Texas Constitutional Amendments: Property/Land Issues

There are eleven proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution. Four of them address personal property. Here’s a look at those issues on the November 3rd ballot.

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.

If passed, the legislature would require homes be appraised only the property’s market value as a residence. There are arguments on both sides of the issue.

For:

Dallas Morning News: “We believe this is a more effective way to provide tax relief than lowering the cap on how much property values can increase each year.”

Houston Chronicle: “This amendment is intended to protect less affluent homeowners from situations in which rapid commercialization in their area threatens to drive up property taxes unreasonably year after year. This protection is particularly important in no-zoning cities such as Houston, where such development can occur quickly and with potentially difficult consequences for homeowners.”

Against:

The Austin Chronicle: “Just another backdoor way to slash taxes on valuable property, thereby undermining the public schools and other community needs.”

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “It sounds good, but there’s no logical reason why someone who can sell their property for a higher value (say, for a pending commercial development) shouldn’t be taxed according to fair market value.”

Proposition 3

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

If passed, the State would have oversight of local appraisals. Opinions are split on this one.

For:

The Austin Chronicle: “If constitutional authorization is needed for uniform standards, the government’s doing it wrong.”

Dallas Morning News: “This change to the Texas Constitution would assure that all property owners are being evaluated the same way. That’s important because state funding for public schools is based on taxable property value in each school district.”

Against:

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “Call this one the Big Government Amendment. Prop 3 says that the mostly county-based central appraisal districts have not done a good job and that the Legislature should take over. As if letting lawmakers big-foot their way through it every two years would solve any problems that the current system has.”

You can see a story we did recently on Propositions 2 and 3 here.

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.

Each appraisal board has a board of equalization. If passed, a single board could be formed to handle more than one entity (like rural counties). Here are the arguments:

For:

Austin American-Statesman: “This could lead to increased efficiency, especially in sparsely populated areas that have problems finding qualified folks to serve on these boards.”

Corpus Christi Caller-Times: “If adjoining counties want to consolidate these boards to save money and increase efficiency, it should be allowed.”

Against:

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “Adjacent counties can already consolidate their appraisal districts and thus their appraisal review boards. The argument for this amendment is that some counties have trouble recruiting qualified review board members. If that’s true, it would also be true of recruiting qualified appraisal district staff. Consolidation as already allowed makes sense. Prop 5 is a solution searching for a problem.”

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 on an entity.

If passed, private property taken by eminent domain would have to be owned and used by the public, state or local government. It could not be used for economic development. Some of the arguments include:

For:

Dallas Morning News: “The amendment would prevent the government from clearing entire neighborhoods in the name of battling blight. This would protect the hard-working homeowner with the tidy house that has the misfortune to be surrounded by rotting properties.”

Houston Chronicle: “In situations where economic development is the objective it is simple fairness to give property owners the benefits of choice, and of a marketplace sale. To force a sale upon them under such inflexible circumstances is inimical to constitutional principles enumerated in the takings clause.”

Against:

El Paso Times: “This proposition concerns eminent domain and the wording is much too broad. Eminent domain is a necessary governmental power, but it must not be used to victimize helpless property owners.”

Austin Chronicle: “While in general we don’t care for land seizures for private development, this is yet another poorly drafted attempt to amplify the current property-rightist wave of eminent domain hysteria and an invitation to endless court fights over rational public policy.”

You can read a story we did on this issue here.

The Texas League of Women Voters has put together this helpful brochure in English and Spanish.

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