By LeaAnne Klentzman
On November 8, 2011 Texans will vote on 10 constitutional amendments.
Those 10 amendments, according to some, are just a matter of housekeeping whereby the legislature can continue to operate. However, while each amendment has the potential to change the operations of Texas government to varying degrees, amendment 10 has cropped up as an issue in the local sheriff’s race for 2012.
Amendment 10 is the constitutional amendment that must be passed in order for a sitting elected official to file to run for a different office if their current term of service has more than one year before expiration. In short, it would allow a county or district incumbent to file to run for another public office.
As the law reads today, a county or district office holder cannot even file to run for a different office without resigning if there is more than one year left in their term. This issue surfaced when the Texas legislature decided to move the primary election date back so there was ample time to get ballots to troops who were serving out of state (or country) and planned to vote in Texas elections. By moving the date back, it forced a shift in the filing deadline for candidates to run for office thus prohibiting a sitting incumbent from filing for a different office. Amendment 10 fixes that glitch in the law.
Interestingly, if a candidate seeks federal office, there is no such prohibition. For example, When Congressman Ron Paul or Governor Rick Perry run for president, they do not have to give up their current elected position. They just hit the campaign trail and run. If they win, they take the new office. If they lose, they return and continue to operate as usual.
However, on the county and district level, those candidates must wait for the first day of the last year of their current term to file as a candidate, if they choose to run for a different office.
An example of that situation is Constable Troy Nehls. In last weeks’ county fair parade, Constable Nehls participated as Precinct 4 Constable who is “considering” a run for Sheriff in 2012. Note, he has not announced his candidacy but has let the public know he is considering a possible change. He will be unable to file to run for a different office until the first day of January of 2012, which is the first day, of the last year of his current term.
If amendment 10 were not on the ballot and the filing deadline was moved back to November or December, he would be unable to run for a different office without resigning his current position and vacating his office because of the resign to run provision. In short, he would have to give up his Constable’s position to run for Sheriff. In doing that, he loses his paycheck, his health insurance, retirement, sick leave and seniority just to run for a different office in the same county government. This law applies all across the state.
Now, having made all that as clear as mud in your eye, watch as political signs make a roaring comeback. Just days ago Nehls posted political signs with his name on them asking voters to support amendment 10. This is legal as the amendment is on the November ballot and there is not more than 90 days before the election. As of today, there are only 42 days before the November 8, 2011 election.
However, just days after the Nehls signs went up in support of amendment 10, the long running chief deputy (who wants to be sheriff) came up with signs, sporting his name and asking the electorate to vote against amendment 10.
While all the amendments are expected to pass in November, the vote count in Fort Bend County on amendment 10 may well provide an interesting peek into the microcosm of the upcoming Sheriff’s race in 2012, never mind the fact that as of today, there are now four potential candidates in the race.
The 10 Texas constitutional amendment are:
Texas constitutional amendment 1 authorizes 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 100 percent or totally disabled veteran.
Texas constitutional amendment 2 provides for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board in an amount not to exceed $6 billion at any time outstanding.
Texas constitutional amendment 3 provides for the issuance of general obligation bonds of the State of Texas to finance educational loans to students.
Texas constitutional amendment 4 authorizes the legislature to permit a county to issue bonds or notes to finance the development or redevelopment of an unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted area and to pledge for repayment of the bonds or notes increases in ad valorem taxes imposed by the county on property in the area. The amendment does not provide authority for increasing ad valorem tax rates.
Texas constitutional amendment 5 authorizes the legislature to allow cities or counties to enter into inter-local contracts with other cities or counties without the imposition of a tax or the provision of a sinking fund.
Texas constitutional amendment 6 clarifies references to the permanent school fund, allowing the General Land Office to distribute revenue from permanent school fund land or other properties to the available school fund to provide additional funding for public education, and providing for an increase in the market value of the permanent school fund for the purpose of allowing increased distributions from the available school fund.
Texas constitutional amendment 7 authorizes the legislature to permit conservation and reclamation districts in El Paso County to issue bonds supported by ad valorem taxes to fund the development and maintenance of parks and recreational facilities.
Texas constitutional amendment 8 provides for the appraisal for ad valorem tax purposes of open-space land devoted to water-stewardship purposes on the basis of its productive capacity.
Texas constitutional amendment 9 authorizes the governor to grant a pardon to a person who successfully completes a term of deferred adjudication community supervision.
Texas constitutional amendment 10 changes the length of the unexpired term that causes the automatic resignation of certain elected county or district officeholders if they become candidates for another office.