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Voters in Texas will soon be able to weigh in on potential changes to the state’s constitution regarding church services, eligibility requirements for judges, county infrastructure, and more.
Election day is November 2 and early voting begins October 18 and lasts until October 29.
The proposed additions to the Texas Constitution were passed as bills during this year’s legislative session, and a majority of the state’s voters must approve each amendment before it can be formally added to the Constitution. In 2017, voters in Texas approved the seven amendments on the ballot; in 2019, voters gave the green light to nine of the 10 proposed changes.
There are no seats elected by the state in the November ballot. Some local elections may have region-specific positions and initiatives on the ballot, such as school board representatives and city council members.
Here is the breakdown of each proposed amendment.
Proposal 1: rodeo raffles
Proposal 1 would allow charity raffles at rodeo events. Unauthorized raffles may be considered illegal gambling under Texas law.
In 2015, voters approved a rule allowing charity raffles at professional sports games. The resulting change created fundraising opportunities for education, cancer research and youth programs, according to an amendment analysis.
The constitutional amendment on the November ballot would extend this permission to rodeo events hosted by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association or the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.
Proposal 2: fiscal financing of departmental infrastructures
This amendment would allow counties to issue bonds or notes to raise funds for transportation infrastructure in underdeveloped areas. Cities and towns already have the power to finance projects with this method of financing.
Counties would repay these obligations by promising increased property tax revenues, but these funds cannot be used for the construction, maintenance or acquisition of toll roads.
Proposition 3: restrictions on religious services
If approved, Proposition 3 would prohibit the state from banning or limiting religious services, including those in churches and other places of worship.
The move stems from disputes over churches closed in the first months of the pandemic in 2020. Some local officials have extended stay-at-home orders to include places of worship, forcing them to limit attendance or provide virtual services – a trend Governor Greg Abbott and other Republicans pushed back.
But critics of the proposal fear the change will prevent the government from acting to protect people in future emergencies, such as evacuations and public health emergencies.
Proposition 4: eligibility of the judge of state
Proposition 4 would require applicants to have 10 years of experience practicing law in Texas to be eligible for the Texas Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, or a Texas Court of Appeals. Currently, the law requires 10 years of experience but allows out-of-state experience.
Additionally, district judge candidates would need eight years of law practice or judicial experience in a Texas court, up from four years now.
Supporters of the change argue it could create a better quality justice system, but opponents say the proposed requirements could reduce voter choice and diversity within the candidate pool. In Texas, judges are elected by popular vote.
Proposition 5: judicial misconduct procedure
Proposal 5 would allow the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to exercise control over candidates for judicial office by accepting complaints or reports, investigating and reprimanding them. The commission, an independent body created by the state constitution, already has these powers over current judicial office holders.
Proposition 6: designation of essential caregiver
This amendment would allow residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities to designate an essential caregiver who cannot be denied in-person visitation rights. If the proposal passes, the legislature would create further guidelines for these caregivers.
Like Proposition 3, Proposition 6 also comes in response to the restrictions of the pandemic era. Nursing homes, which have been particularly affected by COVID-19, have seen extended visitation restrictions that have prevented residents from seeing family and friends for months.
Proposal 7: property tax exemptions for bereaved families
Proposal 7 would place a limit on school district property taxes incurred by the surviving spouse of a deceased person with a disability over age 65. The surviving spouse must be at least 55 years old at the time of the death of the partner and still reside in the household.
The amendment is needed to update the Constitution in accordance with the Tax Code, which was amended in the 2019 legislative session to include this change. If approved, those eligible for these tax breaks could receive refunds on collections in 2020 and 2021.
The resolution could reduce school district property tax revenues and increase state funding in line with Texas public school funding formulas, according to the amendment’s analysis. However, the exact cost of the change cannot be estimated because the number of surviving spouses is unknown.
Proposal 8: property tax exemptions for military families
Proposal 8 would expand eligibility for tax exemptions on residential property to include spouses of military personnel killed or fatally injured in the line of duty. Currently, the exemption is extended to spouses of military personnel killed in action. The new eligibility would include people killed in accidental vehicle crashes or non-hostile events.
This exemption would apply to less than 10 people per year, according to the analysis of the amendment.