Monday, September 16, 2013

Texas Has Received Millions in ACA Grants

by and , The Texas Tribune - September 9, 2013

Despite strong opposition to the federal Affordable Care Act by Gov. Rick Perry and other state leaders, Texas has still received nearly $100 million in grants through the law. And as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz campaigns to defund Obamacare, the majority of the grants — 25 of 34 grants awarded since 2010 — have already been spent or will expire at the end of this month.

The interactive chart below explores the grants Texas has received through the ACA. Use the drop-down to sort by largest to smallest grants; grants issued to expand existing services; grants issued for innovation, planning and research; and grants focused on preventive measures.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Texas Nov 2013 Constitutional Amendment Election

by Michael Handley

The Constitution of the State of Texas describes the structure and function of government for the State of Texas.  The current Constitution, ratified on February 15, 1876, during the post civil war reconstruction era, is the seventh constitution in Texas' history. The previous six were the constitution of Coahuila y Tejas, the 1836 Constitution of the Republic of Texas and the state constitutions of 1845, 1861, 1866, and 1869.

In 1876, Texans were deeply suspicious of state government, which had been controlled by governors and legislators they considered "carpetbaggers" during the immediate post civil war period.  In framing their post civil war constitution, those early Texans sought to limit the power of the governor and legislature by writing a detailed and highly restrictive state constitution. Many provisions of the Texas Constitution, which can be ammended only by popular vote of the people of Texas, are implemented as legislation in most other states. The Texas Constitution specifies that the governor and legislature has only those powers explicitly granted by the constitution; there is no equivalent clause to the federal constitution's "Necessary and Proper" clause. To change the funding or function of government agencies, the Texas legislature, which meets during the winter and spring of odd number years, often must pass legislation to place constitutional amendment measures on that year's November General Election ballot.

Since it was originally ratified in 1876, a total of 653 constitutional amendments have been proposed, of which 474 have been approved by voters and 179 have been rejected, as of November 2011. This fall voters will be asked to approve 9 amendments to the Texas Constitution. Each of the amendments on the November 2013 ballot have been approved by two-thirds of the Texas House and Senate and will require majority approval from voters to take effect.
  1. Authorizes a tax exemption for all or part of the market value of the residences of spouses of military members who are killed in action. HJR 62
  2. Eliminate a requirement for a State Medical Education Board and a State Medical Education Fund. Neither is in operation, with the State Medical Education Board having been defunct for more than a quarter-century.  HJR 79
  3. Extend the tax exemption period on storing aircraft parts in the state and would provide more tax relief to aerospace manufacturers, which often hold such parts in inventory for an extended period of time. HJR 133
  4. Give a partial property tax exemption on charity-donated residences to disabled veterans or their surviving spouses. The amendment would strike the current requirement that qualifying residents be "100 percent" disabled. HJR 24
  5. Allow homeowners age 62 or older to use reverse mortgages to purchase residences. The current law only expressly allows traditional mortgages, which lets such homeowners borrow against the equity of their homes. The amendment would allow the prospective borrower to use a Federal Housing Administration-insured home equity conversion mortgage to help buy a new home. SJR 18
  6. "Rainy Day Fund Amendment" to create two funds to help finance key projects in the state water plan by pulling about $2 billion from the Texas Economic Stabilization Fund.  SJR 1
  7. Authorize home-rule municipalities to choose how to fill city council vacancies if the positions have less than 12 months remaining in a three- or four-year term. The amendment would remove the requirement to hold a mandatory special election for those positions. HJR 87
  8. Repeal a constitutional provision authorizing the creation of a hospital district in Hidalgo County. HJR 147
  9. Authorize the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to use additional disciplinary actions — including public admonition, warning, reprimand, or required additional training or education — against judges or justices after a hearing. The current law allows the SCJC to issue a public censure or recommend a judge's removal or retirement. SJR 42