[ Thursday, September 04, 2003 ]


Other propositions:

I know, I know, I'm starting to stray far away from the excitement of HIPAA, but many years ago someone asked me what I thought about the various proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution and the various judges up for election; the friend asking figured that, since I'm a lawyer, I'll know who and what to vote for and against. I didn't, but I looked at them and gave my opinions. For a few years, I kept it up, then moved to Dallas and stopped doing it.

But, since I gave my opinion on Proposition 12, I thought I'd let you know about the rest.

Prop 1: Lets the Veterans Land Board use assets in their funds to provide old-age homes for veterans and pay for bonds. I recommend a Yes vote.

Prop 2: Increases from 6 months to 2 years the right to "redeem" a mineral interest in your property if the mineral interest is sold to pay back taxes. If you are delinquent on your taxes, the taxing authority can sell the land or the mineral interests, and you have some time to buy back the land by paying back to the purchaser the purchase price. Right now, if your mineral rights are sold for back taxes, you have to refund the purchaser's money within six months to get the mineral interest back. This would extend that to 2 years. Seems fair to me. I'm voting yes.

Prop. 3: Lets the legislature exempt from property taxes land owned by a religious organization and leased for use as a school or held for future expansion or construction of religious facilities. I'm voting yes.

Prop. 4: Allows conservation and reclamation districts to develop parks. Sure, why not? Don't you like parks? Yes.

Prop. 5: Allows the legislature to exempt travel trailers from property tax if they aren't rented or used for generating revenue (in other words, if you're living in it). I could go either way on this; why should trailer trash avoid property tax, just because their house has wheels? But if the legislature sees fit to exempt them from property taxes, they probably don't get too many breaks from the government anyway. Undecided.

Prop 6: Permits refinancing a home-equity loan with a reverse mortgage. This issue is double-dipped with Prop 16: vote for either one and it wins. I'm torn on this: lenders will use this to give people money and they'll then lose their house. But if the people are stupid enough to do it, they do get the money up front, and it's their own right to fall on their own stupid faces. The free-marketeer in me says vote yes; the commiserator for the poor says no. Oops, when that happens, the free-marketer wins. Yes.

Prop 7: Allows 6-person jury in district court misdemeanor trials. Yes; you don't need 12 for a misdemeanor.

Prop 8: The legislature may let a person take office without an election if that person was the only one to qualify to stand in the election. Absolutely.

Prop 9: Allows the State Board of Education to determine the amount to be distributed out of the Permanent School Fund into the Available School Fund. Think of the PSF as an endowment that can't be touched, and the ASF as the income running off of it that can be spent. Right now, if there are capital gains locked into the PSF, they can't be transferred to the ASF, so they can't be used. That is ultra-conservative and ultra-safe, from a cash management position, but the PSF will just grow and grow when some of the money should be used. There are some protections in place to keep the PSF from being raided, but it doesn't make sense to keep the capital gains locked up just because they are capital gains and not income. So, I'm voting Yes.

Prop 10: Allows cities to donate surplus fire-fighting equipment to rural volunteer fire departments (you thought I was kidding about this?). Vote Yes.

Prop 11: Allows the legislature to pass laws authorizing and governing the operation of wineries in dry areas. Free the Grapes!! Yes.

Prop 12: I can't remember what this is about. Something about doctors vs. lawyers. Note that the lawyers' ads are substituting insurance executives for doctors (the lawyers know they lose a popularity contest with doctors, so they pick a straw man they know they can beat: the HMO guy). I'm voting Yes.

Prop 13: Allows cities, counties, and college districts to freeze ad valorem taxes on the homes of the elderly and disabled (school districts are currently allowed to do this). Why shouldn't the elderly and disabled pay their fair share of taxes? I am adamantly opposed to discrimination against the old and infirm, so I'm also opposed to discrimination in favor of them (but I would give up my seat on the bus -- that is, if I ever rode a bus -- to an old or handicapped person). I'm voting No.

Prop 14: Allows the Texas Department of Transportation to issue bonds or take short-term borrowing for transportation-related projects, which would be repaid from the state highway fund. I'm for it, and voting Yes.

Prop 15: Makes it imposible for certain benefits under certain local public retirement systems to be reduced or revoked. This doesn't apply to the state-wide employees retirement fund, but to local funds; it only applies to disability or retirement and life insurance benefits, which don't fluctuate greatly in cost, and not to health insurance, which does. Also, a local area may exempt a local subdivision from this amendment by a vote at a local election. There are plenty of safeguards here, so I'm voting Yes (although it's a weak yes).

Prop 16: Like Prop 6, but with more stuff (allows a home equity line of credit, loosens home equity lending law, etc.). I'm still a Yes, but weakly.

Prop 17: Like Prop 13, but for school districts, and only adds disabled people to the current freeze for elderly people. I'm against it too.

Prop 18: Just like 8: If you're the only qualified candidate for an office, we don't need to run up the costs of having an election. Yes.

Prop 19: Repeals a section of the constitution that allows the legislature to set up a rural fire district and charge the residents a tax to run it. Should be a local decision. Yes.

Prop 20: Allows the issuance of up to $250 million of general revenue bonds for military- or defense-related economic development project. I like bonds. Yes.

Prop 21: Allows a current or retired public college or university faculty member to be paid for serving on the board of a water district. Huh? If you're a college professor AND on the water district board, you can't get paid for being on the water district board? That's just too stupid. Yes.

Prop 22: If a public officer is called into active duty in the US armed forces, a temporary replacement officer can be appointed to fill the vacancy until Johnny comes marching home. Sure. Yes.

Now, remember to vote early and vote often.

Jeff [6:36 PM]

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