the market value of the PSF is calculated by including additional assets that are currently not included (i.e. discretionary real estate investments and cash in the state treasury derived from PSF property).  At the beginning of each legislative session, the SBOE determines the rate (up to a maximum rate specified in the Constitution) of the market value of the PSF that will go to the ASF.  Given the current value of the PSF and the rate determined by the SBOE at the beginning of the last legislative session, this proposed amendment might provide approximately $75 million more to the ASF in FY 2011-2012 and 2012-2013.
Arguments for:
Increased distributions to the Available School Fund would provide support for public schools at a time when additional funding for schools is needed.
Arguments against:
Instead of transferring additional revenue to schools now, the revenue should be used to grow the Permanent School Fund to provide support for public schools in future years.
Official Ballot Language
The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to permit conservation and reclamation districts in El Paso County to issue bonds supported by ad valorem taxes to fund the development and maintenance of parks and recreation facilities.
Under the Texas Constitution, the legislature can authorize specific counties or water districts to create conservation and reclamation districts that would issue bonds and levy taxes to develop parks and recreational facilities that were not so authorized before September 13, 2003.  Currently 10 counties are specified; Proposition 7 would add El Paso County to that list.
If the proposed amendment passes, voters in the district would have to approve or deny creation of a combined city/county tax district in El Paso County in order for the legislature to authorize a district to issue bonds or incur indebtedness.
Argument for
  The City of El Paso's park system is bearing the brunt of tremendous growth in the county, not only from migration but also the relocation of military families to Fort Bliss.  The proposed amendment would enable the city and county to work together to develop a comprehensive regional parks system, which would not only attract development but also could leverage resources of both the city and county and operate more efficiently than either entity could on its own.
  Passage of this proposed constitutional amendment would not automatically raise taxes.  It is just the first step in the process of allowing the district voters to decide on the creation of an El Paso County parks district.  If approved, city and county officials would begin working on legislation for consideration for the 83rd Texas Legislature beginning January 2013.
Argument against
  If the proposition is approved, taxpayers in the county, which is not affluent, could be subject to yet another taxing entity.  Establishing a recreational parks district is a quality of life issue rather than an economic development issue.  Sustaining the economy is a more important focus for community leaders at this time.
   City and county leaders need to have more information about the exact financing, leadership, functions, and authority of the proposed park district before this constitutional amendment is presented to the voters.
Official Ballot Language
The constitutional amendment providing for the appraisal for ad valorem tax purposes of open-spaced land devoted to water stewardship purposes on the basis of its productive capacity.
  Property that is appraised for open land use (currently for agriculture, ranching, and/or wildlife preservation) is taxed on the basis of its productive capacity, rather than at full market value.  This proposed amendment would add a new water conservation option, called a "water stewardship valuation," to land already appraised for open land use.  This would not decrease property taxes on the land, but would give open-space landowners another option to engage in activities on their property that benefit both water quality and quantity.
  Management plans for individual water stewardship would be created in association with The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and could include brush control to increase stream flow and ground water storage, land management that would enhance infiltration into soil around playas, water reuse projects in wetlands to clean water naturally, and erosion control to impede silting of reservoirs.
Arguments against
  This valuation is unneccesary because it would duplicate options that are already available under the wildlife management valuation.
Official Ballot Language
  The constitutional amendment authorizing the governor to grant a pardon to a person who successfully completes a term of deferred adjudication community supervision.
  In some criminal cases, if a defendant pleads guilty or no contest, a judge may defer adjudication of guilt and place the defendant on probation with community supervision.  If the defendant successfully completes probation, the judge must dismiss the charges.
   Under the current law, the judge can grant pardons after conviction, but not after deferred adjudication.  The proposed amendment would add the authority to grant pardons after deferred adjudication as well.  All other requirements for pardons would remain the same.
  When a pardon is granted, the criminal record may be expunged.  A person who has completed deferred adjudication still has a criminal record in the public domain.
Arguments for
  Proposition 9 would result in a more equitable policy on pardons and expunction of criminal records by offering the same opportunity to persons who have completed deferred adjudication as to persons who have been convicted.  The governor would still have the discretion about whether to grant a pardon.
  Even though charges are dismissed after successful adjudication, the criminal history remains and may be a barrier in obtaining employment, housing, or admission to schools.
Official Ballot Language
The constitutional amendment to change the length of the unexpired term that causes the automatic resignation of certain elected county or district officeholders if they become candidates for another office.
  Under current law, if certain district or county office holders with more than one year left on their current terms announce for or become candidates for another office, they automatically resign from their current office.  This "resign-to-run" provision was added to the Constitution in 1958 after the terms for certain officials were changed from two to four years.  With a one year unexpired term, it provided a window for elected officials to file for office by January 2 for an election within the same calendar year without resigning their offices.
  Because Senate Bill 100 changed the filing deadline for offices from January 2 of the primary election year to the second Monday in December of the preceeding year, the one-year unexpired term no longer allowed the same opportunity for the office holders to continue in their current office while running for a new office.  Proposition 10 would change the length of the unexpired term that causes the automatic resignation from one year to one year and 30 days, thus preserving the original intent of the provision.
Argument for
  Most candidates for elected office need to have paid employment.  Proposition 10 would allow them to maintain their income while running for office, and would allow the current office to be covered with an experienced person during that time, eliminating unnecessary vacancies and the need for temporary appointments to complete the term.

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