Texas voters passed 11 proposed amendments to the state's constitution on Tuesday, including providing for a uniform system for appraising property values, creating a fund for more top-tier research universities and perhaps the most high-profile proposal, limiting the government's eminent domain powers.
With 99 percent of the vote tallied, Prop. 11 -- the eminent domain amendment supported by the Texas Farm Bureau, Gov. Rick Perry and Perry's Republican rival, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison -- had 81 percent of the vote favoring it and 19 percent against.
A proposition to guarantee public access to beaches and another to help build veterans hospitals also sailed to passage with 77 percent and 75 percent of the vote, respectively.
Those were the highest-profile propositions in a low-key statewide election while only spotty opposition emerged to any of the proposed amendments.
Prop. 1 authorizes financing methods for municipalities and counties to acquire buffer zones or open spaces next to military bases. The proposal could prevent encroachment next to the base and allow construction of roads, utilities and other infrastructure to promote the mission of a military base.
Prop. 2 allows the Texas State Legislature to provide for ad valorem taxation (a tax based on the value of the item) of a residence homestead solely on the basis of the property's value as a residence, not at the potentially higher commercial use value.
Prop. 3 provides for uniform standards and procedures for the appraisal of property for taxation. Currently, Texas lacks uniform standards and proponents said this amendment would ensure that property in diverse parts of the state are valued using the same generally accepted practices.
Prop. 4 aims to create a national research university fund out of $500 million in existing state money. Currently, Texas has three top-level research universities: the University of Texas at Austin; Texas A&M University and Rice University. It lags behind other big states like California and New York, proponents said. Seven other Texas universities are vying to achieve so-called Tier One status.
"Tonight's passage of Proposition 4 sends this important message: Texans understand that more nationally recognized research universities will help retain Texas-grown talent, recruit top researchers who will generate billions of dollars in economic growth and create more high paying, permanent jobs," said former Lt. Governor Bill Hobby, co-chair of Texans for Tier One.
Prop. 5 will allow various appraisal entities to consolidate, should they choose to do so.
Prop. 6 authorizes the Veterans' Land Board to issue general obligation bonds in amounts equal to or less than amounts previously authorized. It would prevent the land board from continually having to seek legislative authorization.
Prop. 7 allows an officer or enlisted member of the Texas State Guard or other state militia or military force to hold other civil offices. This would correct what some say is an oversight in the state constitution.
Prop. 8 authorizes the state to contribute money, property and other resources to establish veterans hospital. It's designed to speed up efforts to open a federal Veterans Administration hospital in the Rio Grande Valley, where residents currently must travel to San Antonio to receive some VA hospital services.
Prop. 9 cements in the Texas Constitution the state's open beaches law. Backers said it will protect public beach access from lawsuits or legislative interference, while opponents said it could erode private property rights.
Prop. 10 will limit elected members of the governing boards of emergency services districts to terms no longer than four years.
Prop. 11 to limit eminent domain powers will state in the constitution that governments in Texas are prevented from seizing private property and giving it to a private developer to boost the tax base.
One group opposed to Prop 11 was the private property and anti-toll road organization Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, which said the proposed amendment leaves open loopholes and doesn't address issues like diminished access to remaining land after an eminent domain seizure.
Terri Hall, founder and director of TURF, said Texans sent a strong message with their vote Tuesday that they want eminent domain reform, but she said Prop 11 doesn't get the job done.
"The Texas Legislature needs to continue the push for further reforms and to prevent abuses," she said.
All the ballot propositions had to win two-thirds passage in the Texas State Legislature to go before voters.