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Texas Constitutional Amendments 2019

Voters in Texas will decide on ten constitutional amendments this Election Day, November 5. The propositions range from prohibiting personal state income tax from ever being collected to allowing law enforcement animals to stay with their handlers when they retire.

The constitutional amendments, approved by the Legislature during this year’s session, will appear on the Texas statewide ballot November 5, and voters will have the opportunity to approve or disapprove of changes to the Texas Constitution. Constitutional amendments that receive a simple majority vote will be adopted.

All potential amendments that appear on the ballot must originate in the Legislature and pass both houses with a two-thirds vote. The Texas Constitution cannot be amended by citizen-led ballot initiatives, referendums, or petitions, as in some other states. Proposition order, as they appear on the ballot, is determined by a random draw.

Here’s what you should know about the ten proposed constitutional amendments before heading to your polling place on November 5.

  1. Municipal Judges
  2. Assistance for Water Projects in Distressed Areas
  3. Temporary Tax Relief for Disaster Areas
  4. Personal State Income Tax
  5. Sporting Goods Tax to Support State Parks
  6. Cancer Prevention & Research
  7. Funding Public Education
  8. Flood Infrastructure
  9. Tax Exemption of Precious Metals
  10. Transfer of Care of Law Enforcement Animals

Proposition 1 (HJR 72)

Amendment as it will appear on the ballot: “The constitutional amendment permitting a person to hold more than one office as a municipal judge at the same time.”

The Texas Constitution (Article 16, Section 40) prohibits a person from holding more than one public office at the same time but has many exceptions, including county commissioner, justice of the peace, notary public, postmaster, etc. The proposed constitutional amendment would add elected municipal judge to this list of exceptions

A municipal judge oversees pre-trial hearings, small claims proceedings, and misdemeanor cases in a city or town. Proposition 1 would allow municipal judges to hold more than one paid public office at the same time, meaning they could simultaneously preside over multiple municipalities, regardless of whether they were appointed or elected.

  • A 'yes' vote signals your approval for a person to hold more than one office as an elected/appointed municipal judge in more than one municipality, simultaneously.
  • A 'no' vote opposes the amendment allowing a person to hold more than one office as an appointed, but not an elected, municipal judge in more than one municipality at the same time.

Proposition 2 (SJR 79)

Amendment as it will appear 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.”

Proposition 2 would allow the Water Development Board to issue general obligation bonds for the Economically Distressed Areas Program (EDAP). The outstanding bonds could not exceed $200 million. The bonds would be used to develop water supply and sewer projects in economically depressed areas of the state.

EDAP assists water infrastructure projects when the median income of a region is less than 75 percent of the state’s median income. The proposed amendment would give the Water Development Board money to finance water and wastewater infrastructure in economically distressed areas.

  • A 'yes' vote signals your approval for the Texas Water Development Board to continually issue bonds not exceeding $200 million in principal for sewer service projects or for water supply in economically distressed areas.
  • A 'no' vote opposes the amendment, discontinuing bond funding for the Texas Water Development Board's economically distressed areas program.

Proposition 3 (HJR 34)

Amendment as it will appear 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.”

Prop. 3 aims to expand Section 2, Article VIII, Texas Constitution, by adding a temporary exemption. The exemption would temporarily apply to properties occupying a region declared by the governor to be a disaster area following a disaster. The exemption would be 15 percent, 30 percent, 60 percent, or 100 percent, depending on the amount of property damage. The local government would choose whether or not to adopt the temporary exemption and would determine how long the exemption would last. Presently, the only option for tax exemption post-disaster is reappraisal.

  • A 'yes' vote supports approval for political subdivisions to allow tax exemptions in areas that the governor deems 'disaster areas' on a temporary basis.
  • A 'no' vote opposes the amendment, thus continuing to allow property reappraisals following disasters but not tax exemptions.

Proposition 4 (HJR 38)

Amendment as it will appear 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.”

Proposition 4 may be the most contradictory measure on the ballot, specifically because of the language used in the amendment. Presently, Texas does not impose a personal income tax. However, the Texas Constitution allows for the legislature to impose a tax on the incomes of natural persons if legislative requirements are met. Prop. 4 would eliminate this possibility by repealing the language that would authorize the legislature to impose the tax. However, the amendment uses the term “individual,” and the Texas Constitution uses the term “natural persons”. This disparity in language could potentially create a corporate tax loophole.

  • A ‘yes’ vote supports this amendment to prohibit the state from levying an income tax on individuals.
  • A ‘no’ vote opposes this amendment, thus continuing to allow the state to enact a tax on individuals in the future through a statewide referendum.

Proposition 5 (SJR 24)

Amendment as it will appear 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.”

Proposition 5 would require the Legislature to allocate the money raised from state sales taxes on sporting goods (i.e., hunting, fishing, outdoor equipment) to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission. Revenue from such taxes would be used to improve and manage state and local parks and historic sites, and to acquire new sites.

Proposition 5 closes a loophole in the current law that prevents all the revenue raised by these sales taxes from being given to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission, thus allowing some of the money to be used to balance the state budget.

  • A 'yes' vote supports approval to dedicate sales tax revenue from sporting goods to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission.
  • A 'no' vote opposes this constitutional amendment, thus allowing the legislature to decide how much of the revenue from the sales tax on sporting goods is allocated to the state Parks and Wildlife Department and the state Historical Commission.

Proposition 6 (HJR 12)

Amendment as it will appear 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.”

In 2007, approved by voters, the legislature established the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas and authorized the institute to provide grants for medical research, cure developments, clinical trials, and treatment access programs. CPRIT was approved to issue $3 billion in bonds, not exceeding $300 million per year. Approximately 1,300 grants have been awarded, totaling $2.2 billion. According to the Annual Report of the CPRIT in 2018, the institute is expected to exhaust the $3 billion in bonding authority by August 31, 2023. Prop. 6 would authorize an additional $3 billion in bonding authority for the CPRIT.

  • A ‘yes’ vote supports this amendment to allow the legislature to increase the maximum amount of bonds for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas from $3 billion to $6 billion.
  • A ‘no’ vote opposes, keeping the maximum amount of bonds for the CPRIT at $3 billion.

Proposition 7 (HJR 151)

Amendment as it will appear on the ballot: “The constitutional amendment allowing increased distributions to the available school fund.”

The School Land Board, an independent entity of the General Land Office, oversees the management, sale and leasing of more than 13 million acres of land for the Permanent School Fund. The State Board of Education can then make distributions from this fund to the Available School Fund. The revenue generated from the land is used to purchase real estate and make investments to help fund public education through the Available School Fund.

This proposition would increase from $300 million to $600 million the amount the General Land Office could distribute to the Available School Fund each year.

  • A ‘yes’ vote supports this amendment to allow the General Land Office and State Board of Education to each transfer $600 million from the Permanent School Fund's lands and properties proceeds to the Available School Fund each year.
  • A ‘no’ vote opposes the amendment, keeping the amount of revenue that the General Land Office is permitted to transfer from the Permanent School Fund’s lands and properties proceeds to the Available School Fund at $300 million per year and excluding the State Board of Education from making transfers from the fund’s lands and properties proceeds.

Proposition 8 (HJR 4)

Amendment as it will appear 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.”

Proposition 8 would create the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF) as a special fund outside of general revenue. A one-time distribution from the Economic Stabilization Fund, also known as the “rainy day fund,” would establish the FIF. The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) would distribute FIF funds to local governments through loans or, in some cases, as grants. The money would be used to establish and maintain flood control structures and drainage infrastructure throughout the state, especially in economically distressed areas.

If passed, Proposition 8 would require cooperation among all impacted parties. A local government would receive money from the FIF only if it worked with other governments in the region and listened to stakeholder concerns in public meetings. The local government would also have to submit a technical analysis of the plan, comparing it to other possible projects in the region, and a proposal to repay the loan.

  • A ‘yes’ vote supports this constitutional amendment to create the Flood Infrastructure Fund, which the Texas Water Development Board would use to provide financing for flood drainage, mitigation, and control projects.
  • A ‘no’ vote opposed this amendment to create the Flood Infrastructure Fund.

Proposition 9 (HJR 95)

Amendment as it will appear 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.”

While other states do not subject precious metal to property taxation, Texas does. This makes Texas precious metal depositories less competitive and discourages people from purchasing and holding precious metals in the state. Prop. 9 would authorize tax exemption for precious metal held in a precious metal depository in the state.

  • A ‘yes’ vote supports this amendment to allow the legislature to exempt precious metals held in precious metal depositories from property taxation.
  • A ‘no’ vote opposes this, thereby continuing to permit taxation of precious metals held in precious metal depositories as property.

Proposition 10 (SJR 32)

Amendment as it will appear on the ballot: “The constitutional amendment to allow the transfer of a law enforcement animal to a qualified caretaker in certain circumstances.”

Proposition 10 would allow law enforcement animals to retire, and their former handlers or other qualified caretakers to adopt them with no fee. Law enforcement animals are currently considered as surplus property of the county, which means the county can only auction, donate, or destroy them. Proposition 10 would change the property laws to allow the animals to retire and be transferred to their original handler or another qualified caretaker with no adoption fee.

  • A ‘yes’ vote supports this amendment to allow for the transfer of a law enforcement animal, such as a dog or horse, to the animal's handler or another qualified caretaker if the transfer is in the animal's best interest.
  • A ‘no’ vote opposes the amendment.

For additional information on the Texas constitutional amendments, click here.

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