Carving the Constitution
The convoluted and often abstruse Texas Constitution
, amended 377 times since it was adopted more than 120 years ago, is a document that few in the state have read and even fewer comprehend. Two attempted overhauls of the weighty, at times redundant, tome -- in 1974 and during the most recent legislative session -- failed to produce a viable replacement. This year's Nov. 2 election contains one provision that could clean up some of the mess: Prop. 3 would eliminate or reword dozens of obsolete constitutional provisions -- including one that promises aid to disabled Confederate soldiers and another that gives the governor authority to protect the state's borders from "hostile incursions by Indians" -- and cut out approximately 10% of the document's 200-some-odd pages. This year's ballot contains 16 other proposed amendments. Some of the highlights:
Prop. 1, perhaps the most timely of the bunch, would require the lieutenant governor to resign his post in order to fill a permanent vacancy in the governor's office -- as Rick Perry will be expected to do if Gov. Bush wins the presidential election. Although no lieutenant governor who has taken over the governor's post has ever attempted to hold both jobs concurrently, a constitutional loophole allows him to do so.
Prop. 5, also known as the "Bill Spelman amendment," would allow state workers (a category that, along with Council Member Spelman, includes schoolteachers and other public employees) to receive compensation for serving on local government boards. Currently, Spelman, a UT professor, must relinquish his $30,000 Austin City Council salary because of his state employment.
Prop. 13 would authorize $400 million in new general obligation bonds to finance student loans; since 1965, voters have approved nearly $960 million in similar bond obligations.
Prop. 17, which has garnered strong support among UT students and administrators, would make capital gains from the Permanent University Fund available for spending by the UT Board of Regents, potentially adding about $10 million to UT's annual budget.
Also scheduled for a vote Nov. 2 is a proposed tax rate increase for Austin Community College, which would hike Austin property taxes by 5¢ per $100 of property valuation over the course of four years. Property owners' tax rate would increase two cents next year and one cent each year through 2003 if the increase is approved.
Early voting starts Oct. 18 and continues through Nov. 2.
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