Texas voters decide Tuesday whether to approve 11 state constitutional amendments, among them propositions to limit eminent domain power, guarantee public beach access and help fund more top-tier research universities.
Gov. Rick Perry and other state leaders urged the passage of propositions, particularly the ones addressing research universities and dealing with eminent domain.
Only spotty opposition emerged to any of the proposed amendments.
The Texas Secretary of State's Office did not give a projection for how many of the state's approximately 13 million registered voters would likely turn out. Early balloting in the 15 counties with the most registered voters showed only 2.44 percent voted. Early voting was highest in Harris County, where a Houston mayor's race was on the ballot.
On the statewide ballot, Proposition 4 would 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.
The Texas Farm Bureau, Perry and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison all stumped for Proposition 11 to limit eminent domain powers. It would state in the constitution that governments are prevented from seizing private property and giving it to a private developer to boost the tax base.
One group opposed to Proposition 11 is 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.
Proposition 9 would underscore in the Texas Constitution the state's open beaches law. Backers said it would protect public beach access from lawsuits or legislative interference, while opponents said it could erode private property rights.
All the ballot propositions had to win two-thirds passage in the Legislature to go before voters.
The eleven proposed constitutional amendments are:
PROPOSITION 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.
PROPOSITION 2: Allows the Legislature to provide for ad valorem taxation of a residence homestead solely on the basis of the property's value as a residence, not at the potentially higher commercial use value.
PROPOSITION 3: Provides for uniform standards and procedures for the appraisal of property for taxation. Texas lacks uniform standards, and proponents say this amendment would ensure that property in diverse parts of the state are valued using the same generally accepted practices.
PROPOSITION 4: Establishes a national research university fund to help emerging research universities achieve national prominence as major research universities. Those pushing the proposal say it will provide funding similar to what elevated Texas A&M University and the University of Texas to Tier One status, providing jobs and stature or the state. Others question whether now is the time to spend such money.
PROPOSITION 5: Permits the Texas Legislature to allow a single board of equalization for two or more adjoining appraisal entities. That means area appraisal boards can be consolidated if they choose.
PROPOSITION 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.
PROPOSITION 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.
PROPOSITION 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.
PROPOSITION 9: Protects the right of the public to access and use the public beaches bordering the seaward shore of the Gulf of Mexico. This would block private developers from restricting beach access to the public, but some say it could infringe on private property rights.
PROPOSITION 10: Limits elected members of the governing boards of emergency services districts to terms no longer than four years.
PROPOSITION 11: Prohibits governments from taking private property for private economic development to increase a tax base. It also limits the Legislature's power to grant eminent domain authority to a governmental entity.
Return to NBCDFW.com tonight for the latest election results.
More information: Texas Secretary of State's Office at www.sos.state.tx.us