Election to cover changes in law

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While this year’s election involves no candidates, there still are some issues that will require the attention of the voters of Texas.

Early voting for the 2017 election began Monday, and will continue through Nov. 3. The general election will be held Nov. 7.

The only things on the ballot in Madison County are seven propositions to amend the Texas Constitution.

•The first deals with property taxes on property owned by disabled veterans. According to information at sos.state.texas.us, the Secretary of State’s website, HJR 21 proposes an amendment that would permit the Texas legislature to expand the circumstances under which a partially disabled veteran or their spouse may qualify for an exemption from ad valorem taxation.

Currently, the Texas legislature may provide that a partially disabled veteran or their spouse is entitled to an exemption from ad valorem taxation of a percentage of the market value of the disabled veteran’s residence homestead only if the residence homestead was donated to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization at no cost to the veteran. The amendment would allow the Texas legislature to provide that the exemption also may be taken when the residence homestead was donated, sold, or transferred to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization for less than the market value of the residence homestead.

•The next deals with expenses charged for home equity loans. The SOS website states that SJR 60 would require that certain conditions be met for the refinancing of a home equity loan to be secured by a voluntary lien on a homestead. The amendment also would redefine what is excluded in the calculation of the cap on fees associated with a home equity loan, lower the cap from 3 percent to 2 percent of the original principal amount of the extension of credit, and specify that such fees are in addition to any bona fide discount points used to buy down the interest rate.

The amendment would further specify the list of authorized lenders to make home equity loans, change the threshold for an advance of a home equity line of credit, allow agricultural property owners to acquire home equity loans, and update technical terminology in the Texas Constitution. The amendment would be effective on Jan. 1, 2018, and applicable only to a home equity loan made or refinanced on or after that date, the site states.

•The next deals with terms of officeholders appointed by the governor.

The website states SJR 34 would prevent certain office holders from serving indefinitely beyond the expiration of their term.

Office holders who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate and receive no salary would only be able to serve until the last day of the first regular session of the Texas legislature that begins after their term expires.

•The fourth item on the ballot deals with legal challenges regarding the constitutionality of state laws.

The website states that SJR 6 would allow the Texas legislature to require any court that is hearing a challenge to the constitutionality of a state statute to notify the attorney general of that challenge. Additionally, the amendment would allow the Texas legislature to set a period of not more than 45 days following the notification to the attorney general that the court must wait before rendering a judgment that a state statute is unconstitutional.

•The fifth is HJR 100, which would provide a more detailed definition of “professional sports team” for purposes of their charitable foundations, which the Texas legislature may permit to hold charitable raffles. The amendment also deletes a requirement that an eligible professional sports team charitable foundation permitted by the Texas legislature to hold charitable raffles had to be in existence on Jan. 1, 2016, according to the website.

•Next is SJR 1, would allow the Texas legislature by general law to provide that a surviving spouse of a first responder who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty is entitled to receive an exemption from ad valorem taxation from all or part of the market value on the surviving spouse’s residence homestead, as long as the surviving spouse has not remarried since the death of the first responder.

It also would allow the Texas legislature to provide that the surviving spouse, who qualifies and receives the exemption and then qualifies a different property as the surviving spouse’s residence homestead, receive an exemption from ad valorem taxation of the different homestead in an amount equal to the dollar amount of the exemption of the first homestead for which the exemption was received in the last year in which the surviving spouse received the exemption for that first homestead. Like the initial exemption, this benefit will only remain available if the surviving spouse has not remarried since the death of the first responder. The proposed amendment would apply only to ad valorem taxes imposed for a tax year beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2018.

•The last item deals with prizes awarded by lending institutions. The website states that HJR 37 would allow the Texas legislature to make an exception to the law regarding the award of certain prizes.

Currently, the Texas Constitution requires the Texas legislature to pass laws prohibiting lotteries, raffles and other programs where the award of gifts is based on luck or chance. The proposed amendment would make an exception to this general rule to allow the Texas legislature to authorize credit unions and other financial institutions to institute programs which, in order to encourage savings, would award prizes based on luck or chance to the credit union’s or financial institution’s customers.

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