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Texas Proposition 8 (2009)

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Texas Proposition 8, also known as House Joint Resolution No. 7, appeared on the November 3, 2009 ballot in Texas as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it was approved.

If the measure is enacted by voters, it will allow for the state to provide money or property to the construction, maintenance and operation of veterans hospitals. The state is already in partnershp with the federal government in the maintenance of seven veterans' home facilities. Cities in the state in which these facilities are located are:

  • Amarillo
  • Big Spring
  • Bonham
  • El Paso
  • Floresville
  • McAllen
  • Temple

Senator Juan Hinojosa is sponsoring a bill that would have the state government pay for the construction of veterans hospitals, while the U.S. Veterans Administration will pay for operating and maintenance expenses. The amendment is authored by Representatives Ismael Flores, David McQuade Leibowitz, Ryan Guillen and Armando Martinez.[1]

Election results

Texas Proposition 8 was approved by voters on the night of November 3, 2009.[2]

Texas Proposition 8
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 787,102 74.83%
No264,62525.16%

Text of measure

The short ballot summary Texas voters will see on their ballot is "The constitutional amendment authorizing the state to contribute money, property, and other resources for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of veterans hospitals in this state."[3]

Constitutional changes

See also: Amending the Texas Constitution

If Proposition 8 is approved by a simple majority of Texas voters on November 3, it will amend Article 16 of the Texas Constitution by adding a new Section 73 that will say:

The state may contribute money, property, and other resources for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of veterans hospitals in this state.

Support

Arguments

  • Proponents of the measure state that if it is passed, it would allow voters to have a say whether or not the state could contribute to a federal initiative.
  • Supporters also say that the state already contributes to federal government projects, such as seven veterans’ home facilities. A “yes” vote would pave the way for another hospital that would further address the needs of state veterans.

According to an article published on September 26, 2009:

“The state’s 120,000 veterans, including those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, would benefit through proposals to encourage the building of more veterans hospitals in Texas and to continue a state program that provides them low-interest loans to buy land and houses.”[4]

Bill White, the current mayor of Houston and candidate for the United States Senate, stated his support for Proposition 8 on October 29, 2009:

"With Proposition 8, Texans can make sure that our military veterans receive what they deserve. Proposition 8 would give the state government authority to contribute funding to the nine in-patient veterans hospitals that serve more than 1.7 million veterans in Texas. By allowing state funds to be combined with federal funds, veterans' services and facilities could expand and improve."[5]

Legislature

In a commentary published by the Austin American-Statesman, Senator Eddie Lucio stated his support for Proposition 8:

  • It is important to provide adequate health care to veterans in the state. Lucio states that the measure, if enacted, would tend to the many veterans out of the 100,000 that reside in the state that need specialized care that only a veterans hospital could give.
  • Lucio cites the example of the Audie Murphy Veterans Hospital in San Antonio that offers similar services. He claims that due to the size of the state, many cannot travel to this facility, as the trip is physically draining, and may be too expensive.
  • Lucio states: “Proposition 8 would encourage the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to partner with state and local communities to establish additional facilities.”[6]

Campaigning

During the week of October 26, 2009 about 50 veterans ranging from various wars, gathered in Brownsville, Texas to start a two day auto caravan across South Texas in support of Proposition 8:

  • According to state Rep. Ismael Flores, when talking about veterans and their hopes for amendment passage: “We've always had to struggle. I watched them organize, I watched them march, I watched them fight, I watched them go before different agencies, to no avail.”
  • With signs of "Vote for Proposition 8" on their vehicles, the group planned to travel from Brownsville to as far as Roma, Texas.
  • The caravan was organized due to notoriously low turnout for amendment elections.[7]

Opposition

According to a review of the state’s proposed constitutional amendments by the Lake County Sun:

  • Opponents of the proposition say that the amendment is not likely to bring new veterans hospitals to Texas anytime soon.
  • Logic, according to opponents, points to expectations of the state government funding future facilities in the aftermath of this amendment. The federal government currently funds the construction of such facilities, and the passage of Proposition 8 would alter that.
  • Opponents believe it is unnecessary for the state to contribute money, property and other resources.[8]

The National Taxpayers Union is opposed to Proposition 8 because they argue that this proposal could potentially increase tax burdens on Texans. This measure is included in NTU's 2009 General Election Ballot Guide.

Campaign contributions

No committees or contributions to campaigns relating to Proposition 8 were reported.[9]

Media editorial positions

Main article: Endorsements of Texas ballot measures, 2009

Editorial boards in support

  • The Austin Chronicle is in support of Proposition 8. They said, "We frankly can't believe it takes a constitutional amendment to get this done, and even the sponsors weren't sure."[10]
  • The El Paso Times is in support of the proposition. The editorial board said, "This would allow state resources to be used to support veterans hospitals in Texas, which has nine in-patient facilities that serve more than 1.5 million veterans. Even though the hospitals are federally funded, state resources could be used to enhance and improve the facilities. Our veterans deserve this."[11]

Editorial boards opposed

  • The Star-Telegram is opposed to Proposition 8. They said,"A lot of people in the Rio Grande Valley want a federal veterans hospital in their area. There are nine such hospitals in Texas, but none in the Valley. Prop 8 says it would be OK for the state to contribute money, property or other resources to help build and operate VA hospitals. But the Legislature also passed a law to do the same thing whether Prop 8 is approved or not. Doesn’t that make Prop 8 unnecessary?"[12]

Aftermath

Senator Juan Hinojosa, sponsor of the measure, thanked his supporters and voters who voted for the amendment on November 4, 2009. According to the senator: "It is our duty to provide military veterans with the medical care they deserve."[13]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing direct democracy in Texas

The bill was passed to the ballot by the Texas House of Representatives on May 13, 2009 by a vote of 140-0, followed by the State Senate on May 25, 2009 by a vote of 30-0.[14]

As laid out in Article 17 of the Texas Constitution, in order for a proposed constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot, the Texas State Legislature must propose the amendment in a joint resolution of both the Texas State Senate and the Texas House of Representatives. The joint resolution can originate in either the House or the Senate. The resolution must be adopted by a vote of at least two-thirds of the membership of each house of the legislature. That amounts to a minimum of 100 votes in the House of Representatives and 21 votes in the Senate.

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