Andrew Lambdin-Abraham (kd5mdk) wrote,
Andrew Lambdin-Abraham

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This Is A Political Post

It is two pages inside, actually. Scary

I'm not going to talk about the Legislature. If I get in the right frame of mind later maybe I'll do a writeup, but for the moment I'm just going to keep my own counsel.

Two propositions to amend the Texas constitution are on the ballot coming up (I can't type long things and have web access at the same time, so I can't place references or check facts here as much as I'd like). Actually, there are a lot more than 2, at least 16. Only two of them have generated marketing campaigns that I've noticed, however.

The first thing people need to know is that the Texas Constitution is incredibly complex, detailed, is about as thick as a dictionary, and needs to be amended every couple of months. We really need to go in and tear it up and come up with a new one, but there are so many nice features in it that various people value you can never come up with enough support to do it. One of the popular provisions is for the Legislature to meet only once every two years, for example.

The first amendment in question has to do with limiting non-economic damages in medical liability suits to a figure set by the legislature, I believe. The general case for is that insurance companies are laboring under excessive risk of jury awards in liability suits, which drives up medical malpractice insurance, which is said to be driving doctors out of practice in this state. I know for a fact this driving out business is occurring in PA and DE (read the Philadelphia Inquirer some months ago, and they're reasonably trustworthy) so I'm prepared to believe it about Texas.

The Con side basically believes that this is just a ploy on the part of insurance companies to limit their liability which isn't excessive anyway, and is just trying to raise their profits.

I'm quite torn by this, as on many issues. On the one hand, I'm generally in favor of liability. You hear about cases of patients having the wrong leg, or genitals, or something amputated, or my 5th grade teacher's husband who lost half his arm to unnecessary gangrene and it seems like those people deserve as much compensation as can be proved reasonable, using the generally accepted formulas for such. On the other hand, I do believe it is possible to drive honest people out of business with regulation or liability and so forth, and it's incredible foolishness on the part of governments/governed voters to let that happen. Striking the balance is a very difficult things and I don't think I have the proper information to make a good judgment. So I think I'll vote no at the ballot if I make it (I'm going to a volleyball game and then party the night before the election, and another party in Houston the day of, so I may be squeezed for time) because I think things can stand as they are for the time until I'm convinced they need to chance on this topic. Is this conservatism?

On the general case, I think there may need to be more selectivity in medical approval, because the incompetent need to be weeded out as much as possible. If the risk of being injured by a doctor who was unworthy to hold the title was lessened, the need for insurance being used would be less as well, which is all around a good thing.

Second topic:

Texas currently does not allow home equity lines of credit. I'm a little confused on this entire topic because I think home equity loans were a topic before I was a voter, and I don't remember if that passed or not. Not currently being a property owner, the entire topic hasn't come up much to me yet.

The proposition as I understand it will allow home equity lines of credit, and if they aren't currently home equity loans as well I suppose.

The supporters are advertising that Texans should have the same right to spend their money/equity as residents of other states do. I am sympathetic to this notion. I also have not noticed any opposition to the proposition, so my doubts are purely philosophical. I do not think that this is a ploy by banks to drive us all into foreclosure. Banks would much prefer to get their money off us a few % at a time rather than run the risk of foreclosure, which gives them a potentially deadweight property and possibly very little cash. I'm not really opposed to giving banks more opportunities to earn some interest from us. After all, I'm not obligated to take them, and financial responsibility is a fairly core concept in adulthood, to me.

The reason this isn't already allowed anyway is that Texas is strongly oriented towards the protection of property rights. In some cases this takes ludicrous turns, such as the right of capture approach to water. However, other aspects are quite nice to property owners. For example, the Homestead exemption states (I believe) that a person can declare one property of a certain size (or portion of a larger property) which they reside for at least a certain portion of a year their homestead, and aside from failure to pay property taxes, or the original mortgage, it cannot be taken from them or sold to pay any other debt. I believe the original formulation also prevented second mortgages or other liabilities from being incurred on the property. I like this, in general. It provides a certain reassurance about the property one owns, and lenders simply have to take this protection into consideration when calculating risk.

There are times when this provision appears to have its disadvantages, such as when it looked like Ken Lay would make use of it post-Enron, or the fellow down the street from my house who had his property raided some dozen times by the health authorities who removed the (literal) tons of junk he accumulated each time. He finally had his razed and the land sold for the fees they charged for this I believe, but he won it back claiming it as homestead. He's currently living in a touring home or two, still loaded with junk. Name is Ray Blanchett, if anyone wants to look up in the Austin papers for any of the times he's run for Mayor.

Still, even with these I'm not sure I want to expand the opportunities for people to have their homes foreclosed. I suppose it boils down to if we already allow second mortgages and home equity loans, then home equity lines of credit are a better and safer alternative we ought to allow. If we don't, it's probably not worth starting.

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