New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - October 26, 2005, New Braunfels, Texas
The constitutional amendment authorizing the denial of bail to a criminal defendant who violates a condition of the defendant's release pending trial. (SJR 17 - Sponsors: Staples and Gattis)Explanation
Under present law, if a criminal defendant is not brought to trial within 90 days of his arrest, he or she must be offered bail. There are five exceptions: (a) a defendant in a capital case when the proof is evident, (b) a twice convicted felon accused of another felony, (c) a defendant accused of a felony while on bail for a felony, (d) a prior felon accused of a felony with a deadly weapon, (e) a felon on state-supervised parole accused of a violent or sexual offense.
If passed, this amendment would add a sixth exception to a prisoner’s right to bail. A district judge would have the option to revoke bail and deny further bail to a defendant in a felony case who violates a condition of release related to the safety of a victim of the alleged offense or to the safety of the community.Arguments For
• Without the exception proposed in this amendment, a criminal defendant is guaranteed the right to release on bail after each violation.
• This proposition would protect crime victims and the public from violent offenders who now have the right to seek bail even if they have violated the conditions of their bond.Arguments Against
• This amendment is unnecessary. It could result in pretrial measures being harsher than penalties that might result from the defendant’s trial.
• This amendment could cause an additional burden to county taxpayers. The current statewide average incarceration rate is $36 per day, according to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.PROPOSITION 5The constitutional amendment allowing the legislature to define rates of interest for commercial loans. (SJR 21 - Sponsors - Averia and Flynn) Explanation
Current state law limits interest rates on all loans, including commercial loans. The proposed amendment would allow the Legislature to designate a class of large commercial loans as “exempt commercial loans” that would be exempt from interest ceilings. Higher rates would thus be allowed on certain exempt commercial loans.
Interest ceilings currently imposed by Texas law apply only to Texas-based banks and financial institutions. Banks that are outside of Texas, or banks in Texas whose headquarters are outside the state, may provide commercial loans at higher rates than Texas-based banks. As a result, there are few large banks headquartered in Texas.
Enabling legislation has been passed (HB 955) that defines exempt commercial loans as
any commercial loan of $7 million or more that is secured primarily by real property, or
any loan of $500,000 or more that is not secured by real property.Arguments For
• Most states (46) do not set rates for commercial loans, so their financial institutions have greater freedom to structure large or more risky commercial ventures. Often Texas lenders cannot get sufficient yield to make larger loans worthwhile. Consequently, the majority of commercial loans in Texas are made by out-of-state lenders.
• Adopting this proposition would make Texas banks more competitive and eliminate a disincentive for large banks to locate their headquarters in Texas.
• Since the proposed amendment is directed only at large commercial loans, smaller commercial borrowers would still be protected by interest rate ceilings placed on Texas-based institutions.Arguments Against
• The interest rate ceilings were created to protect borrowers from usurious lending practices. The proposed amendment could be a first step in eliminating this protection.
• Texas should not follow the dangerous lead of some states that have exempted all commercial lending from interest rate ceilings.
• Regardless of whether the proposed amendment is approved, all commercial borrowers would still be able to contract with out-of-state lenders.PROPOSITION 6The constitutional amendment to include one additional public member and a constitutional county court judge in the membership of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. (HJR 87 - Sponsors: Farabee and Lindsey) Explanation
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct is responsible for investigating allegations of judicial misconduct or judicial disability, and for disciplining judges. This commission has jurisdiction, or authority, over about 3300 judges and judicial officers.
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct now consists of 11 appointed commission members who each serve six-year terms, and a staff of 17. The members by law include one Justice of a Court of Appeals, one District Judge, two State Bar members, one Justice of the Peace, one Municipal Court Judge, one County Court at Law Judge, and four members of the public (who may not be lawyers or public employees).
The amendment would increase the number of commission members to thirteen (13). The two additional members would be a Judge of a Constitutional County Court (the County Judge who chairs the County Commissioners Court), and an additional public member. The amendment increases the quorum from six to seven members.
In addition, the residence requirements of some of the commission members are changed. Currently, three are appointed at large and eight from varying appellate court districts. This amendment specifies that six members, the Court of Appeals Justice, the District Judge, the two State Bar members, the County Court at Law Judge, and theCONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PROCESS
Texas voters have approved 432 amendments to the Texas Constitution since its adoption in 1876. An amendment is proposed in a joint resolution that can originate in either house of the state legislature, during a regular or special session. Ajoint resolution specifies the election date and may contain more than one amendment. The joint resolution must receive a vote of two thirds of each house before it is presented to the voters. The governor cannot veto a joint resolution, although he may veto the enabling legislation, a bill to enact the amendment if it is passed by voters. Not all joint resolutions require enabling legislation. If the voters reject an amendment, the legislature may resubmit it.
The legislature prescribes the ballot language, and it is contained in the joint resolution. Once the amendment is approved by both houses ot the legislature, the Secretary of State writes a brief explanatory statement, which is approved by the Attorney General. The Secretary of State also conducts a random draw ing to assign each proposition a ballot number. The constitution specifies that these statements be published tw ice in each newspaper in the state that prints official notices; the first 50 to 60 days before the election, and the second the following week.
Amendments take effect when the official vote canvass confirms statewide voter approval, unless a later date is specified.