From Taxes To Highways, What You Should Know About Amending The Texas Constitution | KERA News

From Taxes To Highways, What You Should Know About Amending The Texas Constitution

Oct 19, 2015

It’s not as flashy as midterm or presidential elections, but early voting has begun for another kind of election. On Nov. 3, Texas voters will consider whether to add another seven amendments to the state constitution.

Getting an amendment on the state constitution is much simpler than on the federal level. The Texas Legislature regularly proposes new amendments to the constitution during the legislative session, and residents vote on it.

Over the years, voters have approved 484 of more than 600 proposed amendments to the constitution.

There are seven propositions on the ballot this year, ranging from increasing property tax exemptions to transportation funding. Here's what you should know about the propositions, based on reporting from the Texas Tribune and KUT, the public radio station in Austin.

Proposition 1: Property tax reduction

The measure would increase property tax exemptions for homeowners from $15,000 to $25,000. The state says it will cover the lost tax revenue to school districts, which is estimated to be $600 million annually.

The amendment would also prohibit state officials from collecting taxes on real estate title transfers.

Official ballot language:

“The constitutional amendment increasing the amount of the residence homestead exemption from ad valorem taxation for public school purposes from $15,000 to $25,000, providing for a reduction of the limitation on the total amount of ad valorem taxes that may be imposed for those purposes on the homestead of an elderly or disabled person to reflect the increased exemption amount, authorizing the legislature to prohibit a political subdivision that has adopted an optional residence homestead exemption from ad valorem taxation from reducing the amount of or repealing the exemption, and prohibiting the enactment of a law that imposes a transfer tax on a transaction that conveys fee simple title to real property.”

Proposition 2: Disabled veteran tax exemptions count for spouses

In 2011, Texas voters passed a constitutional amendment extending 100 percent property tax exemptions to surviving spouses of disabled veterans who have not remarried, but it did not include spouses of disabled veterans who died before Jan. 1, 2010. This amendment would expand current law to make those spouses eligible for the tax exemptions, as long as they have not remarried.

Official ballot language:

“The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a 100 percent or totally disabled veteran who died before the law authorizing a residence homestead exemption for such a veteran took effect.”

Proposition 3: Allow most statewide officials to live outside of Austin

The constitution currently requires that statewide officials including the comptroller, land commissioner, agriculture commissioner and attorney general live in Austin. If passed, Prop 3 would allow some statewide elected officials to live outside the state capital. The exceptions: governor and lieutenant governor. They would still be required to live in Austin.

Official ballot language:

“The constitutional amendment repealing the requirement that state officers elected by voters statewide reside in the state capital.”

Proposition 4: Professional sports teams' charitable foundations can have more raffles

Under current law, the charitable foundations of Texas professional sports teams can only hold a certain number of charitable raffles and 50/50 raffles. Any unauthorized raffle is considered gambling. Prop 4 would increase the number of raffles held each year.

Official ballot language:

“The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to permit professional sports team charitable foundations to conduct charitable raffles.”

Proposition 5: Small counties can perform private road maintenance

The constitution currently allows counties with 5,000 residents or fewer to build and maintain private roads. Prop 5 raises the proposition requirement to 7,500.

Official ballot language:

“The constitutional amendment to authorize counties with a population of 7,500 or less to perform private road construction and maintenance.”

Proposition 6: Guarantees Texans the right to hunt and fish

Texans already have the right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife. This proposition, as Republican State Rep. Trent Ashby of Lufkin puts it, would prevent courthouses for enforcing outright bans or limit certain types of hunting. KUT’s Ben Philpott explains.

Official ballot language:

“The constitutional amendment recognizing the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife subject to laws that promote wildlife conservation.”

Proposition 7: Dedicates more state revenue to the State Highway Fund

Just last year, voters approved a proposition to divert oil and gas tax revenue from the Rainy Day fund to the state highway fund. This year's measure would funnel money from two other sources: general sales tax revenue and state motor vehicle sales tax revenue.

As with last year’s amendment, the ballot language prohibits use of this money for toll projects.

Official ballot language:

“The constitutional amendment dedicating certain sales and use tax revenue and motor vehicle sales, use, and rental tax revenue to the state highway fund to provide funding for nontolled roads and the reduction of certain transportation-related debt.”

Early voting ends Oct. 30. Election Day is Nov. 3.

The Texas Tribune contributed to this report.

Resources & Early Voting Locations