THANKS TO SOME OBSERVANT FOLLOWERS WHO NOTICED WE HAD LISTED #4 AS #5, AND #5 AS #4. WE’VE FIXED IT NOW – SORRY FOR THE MIX UP! WORDING DID NOT CHANGE – JUST HAD THE NUMBERS REVERSED ON THOSE TWO AMENDMENTS.
Most every odd numbered year, Texans are asked to vote on proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution that have developed the previous session of the Texas legislature. It’s always a challenge deciding how to vote on these amendments because the language is often vague, the intent is unclear, and sometimes you just don’t know what the heck they are talking about.
True Texas Project to the rescue! Our mission is always to educate and motivate. We don’t want to tell people how to vote, but we are happy to provide background, and opinions of our leaders, to help you make your decisions. Here is your education on the amendments with background, source documents, and opinions from Fran and Julie. You’ll notice Julie and Fran do not always agree. And that’s ok!
After reading and researching, make your own decisions and be SURE TO GO VOTE!. These elections have notoriously low turn out, so these things are often decided by a very small number of people. Don’t let someone else make policy on your behalf – VOTE. Early voting starts Monday (tomorrow) and goes on for two weeks, then election day is Nov. 2. There may or may not be other things on your ballot like special elections for vacated positions, school bonds, or other local issues and propositions.
To know exactly what is going to be on YOUR ballot, contact your local county elections administrator and request a sample ballot that is specific to your address.
Background on Constitutional Amendments: The Texas Constitution, first adopted in 1876, has been amended more than 500 times! Only 180 amendments have ever been rejected by the voters. This tells us that voters are often uninformed about the issue, so they just vote yes, or that the language may be unclear or confusing. Amendments, known as “propositions” must pass the legislature by 2/3 majority vote in both houses, and then be approved by the voters of Texas in a general election.
Turnout at these elections is traditionally very low. It is so important that you 1) VOTE in the off-year elections for amendments; and 2) STUDY and understand the amendments so that you can make informed, intelligent decisions about them. Legislators often make the language of the ballot proposition fuzzy in order to improve the chances of passage, so it really helps to explore the originating legislation.
People often ask – why does this have to be a Constitutional Amendment? The answer is
- If there is a rule or procedure that is part of the Constitution (as opposed to the Texas Code), and you want to change, amend or repeal it – the only way it can be changed is with a constitutional amendment. Or…..
- The issue is important enough to be enshrined in the Constitution where it is less likely to be changed, deleted, or overridden. Constitutional amendments require 2/3 majority vote of both houses of the legislature, plus majority of the voters in the November election. It’s a higher bar than regular legislation which can be passed by a simple majority in both houses, and no vote by the people.
THE PROPOSED AMENDMENTS
The constitutional amendment authorizing the professional sports team charitable foundations of organizations sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association or the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association to conduct charitable raffles at rodeo venues.
ORIGIN: HJR 143 (Geren) – Designates sanctioned rodeos as professional sports teams and authorizes their charitable foundations to conduct raffles.
Julie’s comment: INDIFERENT – I don’t care if they can or can’t have raffles
Fran’s comment: YES. If the privilege is extended to other sports teams, then Rodeos ought to have it as well.
The constitutional amendment authorizing a county to finance the development or redevelopment of transportation or infrastructure in unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted areas in the county.
ORIGIN: HJR99, HB1531 (Canales) – Authorizes counties to issue bonds to fund infrastructure and transportation projects in underdeveloped, unproductive or blighted areas.
PROBLEM: the final language was changed to remove the statement that “ad valorum taxes” would be used to repay the debt. Uninformed voters may not realize that their taxes are used to fund these projects. The language needs to be changed to be more transparent. Also is vague enough to open door to eminent domain abuses, and definitions of “underdeveloped, unproductive or blighted”. It is being promoted as improvements with “no new taxes” which is deceptive.
Julie’s comment: NO – this is another tax, and TTP will be part of a lawsuit if it passes because it is so poorly worded and tricks people into voting for a tax, when you know that if they understood, they would not do that. Plus it was already voted down before, in 2011 (when the tax language was left in there).
Fran’s comment: Definite NO for reasons stated above. These are the legislative games that they play, thinking we, the voters, are too uninformed (or stupid) to notice. We are neither uninformed or stupid! Voting NO on this one.
The constitutional amendment to prohibit this state or a political subdivision of the state from prohibiting or limiting religious services of religious organizations.
ORIGIN: ORIGIN: SJR27 (Hancock) -State and local governments may not enact any rules that prohibit or limit religious services by religious organizations.
PROBLEM: (not for some) – We already have this protection in the US Constitution 1st Amendment, and the Texas Constitution.
Julie’s comment: YES – I understand that we are already protected by the US Constitution. Some say that adding it to the TX Constitution means they could at some point change their mind and take it away. I disagree because it would still be in the US Constitution. It brings no harm to adding it to the TX one. Lots of stuff is repeated in both. Plus, if we do break away, it will already be in there. I understand both sides.
Fran’s comment: NO. If I acknowledge that the legislature can tell us that governments can not close churches, then I have also acknowledged that they could in the first place. I do not accept that. The right to worship when/where/how I choose is a God-given right, guaranteed in the first amendment of the US Constitution AND in Article I, Section 6 of the Texas Constitution. It’s already in the Texas Constitution. This is a personal principle issue for me – I know this amendment will pass, but I will not vote for it.
The constitutional amendment changing the eligibility requirements for a justice of the Supreme Court, a judge of the court of criminal appeals, a justice of a court of appeals, and a district judge.
ORIGIN: SJR47 (Huffman) – Increases the qualification requirements for TX Supreme Court, TX Criminal Court of Appeals and District Court Judges. Supreme and Criminal Court of Appeals – 10 years’ experience; and District Courts – 8 years’ experience.
Julie’s comment: Yes – I’m ok with increased experience in our judges and justices
Fran’s comment: ?? I’m still torn on this one. The way I read it, the requirements for Supreme Court Judges is the same, and the requirement for District Judges changes from 4 years to 8 years. I probably will vote YES, because more experience is better, but I’m still puzzled by this amendment. I’m probably missing something, and I plan to talk to Senator Huffman’s office to get a better understanding before I vote.
The constitutional amendment providing additional powers to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct with respect to candidates for judicial office.
ORIGIN: HJR165 (Jetton) – Authorizes the commission on judicial conduct to investigate complaints against judicial candidates in the same manner that they investigate judicial officeholders.
Julie’s comment: YES – I’m ok with investigating judicial complaints
Fran’s comment: YES – judicial candidates operate under a different set of ethics rules than candidates for other offices. If incumbent candidates are subject to the Commission on Judicial Conduct, then non incumbent candidates should be subject to the same rules.
The constitutional amendment establishing a right for residents of certain facilities to designate an essential caregiver or in-person visitation.
ORIGIN: SJR19 (Kolkhorst) – Residents of nursing, assisted living, and similar residential facilities have the right to designate an essential caregiver who may not be denied in-person visitation.
Julie’s comment: YES – never again should people in nursing homes be abandoned because the governor says so
Fran’s comment: YES – We all saw the devastation that came last year when long term care facility residents were denied access to their family, friends, or any outside non staff interaction. People literally wasted away and died. It’s probably one of the worst tragedies of our time. This amendment guarantees the right of every resident to have at least one essential care giver who cannot be denied in person visits.
The constitutional amendment to allow the surviving spouse of a person who is disabled to receive a limitation on the school district ad valorem taxes on the spouse’s residence homestead if the spouse is 55 years of age or older at the time of the person’s death.
ORIGIN: HJR125 (Ellzey) – Extends the current homestead school tax limit for disabled individuals to surviving spouses who are at least 55 years old and reside at the home.
Julie’s comment: YES – I like lowering taxes for anyone and everyone in order to starve the govt. I am not for special carve outs for all widows of the disabled though, because many of them are young and will remarry. Since this specifies you must be 55 or older, I’m ok with it.
Fran’s comment: NO – I am generally not in favor of most exemptions because we have too many, and it puts additional burdens on the rest of the tax payers. Rather than starving the government, it puts additional taxes on the rest of the taxpayers. I support exemptions for disabled persons, and some other groups, but surviving spouses should qualify on their own, not have the exemption extended because of their deceased spouse’s disability. HOWEVER – property taxes should be eliminated and then we wouldn’t be putting these constant band aids on the tax code.
The constitutional amendment authorizing the Legislature to provide an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a member of the armed services of the United States who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty.
ORIGIN: SJR35 (Campbell) – Expands the current homestead tax exemption to include surviving spouses of service members fatally injured in the line of duty, along with those killed outright.
Julie’s comment: UNDECIDED, probably no – I do like lowering taxes for everyone because it gives the govt less money, but I don’t see how this group of people should have a special carve out. It’s for widows of veterans but doesn’t add an age limit. Again, the young will likely remarry.
Fran’s comment: NO – for the same reasons stated in Prop 7.
Suggestions for further study: One way to better understand the proposed amendments is to look at the originating legislation (each amendment starts with a bill number in the house or senate and is referenced above). If that doesn’t help you, it’s a good opportunity to talk with the legislator who authored the bill. Contact them or their offices (legislative directors are good people to talk to about this) and ask what was on their minds and the purpose of the legislation. They generally welcome the opportunity to talk about legislation they proposed and brag on it. So, talk to them!
If you need assistance in looking up the origin legislation, contacting the authors of the bills, or contacting your own representative, please let us know. We’re happy to assist and we can show you how to do that.
Email questions to Fran Rhodes, [email protected]
AND DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!