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The original item was published from 9/29/2023 11:24:00 AM to 11/11/2023 12:00:02 AM.

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Commissioner Pct 1 Hot Topics

Posted on: September 29, 2023

[ARCHIVED] Explanatory Statements for the Nov. 7 2023, Constitutional Amendment Election

Vote Constitutional Amendments graphic with a red check mark and x and a pencil.

Proposition Number 1

(HJR 126)

HJR 126 proposes a constitutional amendment to protect a person’s right to engage in generally accepted farm, ranch, timber production, horticulture, or wildlife management practices on real property that the person owns or leases. The proposed amendment would not affect the authority of the legislature to authorize the regulation of these practices by: (1) a state agency or political subdivision as necessary to protect the public health and safety from imminent danger;

(2)    a state agency to prevent a danger to animal health or crop production; or (3) a state agency  or political subdivision to preserve or conserve the natural resources of the state under the Texas Constitution. Additionally, the proposed amendment would not affect the legislature’s authority  to authorize the use or acquisition of property for a public use, including the development of natural resources under the Texas Constitution.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment protecting the right to engage in farming, ranching, timber production, horticulture, and wildlife management.”

PRO

1.    As the Texas population grows and the demand for food increases, it is important to prevent cities from overregulating agriculture production.

2.    It ensures that “generally accepted” farming, timber production, and wildlife management practices are allowed on properties within cities and counties.

3.    It would still allow the state legislature to authorize state agencies or local governments to regulate farming practices that are necessary to protect the public from imminent danger.

CON

1.    Prop 1 limits the power of local governments to protect the health of their communities by setting rules covering farming practices that impact animal welfare, food safety, drinking water protection, animal waste, odors, and pesticide runoff.

2.    It allows farms, including large, industrial farms, to operate with less accountability to the local community.

3.    Counties would have to follow the definition of “acceptable agriculture practices” as defined by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, whose interpretation may be too broad for urban areas.

Proposition Number 2

(SJR 64)

SJR 64 proposes a constitutional amendment to allow the governing body of a county or           municipality to exempt from property taxation all or part of the appraised value of real property          used to operate a child-care facility. The proposed amendment would authorize the governing body to adopt the exemption as a percentage of the appraised value of the property, but that percentage could not be less than 50% of the appraised value of the property. The proposed amendment also would allow the legislature to define the term “child-care facility” and to establish additional eligibility requirements to receive the property tax exemption.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment authorizing a local option exemption from ad valorem taxation by a county or municipality of all or part of the appraised value of real property used to operate a child-care facility.”

PRO

1.    Prop 2 would reduce costs for childcare centers , so more can remain open and more can be built.

2.    Having a larger number of childcare centers may lower costs for working parents, allowing them to stay in the workforce.

3.    Childcare centers may use the savings from lower property taxes to  improve wages and benefits for staff, helping them to retain workers.

CON

1.    Prop 2 would lower property taxes for one type of business, which could increase the tax burden for other property owners.

2.    Lower property taxes would reduce taxes to fund counties and cities.

3.    Benefits of this tax break may not flow to parents and childcare workers.

Proposition Number 3

(HJR 132)

HJR 132 proposes a constitutional amendment to prohibit the legislature from imposing a tax based on the wealth or net worth of an individual or family. The proposed amendment also would  prohibit the legislature from imposing a tax based on the difference between the assets and liabilities of an individual or family.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual wealth or net worth tax, including a tax on the difference between the assets and liabilities of an individual or family.”

PRO

1.    Texans should not be penalized for creating wealth and starting businesses which help the Texas economy to grow.

2.    This tax would be difficult to administer and enforce due to the complexity of determining the fair value of a person’s assets.

3.    Some taxpayers may have significant assets, but low cash flow. For example, farmers or retired persons may have valuable property, but paying a wealth tax from their earnings may be a struggle.

CON

1.    The state needs to maintain the option of a wealth tax that would shift the tax burden to those able to afford to pay more, helping to address wealth inequality.

2.    Prop 3 would limit options for the state to fund its needs in the future, such as for schools, infrastructure, mental and physical health care, and public safety.

3.    Prop 3 addresses a tax that is not being considered by the state legislature. 

Proposition Number 4

(HJR 2 – Second Special Session)

HJR 2 proposes a constitutional amendment to modify certain provisions of the Texas Constitution related to property taxes. The proposed amendment would authorize the legislature to temporarily limit the maximum appraised value of real property for property tax purposes in a tax year. The proposed amendment also would increase the mandatory homestead exemption for school district property taxation from $40,000 to $100,000. The proposed amendment would  require the legislature to provide for a reduction in the amount of the limitation on school district property taxes imposed on the residence homestead of the elderly or disabled. Additionally, the       amendment would exempt appropriations not dedicated by the Texas Constitution and used for property tax relief from being considered as appropriations when determining whether the rate  of growth of appropriations in a biennium has exceeded the constitutional tax spending limit. The proposed amendment would further authorize the legislature to provide those members serving on an appraisal board in a county with a population of at least 75,000 serve terms not to   exceed four years.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment  to authorize the legislature to establish a temporary limit on the maximum appraised value of  real property other than a residence homestead for ad valorem tax purposes; to increase the amount of the exemption from ad valorem taxation by a school district applicable to residence  homesteads from 

$40,000 to $100,000; to adjust the amount of the limitation on school district ad valorem taxes imposed on the residence homesteads of the elderly or disabled to reflect increases in certain exemption amounts; to except certain appropriations to pay for ad valorem tax relief from the constitutional limitation on the rate of growth of appropriations; and to authorize the legislature to provide for a four-year term of office for a member of the board of directors of certain appraisal districts.”

PRO

1.    These property tax cuts would save Texas homeowners an average of $1300/year in property taxes, with additional cuts for property owners who are seniors and those with disabilities.

2.    Over $12B will be sent from the state’s general revenue funds to school districts so that school districts can lower tax rates. This shifts the burden of school funding away from property taxes to other sources. Tax rate reductions passed by the legislature limit how much is shifted to businesses.

3.    The owners of moderately priced homes would  get the most benefit from the increase in the homestead exemption.

CON

1.    The property tax reductions give no relief for renters, who make up more than 1/3 of Texas households, many of whom are struggling with high rents.

2.    Property tax changes approved do not include any new money for schools or teacher pay raises, even though Texas is ranked near the bottom in per-pupil spending for education.

3.    Shifting away from property taxes to fund our public schools could result in higher sales taxes and higher taxes on businesses.

Proposition Number 5

(HJR 3)

HJR 3 proposes a constitutional amendment to redesignate the national research university fund as the Texas University Fund (TUF), and to appropriate funds from the economic stabilization fund to the TUF. The proposed amendment would appropriate to the TUF an amount equal to the interest income, dividends, and investment earnings attributable to the economic stabilization fund for the preceding state fiscal year. The appropriation amount could not exceed $100 million for the state fiscal year beginning September 1, 2023, or an amount adjusted for the  increase in the general price index, not to exceed two percent, in subsequent state fiscal years. The proposed amendment also would prohibit any state university that is entitled to participate  in dedicated funding provided by Article VII, Section 18 of the Texas Constitution from receiving money from the TUF.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment relating to the Texas University Fund, which provides funding to certain institutions of higher education to achieve national prominence as major research universities and drive the state economy.”

PRO

1.    Prop 5 helps higher education in Texas by providing stable funding for research in the four universities supported by the Texas University Fund.

2.    Research at Texas public universities helps drive the Texas economy.

3.    Both funds provide a path for more universities to become eligible for research grants.

4.    Using standardized national performance metrics will allow more universities to qualify for research grant funding.

CON

1.    Prop 5 continues  the unequal treatment of public universities in Texas and would provide stable research funding for only four additional public universities at this time.

2.    The funding through the National Research Support Fund is not stable and would still require legislative approval every two years.

3.    No additional universities will be added to the Texas University Fund unless the legislature adds more money.

Proposition Number 6

(SJR 75)

SJR 75 proposes a constitutional amendment to create the Texas water fund. The Texas water fund would be a special fund in the state treasury outside the general revenue fund, administered  by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) or its successor to assist in financing water projects in the state. The proposed amendment would direct the Texas water fund administrator  to use the fund only to transfer money to other TWDB funds or accounts. The proposed  amendment would authorize the legislature to appropriate money for deposit to the water fund to be available for permitted transfers. No further legislative appropriation would be required for the water fund administrator to transfer money from or restore money to the fund, including the transfer of money to or the restoration of money from certain designated TWDB funds and accounts. The water fund would consist of: (1) money transferred or deposited to the fund by general law; (2) other revenue that the legislature by statute dedicates for deposit to the fund; (3) investment earnings and interest earned on amounts credited to the fund; (4) money from gifts, grants, and donations to the fund; and (5) money returned from any authorized transfer. The proposed amendment would require the legislature, by general law, to provide for the manner in which money from the Texas water fund may be used. The proposed amendment also  would require that at least 25% of the money initially appropriated to the Texas water fund be transferred to the New Water Supply for Texas Fund.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment creating the Texas water fund to assist in financing water projects in this state.”

PRO

1.    Prop 6 will provide funding to help communities plan and implement  projects to obtain new water supply sources to ensure future water  availability for Texans.

2.    There is a great need for projects to replace or repair aging pipes which the state estimates leak billions of gallons of water each year. Water and wastewater treatment plants in many communities need upgrades and/or replacements.

CON

1.    The amount that the legislature has agreed to put into the fund is not enough to pay  for the number of projects needed to secure Texas’ future water supply needs.

2.    It allows funds to be taken from state revenues to  fund local projects.

Proposition Number 7

(SJR 93)

SJR 93 proposes a constitutional amendment to establish the Texas energy fund. The Texas energy fund would be a special fund in the state treasury outside the general revenue fund, administered by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) or its successor. Money in the Texas energy fund could be used, without further appropriation, only by PUC or its successor to provide  loans and grants to finance or incentivize the construction, maintenance, modernization, and operation of electric generating facilities necessary to ensure the reliability or adequacy of an electric power grid in the state. The proposed amendment would require PUC to allocate money  from the fund for loans and grants to eligible projects for electric generating facilities that serve  as backup power sources and in each region of the state that is part of an electric power grid in proportion to that region’s load share. The Texas energy fund would consist of: (1) money credited, appropriated, or transferred to the fund by or as authorized by the legislature; (2) revenue that the legislature dedicates for deposit to the fund; (3) the returns received from the investment of the money in the fund; and (4) gifts, grants, and donations contributed to the fund.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the Texas energy fund to support the construction, maintenance, modernization, and operation of electric generating facilities.”

 PRO

1.    Additional state funding is needed to increase the reliability of the state’s electric market, especially for power that can quickly provided during extreme weather when demand is high.

2.    The money loaned or granted to build the electric generating plants are from the state’s budget surplus funds, so electricity customers will not be paying for these plants.

3.    If the plants are completed by June 2029, the builders receive a bonus under the program. This ensures that extra energy generation will be added to the electric grid soon.

CON

1.    The Texas energy fund would primarily fund natural gas-powered plants. These plants would be more expensive and harmful to the environment than other more cost effective and clean solutions to make the electric grid more reliable. Solar and wind projects are not eligible for loans or grants from this fund. They currently generate about 39% of Texas electricity and have reduced electricity costs in Texas.

2.    Natural gas-powered electric plants were among the power sources that failed during the 2021 winter storm. Despite this, they would be subsidized by the Texas energy fund if this proposition passes.

Proposition Number 8

(HJR 125)

HJR 125 proposes a constitutional amendment to create the broadband infrastructure fund. The broadband infrastructure fund would be a special fund in the state treasury outside the general revenue fund, administered by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts (Comptroller). Money from the fund could be used, without further appropriation, only for the expansion of access to and adoption of broadband and telecommunications services. The broadband infrastructure fund  would consist of: (1) money transferred or deposited to the fund by the Texas Constitution, general law, or the General Appropriations Act; (2) revenue that the legislature by general law dedicates for deposit to the fund; (3) investment earnings and interest earned on money in the fund; and (4) gifts, grants, and donations to the fund. The proposed amendment would authorize  the Comptroller to transfer money from the broadband infrastructure fund to another fund as provided by general law, and the state agency that administers the fund to which any money is transferred could use the money without further appropriation only for the expansion of access to and adoption of broadband and telecommunications services. The broadband infrastructure fund would expire on September 1, 2035, unless extended by adoption of a joint resolution of the legislature. Immediately before the expiration of the fund, the Comptroller would be required  to transfer any unexpended and unobligated balance remaining in the broadband infrastructure  fund to the general revenue fund.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment creating the broadband infrastructure fund to expand high-speed broadband access and assist  in the financing of connectivity projects.”

PRO

1.    Prop 8 would expand reliable high-speed internet to Texans all across the state, including areas where private companies do not currently operate. 

2.    Improved access to high-speed internet would result in better productivity and efficiency in agriculture and energy, two of Texas’ most important industries.

3.    This fund would enable Texas to use state funds to take advantage of available federal dollars to expand internet availability for more Texans.

CON

1.    Funding high-speed internet expansion is not the responsibility of the government. Private companies have already provided most Texans with access to high-speed internet.

2.    Prop 8 does not prioritize lower income communities for high-speed internet development.

3.    Money in the fund is not enough to provide high-speed internet to all Texans. 

Proposition Number 9

(HJR 2)

HJR 2 proposes a constitutional amendment to authorize the legislature to provide a cost-of- living adjustment to eligible annuitants of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS). The proposed amendment also would authorize the legislature to appropriate money from the general revenue fund to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts to pay the cost-of-living adjustment.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the 88th Legislature to provide a cost-of-living adjustment to certain annuitants of  the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.”

PRO

1.    Retired teachers in Texas do not have a cost of living adjustment built into their retirement benefits and have not received a cost-of-living-adjustment in many years. Because of this, many retired teachers have difficulty covering the higher cost of living. This adjustment would help retired teachers and their survivors pay their bills.

2.    The higher payments to retirees would increase their spending, and therefore help communities across Texas.

3.    The increased benefits will be funded from the current budget surplus, leaving the Texas Retirement System pension fund financially sound.

CON

1.    The cost-of-living adjustments proposed are not enough to offset the impact of high inflation on retirees.

2.    The higher payments to retired teachers do not address the current teacher shortage.

Proposition Number 10

(SJR 87)

SJR 87 proposes a constitutional amendment to allow the legislature to exempt from property taxation tangible personal property held by a medical or biomedical manufacturer as a finished good or used in the manufacturing or processing of medical or biomedical products.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment to authorize the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation equipment or inventory held by a manufacturer of medical or biomedical products to protect the Texas healthcare network  and strengthen our medical supply chain.”

PRO

1.    Removing property taxes on biomedical equipment and inventory may encourage more biomedical companies to move to Texas, creating high-paying jobs.

2.    Removing  property taxes on biomedical equipment and inventory could strengthen our medical supply chain and may protect the Texas healthcare network.

3.    The COVID pandemic exposed the risk of having key medical equipment manufactured outside of the country , showing the importance of  supporting local biomedical manufacturers.

CON

1.    Because Texas does not have an income tax, eliminating property taxes on biomedical equipment and inventory will reduce funds for local school districts and local government services.

2.    The burden of the tax loss will fall more heavily on communities with biomedical manufacturers.

3.    Reducing property taxes for one industry places more tax burden on other businesses and individuals to support the local government and schools. 

Proposition Number 11

(SJR 32)

SJR 32 proposes a constitutional amendment to expand the authority of the legislature with regard to conservation and reclamation districts in El Paso County. The Texas Constitution permits conservation and reclamation districts in certain counties across the state to issue bonds  to fund the development and maintenance of parks and recreational facilities but does not currently provide this authority to El Paso County. The proposed amendment would add conservation and reclamation districts in El Paso County to those districts currently allowed, if authorized by general law, to issue bonds supported by property taxes to fund the development  and maintenance of parks and recreational facilities. The proposed amendment would not limit the powers of the legislature or of a conservation and reclamation district with respect to parks and recreational facilities as those powers currently exist.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to permit conservation and reclamation districts in El Paso County to issue bonds supported by ad valorem taxes to fund the development and maintenance of parks and recreational facilities.”

PRO

1.    Allowing bonds to be issued for parks and recreation facilities will benefit the health and wellness of El Paso residents.

2.    More and improved parks will encourage further economic development and growth for the region.

CON

1.    If approved by a majority of voters in a district, property taxes would be levied to pay interest and principal on the bond issued. The voters in a district who voted against the issuance of bonds would still be burdened with additional taxes.

2.    Land allocated to parks could be more economically productive if left in private hands.

Proposition Number 12

(HJR 134)

HJR 134 proposes a constitutional amendment to abolish the office of County Treasurer in Galveston County. The amendment would authorize the Galveston County Commissioners Court  to employ or contract with a qualified person or designate another county officer to perform any  functions that would have been performed by the County Treasurer. The proposed amendment  would take effect only if a majority of the voters of Galveston County voting on the proposition favor the amendment.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment providing for the abolition of the office of county treasurer in Galveston County.”

PRO

1.    According to the Chief Financial Officer for Galveston County, abolishing the county treasurer’s office would save taxpayers in the county $450,000 annually

2.    Abolishing the office would make the work formerly performed by the treasurer’s office more efficient and cost effective.

3.    Abolishing the treasurer’s office may reduce the risk of misappropriation of  funds such as occurred in 2018.

CON

1.    Much of the estimated taxpayer savings may shift to other department costs.

2.    Removing the office of county treasurer would impact current checks and balances between elected county commissioners, who controls the budget, and the elected county treasurer, who makes financial management decisions.

3.    An elected county treasurer is accountable to voters.

Proposition Number 13

(HJR 107)

HJR 107 proposes a constitutional amendment to increase the mandatory retirement age for

state justices and judges. Currently, the Texas Constitution establishes that justices and judges of  the appellate courts, district courts, and criminal district courts must retire on the expiration of the term during which they reach the age of 75 years or an earlier age, not less than 70 years, as the legislature may prescribe. The proposed amendment would change the mandatory retirement age for justices and judges of the appellate courts, district courts, and criminal district courts to 79 years or an earlier age, not less than 75 years, as the legislature may prescribe. The  proposed amendment also would remove the provision stating that justices and judges may only  serve until December 31 of their fourth year in office if they reach the age of 75 years in the first  four years of a six-year term.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment  to increase the mandatory age of retirement for state justices and judges.”

PRO

1.    People are living and working longer, and experienced state judges should be allowed to continue to serve if they are capable and willing.

2.    Allowing judges to serve longer may result in a predictable and stable judiciary.

3.    State judges in Texas are elected. Voters can determine whether a judge deserves to be elected. The Judicial Conduct Commission is available to address any issues with a judge’s competence between elections.

CON

1.    The Judicial Conduct Commission may not be able to promptly address issues with older judges who experience cognitive decline and/or lower productivity.

2.    Extending the age limit will keep the Texas judiciary from reflecting the demographics of the current population.

3.    Retired state judges are still eligible to serve as visiting judges, so retired judges can continue to work if they choose.

Proposition Number 14

(SJR 74)

SJR 74 proposes a constitutional amendment to establish the centennial parks conservation fund as a trust fund outside the state treasury. The fund could be used, in accordance with general law, only for the creation and improvement of state parks. The centennial parks conservation fund would consist of: (1) money appropriated, credited, or transferred to the fund by the legislature; (2) gifts, grants, and donations received by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department  (TPWD) or its successor for a purpose for which money in the fund may be used; and (3) investment earnings and interest earned on amounts credited to the fund. The proposed amendment would authorize the legislature to appropriate money from the centennial parks conservation fund to TPWD or its successor for the creation and improvement of state parks.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the centennial parks conservation fund to be used for the creation and improvement of state parks.”

PRO

1.    State parks provide affordable access to outdoor recreation such as biking, hunting, fishing, and camping.

2.    State parks protect water resources and safeguard habitat for wildlife.

3.    State parks provide and economic boost to the outdoor recreation industry and to the rural communities located nearby.

4.    State parks educate Texans about their heritage by preserving significant cultural and historic sites, an essential legacy to future generations.

CON

1.    Taxpayer money should not be used  to create and maintain more state parks.

2.    There are other public needs more pressing than adding to the state park system.

3.    Recreation is not a proper role for the government. Having more public lands could impose restrictions on private development and limit agricultural and mineral rights. 


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