Texans went to the polls on Tuesday, November 3 to cast their ballots on a range of constitutional provisions. All seven propositions passed. Voter turnout was approximately 10% of the voting population.
Proposition 1 (Passed – 86% YES - 14% NO)
Current law provides an exemption of $15,000 of a residence homestead from property taxation for public school purposes. Basically, the proposed amendment would increase this exemption to $25,000. School districts would be held harmless from all or part of the revenue loss with additional legislative funding. The amendment also would constitutionally prohibit a sales tax being imposed on the sale of your home or business property.
Supporters suggested cutting property taxes by increasing the homestead exemption would stimulate economic growth and provide tax relief, as well as increase the state share of public school funding. Moreover, homestead exemptions particularly benefit low-income individuals, by exempting a higher percentage of the value of a less expensive house. Opponents argued that many taxpayers will see only marginal reductions in their property taxes – as little as $126 annually, according to some estimates.
Proposition 2 (Passed – 91% YES-9% NO)
In 2011, voters approved a constitutional amendment to allow a surviving spouse of a disabled veteran an exemption from property taxation on the disabled veteran’s residence homestead, as long as the surviving spouse had not remarried. The amendment did not apply to surviving spouses of veterans who died before 2011. This amendment would extend the exemption in such cases.
Proponents argued that current law unintentionally creates two classes of surviving spouses of totally disabled veterans: those whose spouses died before January 1, 2010, and those whose spouses died on or after that date. They felt this amendment would offer meaningful tax relief for families of deceased disabled veterans, and the fiscal impact on a single taxing district would be minimal. However, analysis indicated that school districts, municipalities, counties, and other taxing districts such as hospitals would lose some tax revenue under the amendment, meaning local governments might be required to increase taxes for other taxpayers.
Proposition 3 (Passed – 66% YES-34% NO)
This amendment would repeal the requirement for the Comptroller of Public Accounts, the Commissioner of the General Land Office, the Attorney General, and any other officers elected statewide to reside in Austin while in office. This amendment would not apply to the residency requirement for the Governor.
Mandating state officers live in Austin during their terms made sense 150+ years ago when travel by buggy, wagon, or horseback created hardships. However, in today’s world, state office holders can get to Austin quickly, as well as manage their duties by phone, email or Skype. What’s more, some officials elected statewide who had previously represented a legislative district might not want to lose their local residency in case they later decide to seek an office that requires them to reside in a certain district. Others feel that being physically present in Austin ensures these officials are available to handle the important business of the state and not worry about when or how they can travel to Austin, and that those elected to guide large agencies should be present at their agency headquarters on a daily basis.
Proposition 4 (Passed – 69% YES-31% NO)
This amendment would grant the legislature the authority to pass statutes to allow a professional sports team’s charitable foundation to conduct charitable raffles, as well as use proceeds from such charitable raffles to pay reasonable advertising, promotional, and administrative expenses.
Supporters think this amendment would increase philanthropic donations, and point out that 25 states allow sports teams to conduct these raffles, with half the proceeds going to charity and the other half paid to the winner. Opponents were concerned that this was another example of the Texas Constitution being amended for gambling purposes.
Proposition 5 (Passed –83 % YES- 17% NO)
This provision would increase from 5,000 to 7,500 the maximum total population threshold of a county that is allowed to construct and maintain private roads as long as the county imposes a reasonable charge for the work.
Proponents argued that in small counties, private roads are often poorly maintained, creating safety hazards. The population cap was enacted to prevent all counties in the state from competing with private industry, but in the small number of counties captured in the amendment, there is very little if any competition from private contractors at present. Opponents believed that improved roads increase traffic usage, commercial interest, and vehicle speed, all of which impose costs on county taxpayers.
Proposition 6 (PASSED – 81% YES-19% NO)
This amendment that would add the right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife, including by use of traditional methods in the Bill of Rights of the Texas Constitution. It would also establish hunting and fishing as the preferred method of managing and controlling wildlife in Texas.
Many Texans feel the need to protect their right to hunt and fish, and worry that right could be taken away or inappropriately limited by the legislature. This proposition would remedy that fear. Opponents argued that hunting and fishing are already protected by laws in place today, and that hunting and fishing is just one wildlife management technique that should not be in the Texas constitution as the “preferred” method. Moreover, “traditional methods” are not defined, so there is concern that traditional may include cruel methods of hunting, like leg traps.
Proposition 7 (Passed– 83% YES -17% NO)
This amendment would dedicate $2.5 billion of revenue from the sales tax and 35% of revenue from the sales and use tax on motor vehicles exceeding $5 billion to the State Highway Fund annually – funds which are presently deposited in to the General Revenue Fund. For example, if $6 billion came in from this tax, then 35% of $1 billion, or $350 million would be dedicated to the State Highway Fund. Currently, this tax results in about $4 billion to our state General Revenue Fund.
Proponents argued that investment in the Texas transportation system is vital to sustaining our quality of life, the proposed amendment is necessary to fund transportation infrastructure in a politically viable and sustainable funding manner, that does not increase. Opponents pointed out that the ballot language does not provide a new source of funding; it is just taking funds and renaming them, and tying the hands of future lawmakers. What’s more, the shift of these revenues to roads rather than to the general fund will mean less money in the budget for other necessary items. The two-year impact for 2019 would be $5 billion loss in funds available for public and higher education funding, prisons or health care.
*Adapted from the 2015 League of Women Voters of Texas Guide
Poll results collected at 95% of precincts reporting and rounded to the nearest whole percent