For a state that routinely adopts bills limiting the rights of non-Republicans, Tuesday’s vote is largely nonpartisan. The 14 constitutional amendments involve creating new funds or addressing property taxes. Since the Texas Constitution was adopted in 1876, there have been 517 amendments. There will be 44 voting locations throughout Tarrant County, and to find the one nearest you, visit Gisit.TarrantCounty.com/TCVL. Voters must bring a photo ID, which may include a Texas driver’s license, Texas election ID certificate, Texas personal ID card, a passport, military ID, or a Texas gun license. Early voting continues through Friday.
First up on the ballot is a proposed amendment providing state constitutional protections for ranching, farming, and timber production on private land. Municipalities could regulate these homegrown industries, but they would have to provide clear evidence that someone’s chicken farm in, say, Monticello, was endangering public health.
State Sen. Royce West, a Democrat, sponsored this proposition that lets cities and counties adopt property tax exemptions for qualifying child care centers. “The Texas child care shortage is likely to have devastating effects on early childhood education, economic growth, and employment opportunities for parents,” West said in a public statement. The Texas Tribune found that dwindling pandemic-related federal relief has left day cares across the state at risk of closing.
The third proposition on Tuesday’s ballot would shield the ultra-rich from any future wealth tax. Texas one-percenters earn a cool $631,849 per year just for doing whatever it is they do and outlive the lower classes (i.e., us) by an average of 15 years, based on findings by The Equal Opportunity Project. There’s absolutely no benefit to anyone not insanely loaded already to vote “for” on this. None.
Homestead exemptions are a common topic on this year’s constitutional ballot. The fourth proposed amendment would boost the homestead exemption (which is nontaxable) from $40,000 to $100,000 while limiting the growth or appraised value to 20% per year. Public school districts are largely funded through property taxes, meaning the drop in statewide revenue would translate to public education shortfalls. The bill allows the state legislature to appropriate funds to replace lost tax revenues but does not specify how. The four-pronged proposal would also allow voters to directly elect three of nine members for the appraisal board, which sets home valuations.
Texas’ state-funded colleges stand to benefit from a financial boost should the fifth proposition pass. Under the proposal, Texas University Fund would establish an ongoing revenue stream for Texas State University, Texas Tech University, the University of Houston, and the University of North Texas while the National Research Support Fund would help the University of Texas-Arlington, University of Texas-Dallas, University of Texas-El Paso, and the University of Texas-San Antonio. Revenues would come via interest earned from the state’s rainy-day fund.
A combination of drought, heat, and population growth is straining Texas’ lakes and reservoirs.
The Texas Water Development Board, which manages the state’s water supply, estimates that the Lone Star State could face $150 billion a year in economic damage in the coming decades if the water shortage isn’t addressed. Prop 6 would create a state water fund administered by Texas’ water board that would administer grants and loans to protect the state’s water resources.
Winter storm Uri caused 246 deaths in Texas and $195 billion in damage, based on state figures. If passed, the seventh proposition would create an energy fund, allowing the Texas legislature to allocate revenue for the pot of money managed by the Public Utility Commission to build or upgrade power plants across the state. The hope is that with an upgraded grid, not as many Texans will die the next time there’s stormy weather.
Among the 50 states, Texas ranks near the bottom — 46th —when it comes to broadband access, based on data from the digital equity-minded nonprofit Community Tech Network. Prop 8 would create a $5 billion broadband infrastructure fund for high-speed internet projects. The 10-year money pot that would focus on underserved rural areas would terminate in 10 years.
The Texas Constitution mandates balanced budgets, but the state legislature recently approved one-time cost-of-living payments to retired teachers at an expense of around $5 billion. The proposed amendment would allow cost-of-living adjustments even if those payments exceed the constitutional limit on state spending.
The 10th prop aims to strengthen the Texas health-care network and medical supply chain by lowering tax burdens on qualifying medical or biomedical products. The Texas Medical Association, which advocates for better public health solutions, said in a public statement that the bill “will increase private investments in Texas, provide faster access to life-saving trials and solutions, strengthen Texas’ medical supply chain, and decrease reliance on foreign countries.”
Prop 11 is specific to El Paso County and would allow the municipality to join 11 other Texas counties to issue bonds funding parks and recreational facilities. Why is Tarrant County voting on something that affects only El Paso? Because that’s how our Constitution is drawn up.
This 12th proposed amendment deals exclusively with Galveston County and the abolishment of the position of county treasurer.
Prop 13 would allow elderly state justices and judges to remain active on the bench for an additional four years by raising the mandatory retirement cap from age 75 to 79 even as medical studies consistently find that 1 in 7 Americans over the age of 70 suffer from dementia.
Rounding out this year’s ballot is a proposed amendment to boost spending for the creation and upgrading of state parks by $1 billion.