The 8 Texas constitutional amendments on your 2021 ballot

Texas Politics
There are eight constitutional amendments on the ballot for Texans in November 2021 (Getty Images/KXAN Photos)

There are eight constitutional amendments on the ballot for Texans in November 2021 (Getty Images/KXAN Photos)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Nov. 2, Texas voters will decide once again whether to change the state’s constitution. There are eight constitutional amendments on the ballot. These amendments were passed by a two-thirds majority of both the Texas House and Senate. Now, it’s up to Texas voters to decide whether these proposed amendments pass. 

Background on Texas Constitution:

Are you curious why there are so many amendments on the ballot? Since the Texas Constitution takes a restrictive approach towards the powers of the government, the Constitution must be amended every time something is not explicitly mentioned in the text.

Proposition 1 (HJR 143)

“The constitutional amendment authorizing the professional sports team charitable foundations of organizations sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association or the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association to conduct charitable raffles at rodeo venues.”

Proposition 1 would allow professional rodeo charitable foundations that are sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association or the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association to conduct charitable raffles at rodeo events. 

Under current law, only professional sports team charitable foundations can conduct raffles. Since these raffles have proved to play an integral role in generating revenue for foundations, Proposition 1 seeks to expand the law to include rodeo charitable foundations as well.

HJR 143 received 17 nays in the House and unanimously passed the Senate. 

Proposition 2 (HJR 99)

“The constitutional amendment authorizing a county to finance the development or redevelopment of transportation or infrastructure in unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted areas in the county.”

Proposition 2 would grant counties the authority to issue bonds or notes, financed by property tax increases, to develop infrastructure and transportation in underdeveloped areas. While cities already have this authority, counties currently do not.

The bill’s author, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Hidalgo, told KXAN-TV in an interview, “It’s [Proposition 2] a very innovative way of building transportation projects without raising fees or taxes on people.”

Proposition 2 finances itself without increasing taxes by capturing the natural property tax increases created by building expressways near communities.

“And because, you know, we’ve got some huge transportation deficit funding problems in Texas, this is something that everybody should vote for,” Rep. Canales said. According to a council of engineers, Texas underfunds its transportation by billions of dollars a year. As the state’s population continues to increase, the situation will only become more grim.

The bill received little opposition in both the House and Senate. Those who voted against it did so to prevent any sort of acquisition of debt.

Canales told the House floor during HJR 99’s second reading, “I want to thank the over 110 co-authors that we have on this bill. This is something that allows us to assist in the $7.2 billion annual deficit that we underfund transportation and I appreciate your support.”

HJR 99 received 13 nays in the House and four nays in the Senate.

Proposition 3 (SJR 27)

“The constitutional amendment to prohibit this state or a political subdivision of this state from prohibiting or limiting religious services of religious organizations.”

Proposition 3 would ban state and local officials from enacting occupancy limits on religious services or outright prohibiting them altogether, even during a natural disaster or pandemic. The resolution was authored in response to the restrictions put in place at the start of the pandemic, such as last March’s stay-at-home order and capacity limits on businesses. 

The bill’s author, Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, believes SJR 27 will further protect Texans’ religious freedoms.

“This [SJR 27] will basically provide some belts and suspenders to what we know to be true within our constitutional rights already,” Rep. Hancock said.

During the bill’s second reading, Sen. Nathan Johnson, D-Dallas, raised concerns about school districts that have contractual relationships with religious groups.

“They [churches] don’t want to be put in the situation of being amenable to lawsuit for complying with a locally issued order for shutdown for health reasons,” Sen. Johnson said. 

But Sen. Hancock said religious groups would likely refrain from engaging in lawsuits since they want to build good relationships with their surrounding communities.

Across the dome, Rep. John Turner, D-Dallas, suggested the bill’s broad language could override fire and safety codes. He also questioned whether the bill’s absoluteness could pose a danger to the health and safety of the public. 

“It could be the bubonic plague or anything else — under this, you could never restrict capacity in a church service for any reason, correct?” Rep. Turner asked.

SJR 27 unanimously passed the Senate but received 33 nays in the House.

Proposition 4 (SJR 47)

“The constitutional amendment changing the eligibility requirements for a justice of the supreme court, a judge of the court of criminal appeals, a justice of a court of appeals, and a district judge.”

Proposition 4, a product of the work done by the Judicial Selection Commission during the interim session, would revise certain judicial officers’ eligibility requirements. While the commission did not propose a method of changing the judicial selection process, its members unanimously agreed that judicial qualifications should be increased.

According to the bill’s analysis, a Chief Justice or Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas must:

  • Be at the time of election, a citizen of the United States and a resident of the State of Texas, rather than a citizen of the United States and of Texas.
  • Have been either a practicing lawyer licensed in the State of Texas for at least 10 years or a practicing lawyer licensed in the State of Texas and judge of a state court or county court for a combined total of at least 10 years. (Currently, a Chief Justice or Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas must must be a practicing lawyer, or a lawyer and judge of a court of record together at least 10 years).
  • Have not had their license to practice law revoked, suspended or subject to a probated suspension.

A district judge must:

  • Be a citizen of the United States and a resident of Texas, rather than a citizen of the United States and of Texas.
  • Have been a practicing lawyer or a Judge of a Court in Texas, or both combined, for eight years (rather than four years).
  • Have not had their license to practice law revoked, suspended or subject to a probated suspension.

If Proposition 4 is passed, these provisions would serve as additions to the existing constitutional requirements.

SJR 47 received 19 nays in the House and one nay in the Senate from Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio. 

Proposition 5 (HJR 165)

“The constitutional amendment providing additional powers to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct with respect to candidates for judicial office.”

Proposition 5 would allow the State Commission on Judicial Conduct (SCJC) to conduct investigations into candidates running for a state judicial office, not just people who currently hold judicial office. 

Currently, incumbents are at a disadvantage when running for state judicial offices as their opponents are not susceptible to SCJC investigations like they are. 

According to the bill’s author, Rep. Jacey Jetton, R-Sugarland, the proposition will ensure “fair judicial races across the state.” 

HJR 165 unanimously passed both the House and Senate. 

Proposition 6 (SJR 19)

“The constitutional amendment establishing a right for residents of certain facilities to designate an essential caregiver for in-person visitation.”

Proposition 6 would allow certain nursing home and assisted living center residents to choose one person to serve as their caregiver and receive in-person visitation privileges. 

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, visitors were barred from entering nursing homes and assisted living centers. The intent was to reduce the risk from the virus. But blocking visitors hurt the mental well being of the residents inside. 

SJR 19 seeks to remedy that by ensuring long-term care residents have a right to essential caregivers. The resolution also allows the legislature to propose specific protocols for visitation.

Senator Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston called SJR 19 “a tremendous humanizing bill for every family in the state of Texas.”

SJR 19 received one nay from both the House and Senate. 

Proposition 7 (HJR 125)

“The constitutional amendment to allow the surviving spouse of a person who is disabled to receive a limitation on the school district ad valorem taxes on the spouse’s residence homestead if the spouse is 55 years of age or older at the time of the person’s death.”

Proposition 7 allows a surviving spouse to continue to receive a limitation on school district property taxes if the disabled deceased spouse was 55 years old or older when they died.

This tax limit was made law during the 86th Legislature but passage of Proposition 7 would officially write the limit into the Texas Constitution. Qualifying spouses who should have received a limitation during tax years 2020 and 2021 will be refunded.

The bill’s exact fiscal impact is unknown at this time because the number of qualifying spouses is unknown. However, state costs could slightly increase to make up for the decrease in property tax dollars allocated to schools.

HJR 124 unanimously passed both the House and Senate.

Proposition 8 (SJR 35)

“The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a member of the armed services of the United States who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty.”

Proposition 8 provides a property tax exemption to the surviving spouse of an armed service member who was killed or injured in the line of duty. Currently the tax exemption only applies to service members who are killed or injured in action. Therefore, if the cause of a service member’s death or injury is unrelated to combat, the surviving spouse does not qualify for a property tax exemption. 

According to the bill’s analysis, SJR 35 should not have a significant impact on property taxes since the bill applies to less than 10 spouses in a given year.

SJR 35 unanimously passed both the House and Senate.

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