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Amendment election early voting starts Monday

Here's a rundown on all 11 proposals to be listed on Nov. 3 ballot

Early voting for the Nov. 3 constitutional amendment election gets under way Monday at four locations in Rockdale and throughout Milam County.

There are 11 amendments on the ballot w ith proposals on eminent domain and appraisal district issues generating the most interest.

Here's the way all 11 amendment will appear on the ballot with a brief explanation of each:

PROPOSITION 1

The constitutional amendment authorizing the financing, including through tax increment financing, of the acquisition by municipalities and counties of buffer area or open spaces adjacent to a military installation for the prevention of encroachment or the construction of roadways, utilities, or other infrastructure to protect or promote the mission of the military installation.

Explanation—Currently, municipalities and counties do not have a method to raise the revenue needed to acquire land to provide a buffer zone or open space to prevent encroachment from development, or to fund the construction of roadways, utilities, or other infrastructure to protect or promote the mission of adjacent military installations.

The amendment would allow a municipality or county to issue bonds or notes, including tax increment bonds or notes, to finance the acquisition of land adjacent to a military base for the above purposes.

If passed, it would take effect Dec. 1, 2009.

PROPOSITION 2

The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for the ad valorem taxation of a residence homestead solely on the basis of the property's value as a residence homestead.

Explanation—Residence homesteads throughout the state have experienced increasing appraisal values, in some instances more than 200 percent in one year, especially if the property is not covered by zoning regulations.

This is due to the appraisal practice known as "highest and best use," a common appraisal method that allows property to be valued on its potential use rather than the current use.

Residence homesteads located near new commercial development, therefore, have the potential for skyrocketing appraisal values. This amendment authorizes the legislature to require that a residence be appraised only on the basis of the property's value as a residence, regardless of what the highest and best use of the property may be.

It would apply only to residential homesteads, not to second homes or investment properties.

PROPOSITION 3

The constitutional amendment providing for uniform standards and procedures for the appraisal of property for ad valorem tax purposes.

Explanation—This proposition would amend the Texas Constitution to require that administrative and judicial enforcement of uniform standards and procedures for property tax appraisal be prescribed by general law enacted by the Texas Legislature.

It would delete the existing requirement that enforcement of these appraisal procedures originate in the county where the tax is imposed.

PROPOSITION 4

The constitutional amendment establishing the national research university fund to enable emerging research universities in this state to achieve national prominence as major research universities and transferring the balance of the higher education fund to the national research university fund.

Explanation—In Texas, only the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University are top-tier public research universities. Seven other universities in Texas are considered emerging research universities. This amendment would establish a new National Research University Fund. The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University would not be eligible to receive money from this fund.

PROPOSITION 5

The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to authorize a single board of equalization for two or more adjoining appraisal entities that elect to provide for consolidated equalizations.

Explanation—The primary function of a board of equalization is to hear appeals of the appraised value of taxable property and to resolve disputes between taxpayers and the appraisal district.

Each appraisal district must appoint a board of equalization. The prerequisites to serve on such an appraisal review board are minimal; however, the number of people familiar with the appraisal of property, or who are willing to serve, is limited in some counties.

This amendment would allow the Legislature to authorize a single board of equalization for two or more adjoining appraisal entities that want to consolidate their appraisal review process.

PROPOSITION 6

The constitutional amendment authorizing the Veterans' Land Board to issue general obligation bonds in amounts equal to or less than amounts previously authorized.

Explanation—This amendment would allow the Veterans' Land Board (VLB) to provide for, issue, and sell general obligation bonds for the purpose of selling land or home mortgages to Texas veterans.

The amount of the bonds could not exceed the principal amount previously authorized by constitutional amendments. In effect, the proposed amendment would reauthorize all previously authorized general obligation bonding authority in the Veterans Housing Assistance Fund, the Veterans' Housing Assistance Fund II, and the Veterans' Land Fund.

PROPOSITION 7

The constitutional amendment to allow an officer or enlisted member of the Texas State Guard or other state militia or military force to hold other civil offices.

Explanation—If this proposed amendment were passed, it would allow officers and enlisted members of the Texas State Guard (or other state militia or military force) to hold a public office simultaneously.

Currently, civil officials are prohibited from holding more than one compensated civil office, unless specifically exempted in the Constitution. Those now exempted include county commissioners and justices of the peace, notaries public and postmasters, and current and retired officers and enlisted members of the National Guard and U.S. Armed Forces.

The Texas State Guard was overlooked during earlier amendments to this section.

PROPOSITION 8

The constitutional amendment authorizing the state to contribute money, property, and other resources for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of veterans' hospitals in this state.

Explanation—Texas now has nine inpatient veterans' hospitals. The state does not currently have the authority to contribute to a veterans' hospital operated by the federal government.

This proposed amendment would allow Texas to partner with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and local communities to establish additional health care facilities.

PROPOSITION 9

The constitutional amendment to protect the right of the public, individually and collectively, to access and use the public beaches bordering the seaward shore of the Gulf of Mexico.

Explanation—Proposition 9 would establish the public's unrestricted right to access public beaches as a permanent easement.

The proposed amendment would also authorize the Legislature to enact laws to protect the public access to the beach and the easement from interference and encroachment. There would be no right of private enforcement.

PROPOSITION 10

The constitutional amendment to provide that elected members of the governing boards of emergency service districts may serve terms not to exceed four years.

Explanation—The Texas Constitution currently limits the duration of all public terms of office to two years unless otherwise provided in the Constitution. Proposition 10 would change that to four years.

PROPOSITION 11

The constitutional amendment to prohibit the taking, damaging, or destroying of private property for public use unless the action is for the ownership, use, and enjoyment of the property by the State, a political subdivision of the State, the public at large, or entities granted the power of eminent domain under law or for the elimination of urban blight on a particular parcel of property, but not for certain economic development or enhancement of tax revenue purposes, and to limit the legislature's authority to grant the power of eminent domain to an entity.

Explanation—The Texas Constitu - tion provides for the power of eminent domain, which allows private property to be taken for public use with adequate compensation even if the property owner does not wish to sell.

Lands for public purposes such as highways, railroads, and public utilities have sometimes been acquired by eminent domain.

A 2005 Texas law forbids taking of private property for purposes of economic development or the benefit of a private party.

This amendment would spell out the conditions under which private property could be taken by eminent domain.

Specifically, the taken property must be owned, used, and enjoyed by the public at large, state or local government, or other agency granted the power of eminent domain by law.

Taking private property for economic development or to enhance tax revenues would be prohibited by the Texas Constitution, not simply by Texas law.

In addition, property could be taken if necessary to eradicate urban blight on the property. As of January 1, 2010, the power of eminent domain could be granted only by a two-thirds vote of the Texas Legislature.

EARLY VOTING LOCATIONS

Here are early voting hours and locations:

Rockdale—Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Twila Harris' office, One-Stop Center, 313 North Main—Oct. 19-23 and 26-29, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Oct. 30, 8 a.m. to 12-noon.

Thorndale—Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace Gary Northcott's office, 103 West US 79, Oct. 19-23 and 26-29, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Oct. 30, 8 a.m. to 12-noon.

Cameron—Milam County Clerk's office, 107 West Main (across from courthouse), Oct. 19-23 and 26-30, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Buckholts—Pct. 1 Commissioner George Tomek's office, Oct. 19-23 and 26-29, 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Oct. 30—7 a.m. to 12-noon.


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The burn ban for Milam County has been lifted. Burning is always prohibited in the county's municipalities.


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