Over the next few weeks I will be sending several Rotunda Reports with information regarding the constitutional amendments in the upcoming election on November 5, 2013. These updates will include essential background information on each amendment as well as arguments for and against each proposition. It is my hope that you find this information helpful in your decision making as you cast your ballot this fall. As always, I encourage you to contact my office with any questions or concerns you may have regarding these amendments.
“The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a member of the armed services of the United States who is killed in action.”
Amendment No.1 (H.J.R. 62) proposes a property tax exemption for the surviving spouse of a member of the military who has been killed in action. The exemption will be for all or part of the market value of their home, and an equal amount will be applied if they move homes as long as they have not remarried. This is a temporary provision which runs from January 1, 2014 to January 1, 2015. Supporters of this amendment point towards the fact that existing benefits for military windows, and widowers can be inadequate, and this exemption would be extremely beneficial for these families. Though the cost of these exemptions will be borne by the local governments, none of those approached expressed any opposition to the provision. Additionally, there were no outright conflicting comments made during the legislative process. However, there is some concern that this exemption will encourage a large number of surviving families to move to Texas, and therefore cause a greater hindrance to the local governments. Another concern is the possibility that property taxes may rise for other owners in order to support these exemptions.
“The constitutional amendment eliminating an obsolete requirement for a State Medical Education Board and a State Medical Education Fund, neither of which is operational.”
Amendment No. 2 (H.J.R 79) carries out a recommendation from the Sunset Advisory Commission and the Legislative Budget Board to repeal a now-obsolete provision added to the Texas Constitution in 1952. The 1952 provision created the State Medical Education Board and corresponding fund, in order to provide grants, scholarships, or loans to medical students who agreed to practice in rural areas of the state. However, soon after the board’s creation it became largely ineffective in regard to its original purpose and therefore has not received funding over the past twenty years. The Legislature has since enacted more effective measures of attracting physicians to underserved communities, and in an effort to remove unnecessary provisions to the constitution, this provision removes the requirement for the defunct board and its related fund. Supporters of this provision praise the opportunity to shrink state government, streamline the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and simplify and ever-expanding state constitution. There were no comments made against this amendment during the legislative process.
I am proud to announce that the City of Richardson has been named “Community of the Year” by the American Planning Association Texas Chapter. This award recognizes the exceptional work from city planners to ensure that Richardson remains one of the best places to live, work and raise a family. I commend the staff and elected leaders of the City of Richardson for their bold leadership and diligent planning in their efforts to ensure that Richardson’s vibrant community continues to flourish.
Jeff Leach is a state representative from Plano