Halloween is here, heralding a few signs of Fall–it’s finally getting a bit cooler outside, the Holidays will be here soon, and for those attuned to the political scene, November elections are upon us.  

This November, you won’t see any state or federal candidates for office on the ballot, but you will see ten state constitutional amendments for voters to consider.  

Constitutional Amendments are first passed by the Texas Legislature, and then the items go to Texas voters for ratification. Here is THLA’s explanation of the ten Texas constitutional amendments on this November’s ballot:

Proposition 1:  The constitutional amendment permitting a person to hold more than one office as a municipal judge at the same time.

In Texas, municipal judges can be either elected or appointed to office. This amendment would allow the same judge to hold more than one municipal judgeship for multiple cities at the same time.  Currently, rural cities have difficulty finding and retaining qualified municipal court judges. The proponents of the amendment believe passage of Proposition 1 will allow rural areas to retain more qualified judges.

Proposition 2:  The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board in an amount not to exceed $200 million to provide financial assistance for the development of certain projects in economically distressed areas.

This amendment would allow the Water Development Board to issue bonds to fund new water infrastructure projects in areas of the State where the median household income is below 75% of the statewide median.

Proposition 3:  The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for a temporary exemption from ad valorem taxation of a portion of the appraised value of certain property damaged by a disaster.

This amendment would allow property owners in areas impacted by a declared disaster to be exempted from property taxes for one year. If Proposition 3 passes, the Legislature will write additional laws addressing how the exemptions are implemented.

Proposition 4:  The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual income tax, including a tax on an individual’s share of partnership and unincorporated association income.

Texas has no state income tax, and the Texas Legislature is unlikely to pass an income tax anytime in the near future.  Even with the prospects of a state income tax extremely low, Proposition 4 would make it much more challenging for a future legislature to enact an income tax, as doing so would require another constitutional amendment.

Proposition 5:  The constitutional amendment dedicating the revenue received from the existing state sales and use taxes that are imposed on sporting goods to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to protect Texas’ natural areas, water quality, and history by acquiring, managing, and improving state and local parks and historic sites while not increasing the rate of the state sales and use taxes.

We highlighted proposition 5 because THLA advocated for its passage during the 2019 Texas legislative session. Proposition 5 will provide a constitutionally required dedication of a portion of the state sporting good sales tax to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the Texas Historical Commission (THC). 

In 1993, legislation passed allowing up to 94 percent of the sporting goods sales tax to go to parks, with the remaining 6 percent designated for the state’s historical commission, which maintains Texas’s 22 state historic sites.  

However, in the following decades, the Legislature allocated an average of just 40 percent of the sporting goods sales tax to the parks system and used the rest to balance the state budget. By making the sporting goods sales tax funding allocation part of the Texas Constitution, the Legislature is essentially forcing itself to fully appropriate this funding to the TPWD and THC into the future.

Proposition 6:  The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to increase by $3 billion the maximum bond amount authorized for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas is a national leader in cancer research, prevention, and treatment.  The Institute is currently funded through $3 billion in general obligation bonds, and Proposition 6 would double the number of bonds the Institute can issue.

Proposition 7:  The constitutional amendment allowing increased distributions to the available school fund.

In Texas, public schools are partially financed by an endowment of state-owned land and mineral rights.  Proposition 7 would allow the State to double the amount of revenue that can be used from the fund to public education each year.

Proposition 8:  The constitutional amendment allowing a withdrawal from the Rainy Day Fund for flood preparedness projects.

Following the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Proposition 8 will authorize a withdrawal of $793 million from the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund (i.e. the “Rainy Day Fund”) to finance projects around the state to address flood preparedness. Such projects could include building additional dams and levees to prevent future flooding. The Economic Stabilization Fund is funded by taxes on oil and gas produced in Texas, and the ESF currently has a balance of over $11 billion. 

Proposition 9:  The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation precious metal held in a precious metal depository located in this state.

Currently, the income produced by a person’s precious metals are subject to property taxes.  Proposition 9 would exempt precious metals from property taxes if the person deposits those metals in a precious metal depository.

Proposition 10:  The constitutional amendment to allow the transfer of a law enforcement animal to a qualified caretaker in certain circumstances.

Currently, Texas law limits the ability of the state or a local government to transfer public property to private individuals. Law enforcement service canines are technically considered to be public property, and it has been difficult to transfer care of the animals to the private sector when they retire.  Proposition 10 would clarify that service canines and other service animals can be transferred to private individuals and organizations when the animals retire from service.

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