Understanding the state constitutional election questions

Deputy Secretary of State Joe Esparza last week drew the ballot order for 10 proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution that will appear on the November 5 ballot. In order to appear on the ballot, the proposed amendments must be approved by at least two-thirds of the members of both the Texas Senate and the Texas House of Representatives. After the drawing ceremony, the Deputy Secretary reminded all eligible Texans to register to vote in the November constitutional amendment election.
“The future of Texas is and will always be in the hands of Texans,” said Deputy Secretary Esparza. “This fall, voters will have the opportunity to directly impact the Texas Constitution, and I strongly encourage all eligible Texans to register to vote so that they can actively participate in shaping the future of the Lone Star State.”
Election Day is Nov. 5. The last day to register is Oct. 7. Early voting runs from Oct. 21-Nov. 1.
Texans will have the opportunity to approve or reject the following amendments with a majority vote:
Proposition 1 (HJR 72)
“The constitutional amendment permitting a person to hold more than one office as a municipal judge at the same time.”
HJR 72 intends to ease the pressure on smaller communities to find municipal judges by allowing one person to be elected to multiple cities’ judgeships. Currently, a person can only hold multiple municipal judgeships by being appointed to each one.
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.”
SJR 79 would let the Texas Water Development Board sell bonds, the proceeds of which would be used to encourage building water supply and wastewater facilities in economically distressed cities.
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.”
HJR 34 would let the Legislature temporarily lower tax rates on property damaged during a disaster declared by the governor. It would set the initial tax exemption rates, up to a full exemption, according to the extent of the damage.
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.”
HJR 38 would ban the creation of a state income tax, doubling down on a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1993 that requires voters’ permission for the Legislature to create a state income tax. Opponents argue that the term “individual” in the amendment could lead to a court challenge that could potentially extend the ban to businesses, reducing state revenue by billions of dollars
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.”
SJR 24 would allocate all revenue from the sporting goods sales tax to state park operators, as intended when the tax was created in 1993. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission have received less than half of the $2.8 billion generated by the tax since 1993. Deferred maintenance costs currently total $800 million.
“We have to plan for the future,” State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, said in a January press conference. “The currrent park system cannot support the millions we have here in Texas.”
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.”
HJR 12 would double the amount of bonds that can be sold to the benefit of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas to $6 billion. CPRIT can sell $300 million more bonds each year, but at the current pace, it estimates the bonds will be maxed out by Aug. 31, 2021.
“We’re the place where some of the most incredible, important cancer research is going on right now. I look forward to many more things happening,” said State Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond. “I really see us as being at the forefront in terms of cancer research, which should translate to cures and certainly preventive measures.”
Proposition 7 (HJR 151)
“The constitutional amendment allowing increased distributions to the available school fund.”
HJR 151 would double the annual possible General Land Office distribution to schools to $600 million and let the State Board of Education sell bonds for that purpose, currently prevented by the constitution.
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.”
House Joint Resolution 4 would let the Texas Water Development dole out dollars from a flood infrastructure fund — created by Senate Bill 7, which would spend $1.7 billion from the rainy day fund — to be used for planning, seeking permits for or constructing flood-related projects.
If approved by voters, the flood infrastructure fund would be created at the start of next year.
Chairman of the Senate Water and Rural Affairs committee, Charles Perry, who represents Wilbarger County, said the state’s investment in water flood funding was “a whole new way to look at how we prepare and try to prevent floods going forward.”
“(It) starts coordinating all these plans and processes because what we’ve had in the past is this county fixed its problem by moving the water onto the county neighboring it,” Perry said. “So this is a coordinating oversight with maps and ensuring a big, 10,000-foot view.”
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.”
HJR 95 creates a tax exemption for precious metals held in the Texas Bullion Depository, which opened in North Austin in June 2018 with its permanent location in Leander expected to open in December.
While that depository made Texas the only state to have a state-operated depository, HJR 95 author Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, said it is at a competitive disadvantage because it is also the only state allowing local property taxes on precious metals.

Proposition 10 (SJR 32)
“The constitutional amendment to allow the transfer of a law enforcement animal to a qualified caretaker in certain circumstances.”
Senate Joint Resolution 32 would let police dogs and other law enforcement animals retire in their old age to live with their handler or other caretaker. The state constitution currently prevents law enforcement agencies from transferring valuable property to a private person or organization for free.

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