Naked City

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.

  • Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at

    • More of the Story

    • Naked City

      South Austin Democrats give Mayor Kirk Watson the Yeller Dawg award of the year, Geoff Rips goes to work for AISD, City Council will have new meeting places next year.

      Naked City

      Transit Transitions

      Naked City

      Death Takes a Holiday
    • Naked City

      The Death Penalty in Texas' Largest Counties

      Naked City

      Leveling the Field

      Naked City

      Watching the Detectives

      Naked City

      Action Items

    A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

    Support the Chronicle  

    More by Erica C. Barnett
    The Work Matters
    The Work Matters
    A look back at some of our most impactful reporting

    Sept. 3, 2021

    <i>Quitter: A Memoir of Drinking, Relapse, and Recovery</i> – an Excerpt
    Quitter: A Memoir of Drinking, Relapse, and Recovery – an Excerpt
    In this chapter from her book, Erica C. Barnett describes the point when her life became a shrinking circle

    July 10, 2020

    One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

    Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

    Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

    Austin's queerest news and events

    Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

    Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

    Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle