Texas Attorney General Opinion: DM-370 Page: 3 of 9
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Mr. William G. Burnett, P.E. - Page 3
Article VIII, section 7-a of the constitution provides in pertinent part as follows:
Subject to legislative appropriation, allocation and direction, all
net revenues remaining after payment of all refunds allowed by law
and expenses of collection derived from motor vehicle registration
fees,4 and all taxes, except gross production and ad valorem taxes, on
motor fuels and lubricants used to propel motor vehicles over public
roadways,5 shall be used for the sole purpose of acquiring rights-of-
way, constructing, maintaining, and policing such public roadways,
and for the administration of such laws as may be prescribed by the
Legislature pertaining to the supervision of traffic and safety on such
roads; and for the payment of the principal and interest on (certain]
county and road district bonds or warrants.. . ; provided, however,
that one-fourth (4) of such net revenue from the motor fuel tax shall
be allocated to the Available School Fund; and, provided, [that
counties will derive certain minimum net revenue from motor vehicle
fees]. [Footnotes added.]
Your question assumes that the state acquired the highway rights-of-way about
which you ask using funds dedicated by article VIII, section 7-a. We have been informed,
however, that the state acquired the highway rights-of-way about which you ask in the
1920s and the 1930s. The electorate did not amend the constitution to add article VII,
section 7-a until 1946. Generally, a constitutional provision must be construed to operate
prospectively, not retroactively.6 See Grigsby v. Peak, 57 Tex. 142, 146 (1882); 16 C.J.S.
4See Act of May 1, 1995, 74th Leg., RS., ch. 165, 1, 1995 Tex. Sess. Law Serv. 1025, 1494-98
(to be codified at Transp. Code 502.160 - .173); Act of May 19, 1995, 74th Leg., RS., ch. 350, 1,
1995 Tex. Sess. Law Serv. 2880, 2880 (amending V.T.C.S. art. 6675a-6c, repealed by Act of
May 1, 1995, 74th Leg., RS., ch. 165, 24(a), 1995 Tex. Sess. Law Serv. 1025, 1871); Act of
May 24, 1995, 74th Leg., RS., ch. 705, 1, 1995 Tex. Sess. Law Serv. 3719, 3720 (to be codified at
V.T.C.S. art. 6675c, 3).
5See Tax Code och. 153.
6Article VIII, section 7-a does not indicate on its face that it was intended to operate
retroatively. Moreover, upon an examination of statutes predating article VIII, section 7-a, we doubt the
electorate so intended. We base our belief on the existence, before the addition of article VIII, section 7-a
to the constitution, of detailed instructions for the distribution of the motor vehicle registration fees and
Immediately prior to the 1946 amendment to the constitution, the law required the county tax
collector to deposit in the county depository, to the credit of the county road and bridge fund, all of the
motor vehicle registration funds collected until the amount of funds for the calendar year equaled 550,000.
See Act of July 1, 1929, 41st Leg., 2d C.S., ch. 88, 10, 1929 Tex. Gen. Laws 172, 177-78. Then, and
until the county had collected an amount equal to $175,000, the county tax collector was to deposit in the
county depository 50% of the amount received. Id. 10, at 178. The county tax collector was to remit the
remaining 50%, and all amounts over $175,000, to the State Highway Department for the benefit of the
State Highway Fund. See id. j 10 - 10a, at 177-78. The 1929 statute was not amended prior to the 1946
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Texas. Attorney-General's Office. Texas Attorney General Opinion: DM-370, text, 1995; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth274179/m1/3/: accessed December 13, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.