Texas voters are about to weigh in on 10 proposed amendments to the state constitution, which deal with everything from retiring law enforcement animals to the state's tax code. Voters in three state House districts will also participate in special elections to fill empty seats.
Election Day is Nov. 5.
During this year's legislative session, lawmakers passed several bills that require amendments to the Texas Constitution. A majority of Texas voters must vote to support any change to the state constitution in a statewide referendum. In 2017, all seven constitutional amendments on the ballot passed.
Below are the 10 amendments on the ballot next month. More analysis on each proposition, from the House Research Organization, is available here. And the League of Women Voters guide is here.
How it will read on the ballot: “The constitutional amendment permitting a person to hold more than one office as a municipal judge at the same time.”
What it means: Municipal court judges adjudicate city ordinance violations and certain misdemeanor criminal cases. The proposition would permit elected municipal court judges to serve multiple municipalities at the same time. Currently, only appointed municipal court judges — who make up more than 95 percent of the state's municipal court judges, according the House Research Organization — can serve multiple jurisdictions at the same time, making it more challenging for small and rural cities to find qualified candidates, some argue.
How it will read on the ballot: “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.
What it means: This would allow TWDB to issue bonds to fund for water and wastewater infrastructure projects in areas where median household income is at or below 75% of the statewide median income level.
How it will read on the ballot: “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.”
What it means: This would allow the Legislature to create temporary property tax exemptions for people with property damaged in governor-declared disaster areas. The Legislature would be able to pass laws determining the eligibility requirements for exemptions, as well as the duration and amount of any write-offs.
How it will read on the ballot: “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.”
What it means: This would make it more challenging for future lawmakers to enact a personal income tax, requiring support from two-thirds of the House and Senate and a majority of Texas voters. Currently, the state Constitution requires that any proposal be approved a majority of lawmakers in the House and Senate and a majority of voters in a state-wide referendum.
How it will read on the ballot: “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.”
What it means: It would earmark all revenue from the sporting goods sales tax toward the state parks and wildlife department and historic commission, as intended when the tax was created in 1993. In the past, the Legislature has not appropriated all available tax revenue to TPWD and THC.
How it will read on the ballot: “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.”
What it means: This would allow the Legislature to double the maximum amount of bonds it can issue on behalf of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, to $6 billion.
How it will read on the ballot: “The constitutional amendment allowing increased distributions to the available school fund.”
What it means: This would allow the General Land Office, the State Board of Education and other entities to double the amount of revenue they can provide the Available School Fund each year. The Available School Fund provides classroom materials and funding for Texas schools.
How it will read on the ballot: “The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the flood infrastructure fund to assist in the financing of drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects.”
What it means: This would create a flood infrastructure fund that the Texas Water Development Board could use to finance projects following a disaster.
How it will read on the ballot: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation precious metal held in a precious metal depository located in this state.”
What it means: This would allow the legislature to create a property tax exemption for precious metals held in state depositories — like the Texas Bullion Depository, scheduled to open next year in Leander.
How it will read on the ballot: “The constitutional amendment to allow the transfer of a law enforcement animal to a qualified caretaker in certain circumstances.”
What it means: It would allow for former handlers or qualified caretakers to adopt retired law enforcement animals without a fee.