Weigh in on beach access
This article is a continuation of my summary of the 11 proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution that will be put to the voters in the next statewide general election which will take place on Nov. 3. Each proposed amendment must receive a simple majority from the electorate before it can take effect. You can view complete information on all eleven amendments online through the Texas Legislative Council’s website at: http://www.tlc.state.tx.us/pubsconamend/pubsconamend. html.
Amendment No. 7 would allow an officer or enlisted member of the Texas State Guard or other state militia or military force to hold other civil offices simultaneously.
The Texas Constitution currently prohibits a person from holding multiple civil offices at the same time if those offices are considered “offices of emolument.” An office of emolument is one for which the person holding the office receives compensation. Some offices of emolument are exempted from this prohibition such as officer of the National Guard and retired officer of the United States Armed Forces. When these exceptions were previously added, the Texas State Guard was not in existence (created in 1941). This proposed amendment seeks to exempt officers and enlisted members of the Texas State Guard from the dual office prohibition of the Texas Constitution (Section 40(a), Article XVI) to provide parity with an exception that is currently offered to most branches of the military. There does not appear to be any opposition to this amendment.
Amendment No. 8 would add a section to the Constitution authorizing the state to contribute money, property and other resources for the establishment, maintenance and operation of veterans’ hospitals in the state.
Texas ranks third in the nation in the number of veterans among its residents with 1.7 million veterans living in the state. Currently, Texas has nine inpatient veterans’ hospitals located in Houston, Temple, Waco, Bonham, Dallas, Kerrville, San Antonio, Amarillo and Big Spring. The rising cost of traveling to these facilities has become an issue for many veterans seeking care.
There was some question as to whether Section 51, Article III of the Constitution would prohibit the state from making the type of contribution necessary to establish a new veterans hospital. The intent of this amendment is to make clear that the state can make contributions of this nature for the establishment and operation of veterans’ hospitals anywhere in the state.
Amendment No. 9 would add a section to the Constitution establishing that the public has an unrestricted right to access and use a public beach.
The Texas Open Beaches Act enacted in 1959 establishes that the public shall have free and unrestricted right of ingress and egress to and from state-owned beaches bordering the Gulf of Mexico. Current law establishes state-owned beaches as the areas between the line of mean low tide to the line of vegetation bordering on the Gulf. In recent years, hurricanes have dramatically altered these vegetation lines in different parts of the state leaving some houses and other structures sitting on land that while once privately owned, is now public under the definition of the Texas Open Beaches Act.
Proponents of this proposed amendment believe that the amendment will strengthen current law by clarifying its intent to protect the public’s right to free and unrestricted access to state beaches. Proponents have also said that clarifying the intent of current law will reduce litigation that has arisen from these natural boundary changes.
Opponents of the amendment point to the fact that under current law, the state is authorized to require private property owners whose houses now stand on public beaches to remove those structures. Opponents fear that this amendment would provide the state excessive authority to restrict property owners’ rights.
I will outline proposed Amendment No. 10 and Amendment No. 11 in next week’s article. If you would like further information on any of the constitutional amendments, please don’t hesitate to contact my Capitol office at (512) 463-0672, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.