Number of Texas
Constitutional Ammendments Staggering
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
October 20, 2005
The Texas Constitution is one of the longest in the nation and is still growing. No less than nine separate propositions for amending our Texas Constitution are presented to you this Fall. As of 2003 (78th Legislature), the Texas Legislature has passed a total of 606 amendments. Of these, 432 have been adopted and 174 have been defeated by Texas voters. Thus, the Texas Constitution has been amended 432 times since its adoption in 1876. Compare this with the U.S. Constitution adopted in 1787. Although over 10,000 Constitutional amendments have been introduced in Congress since 1789, only 27 have been approved. Proud Texan that I am, hmm…Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Washington… .
Set forth are a few proposals that merit your close scrutiny.
Proposition One - Ballot Language
"The constitutional amendment creating the Texas rail relocation and improvement fund and authorizing grants of money and issuance of obligations for financing the relocation, rehabilitation, and expansion of rail facilities."
"Enmienda constitucional que establece el fondo tejano para reubicación y mejoramiento de ferrocarriles y que autoriza subvenciones monetarias y la emisión de obligaciones para financiar la reubicación, saneamiento y expansión de instalaciones ferroviarias."
HJR 54 would create a Texas rail relocation and improvement fund in the state treasury and would authorize grants of state revenue and issuance of public debt to relocate, rehabilitate, and expand privately and publicly owned passenger and freight rail facilities and to construct railroad underpasses and overpasses.
This allows an open ended corporate subsidy fund. Taxpayers will pay to move private corporation rail lines into the Trans Texas Corridor. As much as I would like to move rail lines out, I see no safeguard as to the amount of subsidy this gives to private interests that control so much of our governmental decisions as it is.
The state debt commitment would also be open-ended, with no limit on the amount of state bonds that could be issued from this new fund. By amending the Constitution to authorize the creation of this fund, the state could commit itself to massive debt for generations. This taxpayer giveaway likely helps the ill-conceived Trans Texas Corridor move forward.
Proposition Two - Ballot Language
"The constitutional amendment providing that marriage in this state consists only of the union of one man and one woman and prohibiting this state or a political subdivision of this state from creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage."
"Enmienda constitucional que dispone que en este estado el matrimonio consiste exclusivamente en la unión de un hombre y una mujer y que desautoriza, en este estado o en alguna subdivisión política del mismo, la creación o el reconocimiento de cualquier estatus jurídico idéntico o semejante al matrimonio."
HJR 6 would provide that marriage in Texas is solely the union of a man and woman, and that the state and its political subdivisions could not create or recognize any legal status identical to or similar to marriage, including such legal status relationships created outside of Texas.
The Family Code in two separate instances already does this! As a Board Certified Family Lawyer, I ought to know. Reminds me of the old country song entitled, "Mama get out the hammer, papa has a fly on his head"!
Proposition Nine - Ballot Language
"The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for a six-year term for a board member of a regional mobility authority."
"Enmienda constitucional que autoriza a la Legislatura para otorgar un período de cargo de seis años a un miembro de la junta directiva de una autoridad de movilidad regional."
HJR 79 would authorize the Legislature to provide staggered six year terms of office for board members serving on regional mobility authorities, with no more than one-third of the board positions being appointed every two years.
This would allow unelected, unaccountable Tolling Authority board members extended term limits. Current 2 year term limits would expand to 6 years for Regional Mobility Authorities (RMA's).
Furthermore, this group appointed by Commissioner's Court is going to make some of the most profound decisions urban, suburban and exurban Texans will experience in their lives. It should not have a six-year insulation from the Court that appoints them or from the people that intend to hold Commissioners responsible for the actions of their appointees. By responsible I mean for things like the toll rates and the pace with which they increase, the configuration of toll roads and the extent to which existing expressway-bound travelers may be confined to the access roads or be required to pay a toll to get off of the slower access roads.
The Constitution generally limits terms of office for appointed boards to two years to guard against possible conflicts that can accompany long terms and to ensure sufficient turnover in board membership. The Texas Comptroller has reported that RMAs create "Double taxation without accountability", and that the (Central Texas) RMA's loose management practices cost all Texans more. NOT surprisingly, Comptroller also found favoritism and self-enrichment as board members gave contracts (without bids) to their friends and their own companies (http://www.window.state.tx.us/specialrpt/ctrma05/). RMA boards should be required to abide by the standard provided in the Constitution that limits the terms of members of such boards to two years.