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A Constitutional Election: November 2019

A Constitutional Election: November 2019

Early voting began last Monday, October 21 and runs through this Friday, November 1, with Election Day on November 5. This year is known as a constitutional election year, with ten proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot.

Countdown to Elections

Fun fact: Texas State constitution was written in 1876 and has been amended 498 times! While voter turnout is historically quite low in a non-presidential year, these constitutional elections are quite important, as they often create or refine the rules for local and state government functions and roles. Read the guide below (or the expanded version online, with pros and cons outlined), from the non-partisan League of Women Voters, to educate yourself on each of the amendments.

For additional context, consider the following positions adopted by the Greater Waco Chamber’s Board of Directors:

  • Advocate for increased investment in water infrastructure modernization.
    FOR on Propositions 2 and 8 assists in developing and strengthening water and flood infrastructure.
  • Increase the state’s share of public school funding to decrease the local property tax burden, and assist in the development of a 21st-century workforce.
    FOR on Proposition 4 raises the amount of support of the Legislature to impose an income tax- it is currently forbidden in the state constitution- from a simple majority to a two-thirds majority. FOR removes the directive that after the Legislature passed such a vote, it go to voters in the form of a constitutional amendment. FOR removes the directive that if a personal state income tax were adopted, it would go to reducing local property taxes and funding public education.
    AGAINST on Prop 4 retains the existing language forbidding a state personal income tax. AGAINST on Prop 4 maintains the simple majority of the Legislature to pass a bill creating a constitutional amendment to allow an income tax. AGAINST on Prop 4 requires that voters have the ultimate decision and vote on a constitutional amendment. AGAINST retains the directive that if an income tax were ever to pass the legislature and then voters, it be used to reduce local property taxes and fund public education.
    FOR on Proposition 7 increases disbursements from the General Land Office to the Available School Fund to support public education.
  • Encourage efficiencies and transparency in government spending, focusing expenditures on areas most critical to increasing the economic activity and growth in our state.
    FOR on Propositions 5 and 6 goes toward supporting state parks and cancer research respectively, both of which have tremendous economic impacts and lead to job creation, in addition to quality of life enhancement and numerous other positive community health impacts.

⭐ Proposition 1 (HJR 72)

“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.

⭐ Proposition 2 (SJR 79)

“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% of the state’s median income. The proposed amendment would give the Water Development Board the money to finance water and wastewater infrastructure in economically distressed areas.

⭐ Proposition 3 (HJR 34)

“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.”

Proposition 3 would allow the Texas Legislature to give a temporary property tax exemption in a governor-declared disaster area. The exemption would be 15%, 30%, 60%, or 100%, 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.

⭐ Proposition 4 (HJR 38)

“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 would prohibit the Texas Legislature from establishing a personal state income tax.

⭐ Proposition 5 (SJR 24)

“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 (TPWD) and the Texas Historical Commission (THC). 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.

⭐ Proposition 6 (HJR 12)

“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 proposed amendment would increase the maximum bond amount for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) from $3 billion to $6 billion. CPRIT provides grants and supports programs that advance cancer research. The organization, begun in 2007, is currently set up to receive $3 billion in funding until 2022.

⭐ Proposition 7 (HJR 151)

“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.

⭐ Proposition 8 (HJR 4)

“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.

⭐ Proposition 9 (HJR 95)

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

Texas opened a precious metals depository in 2018, run by a private company but overseen by the state government. The Constitution requires all real and tangible personal property to be taxed on its value unless exempted. These ad valorem (property) taxes are imposed at the time of purchase or exchange of precious metals. Proposition 9 would exempt from taxation precious metals held in a precious metal depository in the state.

⭐ Proposition 10 (SJR 32)

“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.


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