86th LegislatureLocal NewsStatewide NewsEverything You Need to Know About Texas Constitutional Amendments for the November 5th Election

This election year, voters will get to vote on 10 amendments to the state constitution that were approved by the legislature this past session.
October 21, 2019
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Early voting has begun for this year’s election and on the statewide ballot are 10 constitutional amendments.

In addition to these amendments, depending on where one lives, other items may be on the ballot such as municipal bonds, State House special elections, or local elected offices. To view your sample ballot, visit your county’s elections website.

To find your polling place, visit the Secretary of State’s website here

Early voting starts today and extends until November 1. Election Day is Tuesday, November 5.

Here’s a rundown of the 10 proposed amendments and what a vote for or against would mean for each.

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Prop. 1: Allowed to Serve as Multiple Municipal Judges Amendment

“The constitutional amendment permitting a person to hold more than one office as a municipal judge at the same time.”

Current Texas statute permits an individual to serve as a municipal judge in more than one capacity — provided both positions are appointed. Some municipalities appoint their municipal judges and some elect them. Those who are elected, since Texas law prohibits elected officials from serving in other elected offices, cannot occupy another municipal judgeship.

Effectively leveling the playing field between communities that appoint and those that elect their municipal judges, proponents of this amendment say it will help smaller communities fill voids in those offices where there may not be enough qualified candidates in their own community.

A “Yes” vote is one in favor of allowing elected municipal judges to serve as municipal judges elsewhere.

A “No” vote is one in favor of preserving the current rule of elected judges holding only one position at a time.  

Prop. 2: Water Development Board Bonds Amendment

“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.”

Passed in 1989, the Economically Distressed Areas Program (EDAP) funds lower-income county’s water supply and sewer system improvements. EDAP is managed by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). Currently, to add funding to EDAP, voters must approve a constitutional amendment, which most recently happened with the passage of Proposition 16 in 2007, which approved an additional $250 million to the fund.

This year’s measure would permit the TWDB to issue EDAP bonds up to $200 million without having to seek voter approval. If a proposal exceeds that $200 million threshold, voter approval would then have to be sought via constitutional amendment.

The TWDB is a three-member body, and each member is nominated by the governor.

According to the TWDB, 45 counties have received money from the EDAP.

A “Yes” vote is one in favor of permitting the TWDB to issue EDAP bonds up to $200 million without voter approval.

A “No” vote is one in favor of keeping statute as is, with the TWDB having to propose and voters approve a constitutional amendment issuing more EDAP funding.

Prop. 3: Temporary Property Tax Exemption for Disaster Areas Amendment

“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.”

This measure would permit local governments to exempt certain areas from property taxes provided the Governor has declared a state of emergency for natural disasters.

Currently, local governments can reappraise property values after a state of emergency has been declared but cannot provide an outright exemption.

Proposition 3 has a companion bill (HB 492) which will be implemented upon approval of the constitutional amendment. Those seeking an exemption would have to apply within 60 days of the disaster and an appraiser would decide what level of exemption the given property would receive. The levels range from a 15 to 100 percent exemption of that year’s property tax bill.

A “Yes” vote is one in favor of permitting local governments to provide this property tax exemption.

A “No” vote is one in favor of keeping statute as is.

Prop. 4: Prohibit State Income Tax on Individuals Amendment

“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.”

Texas currently does not have an income tax and for a legislature to implement one, it would have to be approved by a simple majority of both houses and a statewide referendum. This measure would statutorily ban the passage of an income tax bill in the legislature.

If implemented, to remove the ban would require a constitutional amendment which requires two-thirds support in each house and statewide voter approval.

Critics say the plan unnecessarily burdens future generations from choosing their own course in how taxes are collected in the state.

Proponents say it’s solidifying Texas’ business-friendly environment.

A “Yes” vote is one in favor of banning the implementation of a state income tax without two-thirds of both houses and statewide voter approval.

A “No” vote is one in favor of keeping statute as is, requiring a simple majority of both houses in the legislature and a statewide referendum.

Prop. 5: Sales Tax on Sporting Goods Dedicated to Parks, Wildlife, and Historical Agencies Amendment

“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.”

The State of Texas has a sales tax on sporting goods and currently, the legislature decides where the funds will be allocated. This measure would require that money to go to the Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission.

To reduce the amount that goes to those two entities, the legislature would need two-thirds support in each chamber. If that happens, the legislature would not be able to reduce the number below 50 percent. 

The Texas Coalition for State Parks PAC filed in support of this ballot measure. As of the September 26 deadline it has raised $643,002.24 and spent $70,441. No committee filed in opposition to the measure.

A “Yes” vote is one in favor of requiring the state’s sales tax on sporting goods to go to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission.

A “No” vote is one in favor of preserving current law in which the legislature decides where to appropriate the sporting goods sales tax revenue.

Prop. 6: Cancer Prevention and Research Institute Bonds Amendment

“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 Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) was created in 2007 and was authorized to issue a maximum of $3 billion in bonds to fund operations and grants for cancer-related research. Thus far, CPRIT has been awarded $2.4 billion in funding.

This measure would increase that $3 billion threshold to $6 billion, with a $300 million limit per year.

Proponents say the increase is necessary to continue the program, which voters approved, as it could run out of funding as early as the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

Opponents say that cancer research is not an essential function of the state, criticize the doubling of funds increasing the state’s debt burden, and point to its expiration date of 2022 as a reason to delay an increase funding until a future date.

A “Yes” vote is one in favor of extending the bond limit of CPRIT of $3 billion to $6 billion and limiting the annual bond issuance ability to $300 million.

A “No” vote is one in favor of keeping CPRIT’s bond-issuing ability as is, topping out at $3 billion.

Prop. 7: Increase Distributions to School Fund Amendment

“The constitutional amendment allowing increased distributions to the available school fund.”

The Available School Fund (ASF) distributes revenue from state-owned land — such as selling mineral rights to oil and gas companies — to school districts throughout the state. The Texas General Land Office (GLO) oversees the distribution of the revenue, and in 2011 the agency was directed to allocate up to $300 million each year to the ASF.

This measure would increase that amount to $600 million per year.

A “Yes” vote is one in favor of increasing the amount distributed to the ASF from land-related revenue from $300 million to $600 million per year.

A “No” vote is one in favor of preserving the limit at $300 million.

Prop. 8: Flood Infrastructure Fund Amendment

“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.”

This measure would create the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF) under the purview of the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). Upon passage, its companion bill (SB 7) would regulate how the fund can be spent and how local governments can receive the included funds.

The money must be used for projects relating to flood drainage, mitigation, and control.

A “Yes” vote is one in favor of establishing the FIF and approving SB 7 to guide it.

A “No” vote is one in opposition to establishing the FIF and adopting SB 7.

Prop. 9: Precious Metals in Depositories Exempt from Property Taxes Amendment

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

Those who have precious and high-value metals sometimes store them in depositories. However, the value of those metals has been taxed by local governments. So, depositories often charge a fee based on the value of what’s being stored to offset the property tax increase.

This measure and its companion bill HB 2859 would exempt the value of items stored from being taxed.

A “Yes” vote is in favor of exempting precious metals stored from property taxes.

A “No” vote is in favor of preserving current law, thus permitting local governments adding precious metals stored to their property tax equation.

Prop. 10: Transfer of Care of Law Enforcement Animals Amendment

“The constitutional amendment to allow the transfer of a law enforcement animal to a qualified caretaker in certain circumstances.”

Under Texas Local Government code, it is difficult for police dogs or other public service animals to be kept by their handlers upon retirement. This measure authorizes SB 2100, which permits a law enforcement agency’s highest-ranking officer to transfer a retired public service animal to their handler at no cost.

There wasconcern that transferring a public service animal to its handler is illegal under current state code, so proponents introduced this measure to change the state constitution to explicitly permit it.

A “Yes” vote is in favor of directing local commanding officers or agents to transfer retiring public service animals to their handlers.

A “No” vote is in favor of preserving state code as is, preventing local commanding officers from making that decision.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.