By Lori Lee
NDG Contributing Writer
In the election next month, Texans will be choosing new leaders and deciding on various city bond proposals, while all Texans will be deciding the fate of 14 propositions to amend the state constitution.
State lawmakers have laid the groundwork to allow voters to decide, approving the 14 propositions by two-thirds of the House and Senate during the January regular session and a June special session called by the governor. Once approved for the ballot, only a simple majority is required to pass each amendment.
Drawn up 31 years after the Republic of Texas joined the United States, the Texas Constitution has been amended 517 times since its adoption in 1876.
Needless to say, it is crucial that all vote. Commissioner John Wiley Price is asking everyone to vote in the election, while urging voters to prioritize Proposition 12 in particular.
The proposed amendment would abolish the office of Galveston County Treasurer, a measure that would allow the County Commissioner’s Court to re-designate a Treasurer to the office.
Even though the measure presently will only impact Galveston County, Price strongly recommends voting against the measure because if it is approved, the effort will be repeated across major urban democratic-leaning counties.
Below is a guide through the other 13 propositions, with information to help voters decide what may be best for Texas and fellow citizens.
The first proposition would reinforce existing rights already in place to allow farming, ranching, gardening or raising wildlife on land owned or leased.
While the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prevents states from infringing on rights and immunities, the Constitution grants states police powers to protect the health and safety of citizens, wildlife, and natural resources. The new amendment will make it difficult to change related laws in the future, and Commissioner Price recommends voting against it.
Proposition 2 would allow city or county governments to define and set eligibility requirements for tax breaks to owners of child care facilities. With exemptions of at least 50% of appraised value, this proposal could mean either higher profits for owners or lower childcare costs. Commissioner Price recommends voting in favor of Proposition 2.
Proposition 3 would prevent the Texas legislature from taxing a person or family’s net worth and require prior voter approval to form a wealth tax in the future. While a yes vote would say yes to the state’s recently passed property tax relief plan, a no vote on Proposition 3 would allow lawmakers free reign to create a wealth tax without voter approval. Price recommends voting against the measure.
The 4th proposition would increase school district homestead exemptions by $60,000, while limiting taxes on the elderly and disabled. To offset lost district tax revenues, the state would invest $7.1 billion of its surplus in public schools. The amendment would also cap annual appraisals by 20% for homestead properties until 2026, while placing a four-year limit on appraisal district governing members in urban counties of 75,000+ people. Commissioner Price recommends voting against Proposition 4.
Commissioner Price recommends voting in favor of Proposition 5, which would create a $3.9 billion endowment for faculty, research and graduate studies in lower-performing state universities, including Texas Tech, Texas State University, University of North Texas and University of Houston. Initially funded by $3.5 billion of surplus funds, additional funding would be added from the National Research University Fund and from interest accruing in the Economic Stabilization Fund.
Price also recommends favor for Proposition 6, which proposes a special account for the Texas Water Fund to finance state water projects, like rural water infrastructure, conservation and mitigation from water loss. The legislature has already set aside $1 billion for the fund if approved by Texas voters, as reported by Houston Landing.
Similarly, Proposition 7 would create a special fund to finance electric generating facilities. Yet, as Houston Landing reports, the measure would exclude wind and solar projects, and Commissioner Price recommends voting against it.
Price does recommend voting in favor of Proposition 8, which would create a fund administered by the state comptroller to allocate $1.5 billion for broadband internet expansion to economically distressed communities. The fund would administer the grants through the Texas Broadband Development office and match funds for the federal Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program. The fund would expire Sep. 1, 2035 unless extended.
Price also favors Proposition 9, which proposes $3.45 billion in bonus checks and cost-of-living raises for retired public-school teachers, the first such increase since 2004, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Price rejects Proposition 10, which would provide tax breaks to biomedical companies, exempting them from property taxes on medical supplies manufactured and equipment used to manufacture them.
The 11th proposal would add El Paso County to a list of Texas counties authorized to issue bonds for developing and maintaining parks that would be funded by ad valorem taxes. A yes vote on Proposition 11 would support El Paso County’s ability to fund parks and recreation, and Commissioner Price recommends voting in favor of the proposition.
Proposition 13 would extend the mandatory retirement age from 75 to 79 for state judges and justices. Supporters of the amendment argue that humans are living longer, healthier lives and the state judiciary could miss out on decades of experience by keeping the lower retirement age, as reported by Houston Landing. Price recommends a vote in favor of the proposition.
Proposition 14 establishes a centennial parks conservation fund with $1 billion allocated to Texas Parks and Wildlife for the creation and improvement of state parks. Texas ranks 35th in the nation for state park acreage per capita, Environment Texas reports, with only 2.4% of lands protected. Price recommends a yes vote on the measure.
All voters are urged to vote in this crucial election. Early voting runs until November 3, with Election Day falling on Tuesday, November 7. Please see VoteTexas.gov to find out where to vote.