Saturday, October 22, 2005

Vote No on Prop 1 and Prop 9

Amendments spark debate

By Heber Taylor
The Galverston Daily News
Copyright 2005

Published October 22, 2005
Early voting begins Monday on nine proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution.

Traditionally, we offer our views as a way to prompt discussion. The idea is not to tell you how to vote but to spark some debate on the propositions as a way to generate interest in the most basic activity of democracy: voting.

Here’s the way we see it:

• Proposition 1 would allow the state to fund improvements to rail facilities.

We’d like to see some freight lines converted to commuter rail lines to ease the snarled traffic in our region. But we don’t think this proposition is a solution.

The railroad industry isn’t regulated, so we can’t see a reason for the state to get involved in the industry’s decisions about which facilities deserve investment.

This proposition also would involve the Texas Department of Transportation in those decisions. That doesn’t strike us as a great idea. The department has enough challenges with roads and ferries.

Vote: No.

• Proposition 2 would ban gay marriage.

We’ll provide you with a detailed argument Sunday. But our reasoning is simple.

If you believe government should make rules about people’s private lives, vote yes. If you believe government doesn’t have any business in people’s private lives, vote no.

We’re voting no.

• Proposition 3 states that offering incentives to developers does not constitute public debt.

In Texas, incentives are offered to developers. The agreements are common and legal. There’s no reason for a constitutional amendment saying they’re legal.

This is a bad amendment. It seeks to address a problem with a single lower-court ruling by changing the constitution. Ironically, that change might well foul up efforts by taxpayers to keep local governments out of ill-advised debt. This proposition vies with No. 4 for top honors on the list of Most Unneeded Amendments.

Vote: No.

• Proposition 4 would authorize the denial of bail to defendants who violate conditions of their release.

If you thought the denial of bail to defendants who violate their conditions of release was already authorized under the Texas Constitution you would be right.

No. 4 gets our vote for the most unnecessary proposition on the ballot. Don’t waste time thinking about it.

Vote: No.

• Proposition 5 would allow the Legislature to eliminate rules that set interest rates for commercial loans. Under the state’s current codes, the interest rate cannot exceed 28 percent.

Most states don’t set limits on interest rates on commercial loans between knowledgeable parties. Texas shouldn’t either.

This proposition would allow the Legislature to get those limits off the books.

Vote: Yes.

• Proposition 6 would add two members to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. The commission already has 11 members, which is enough. We just don’t see a larger body resulting in greater accountability and efficiency.

Vote: No.

• Proposition 7 would make it possible for homeowners to get credit advances on their own terms under a reverse mortgage.

How you vote on this one depends on your views on personal freedom. Will unscrupulous people try to cheat folks out of their homes? Yes.

But most people who are responsible enough to have mortgages are responsible enough to be trusted to make their own financial decisions. That includes the decisions on whether to open new lines of credit on the equity they have in their home.

Vote: Yes.

• Proposition 8 would relinquish the state’s claim on about 6,000 acres in two East Texas counties. This is an awful way to clear up title disputes. These cases are already being resolved in the courts, which is the proper place. This amendment would have no bearing on the many other land disputes involving the state.

Vote: No.

• Proposition 9 would allow board members of a regional mobility authority to serve six-year terms.

It’s a bad move. Board members are now reviewed every two years. Extending those terms would mean less accountability.

Vote: No.

There you have our ballot: two yeas and seven nays. But our best advice is to study the issues yourself and go vote.

• Heber Taylor

© 2005 The Galveston Daily News