On Monday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott officially set the special election for proposed constitutional amendments as a result of bills that passed in the 87th regular legislative session to Tuesday, November 2, 2021.
A total of eight ballot propositions are on the ballot to be considered by voters. More than 200 proposed constitutional amendments were filed during the regular session. In order for proposed constitutional amendments that originate in the state Legislature to be considered on the ballot by Texas voters, they must first be approved by at least two-thirds of lawmakers in each legislative chamber.
Context & Background for the 8 Ballot Propositions
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.
What it Does: Designates sanctioned rodeos as professional sports teams and authorizes professional sports team charitable organizations to conduct raffles at rodeo venues.
Background: In 2015, voters approved HJR 73, which was added to the Texas Constitution as Art. 3, Sec. 47(d-1), allowing the Legislature to permit the charitable foundation of a professional sports team to conduct charitable raffles under terms and conditions laid out in general law.
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.
What it Does: Authorizes counties to issue bonds to fund infrastructure and transportation projects in underdeveloped, unproductive, or blighted areas.
Background: The Texas Constitution, Art. 8, Sec. 1-g(b), currently allows the Legislature to authorize an incorporated city or town to issue bonds to finance the development of an unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted area and to pledge increases in property tax revenue in that area to repay the bonds.
The constitutional amendment to prohibit this state or a political subdivision of this state from prohibiting or limiting religious services of religious organizations.
What it Does: State and local governments may not enact any rules that prohibit or limit religious services by religious organizations.
Background: In the midst of the pandemic, governmental jurisdictions all across the state issued orders preventing Texans from attending regular religious services in gatherings with specified thresholds, infringing on their constitutional right to freely exercise their religion.
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.
What it Does: Adds that state Supreme Court and court of appeals justices, and court of criminal appeals judges, must be Texas residents at the time of the election who have been practicing lawyers licensed in the state of Texas and/or Texas state or county court judges for at least 10 years (the current amount of experience), with no suspensions of their licenses. Requires district court judges to have eight years of Texas law practice and/or court judge experience, with no suspensions—twice the current requirement of four years of combined experience.
Background: The Texas Constitution, Article 5, Sec. 2(b), establishes eligibility requirements to serve as chief justice or a justice of the Texas Supreme Court. Sec. 4(a) applies the same qualifications to the court of criminal appeals and Sec. 6(a) applies the same qualifications to courts of appeals. Article. 5, Sec. 7, establishes requirements for a candidate for election as a state district judge. The eligibility qualifications require that a person be licensed to practice law in Texas; be a citizen of the United States and Texas; have been a practicing lawyer or a judge of a court in Texas—or both combined—for four years; have resided in the district in which the person was elected for two years; and resides in the district during the person’s term in office.
The constitutional amendment providing additional powers to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct with respect to candidates for judicial office.
What it Does: Authorizes the commission to investigate complaints and reports against candidates for state judicial office in the same manner it does judicial officeholders.
Background: The Texas Constitution, Article 5, Sec. 1-a, provides for the State Commission on Judicial Conduct and empowers the commission to accept complaints or reports regarding state judicial officeholders and conduct investigations. The commission may issue private or public admonitions, warnings, reprimands, or require additional training of judicial officeholders.
The constitutional amendment establishing a right for residents of certain facilities to designate an essential caregiver for in-person visitation.
What it Does: Residents of nursing, assisted living, and similar residential facilities have the right to designate an essential caregiver who may not be denied in-person visitation.
Background: Many nursing homes and assisted living residents rely on family members, friends, or other caregivers to provide hands-on care and social and emotional support to supplement the care provided by staff. State policies enacted at the beginning of the COVID-19 public health emergency restricted long-term care residents’ access to such essential caregivers. These restrictions had a significant impact on the physical and mental well-being of many residents, especially those with memory or cognitive challenges.
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.
What it Does: Extends the current homestead school tax limit for disabled individuals to surviving spouses who are at least 55 years old and reside at the home.
Background: The Texas Constitution, Article 8, Sec. 1-b, establishes residence homestead tax exemptions and limitations on property taxes. This section allows the Legislature by law to exempt up to $10,000 of the market value of the residence homestead of a person who is disabled or who is at least 65 years old from property taxation for public school purposes. If a person 65 years old or older dies in a year in which the person received the exemption, taxes on the property may not be increased while it remains the residence homestead of the person’s surviving spouse if the spouse is at least 55 years old at the time of the person’s death. Texas Tax Code, Sec. 11.26, codifies the residence homestead exemption for the surviving spouse of an individual who is at least 65. In 2019, the 86th Legislature enacted HB 1313, which expanded the exemption under this section to include the surviving spouse of an individual who is disabled.
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.
What it Does: Expands the current homestead tax exemption to include surviving spouses of service members fatally injured in the line of duty, along with those killed outright.
Background: The Texas Constitution, Art. 8, Sec. 1-b(m), allows the Legislature by law to provide that the surviving spouse of a member of the U.S. armed services who was killed in action is entitled to an exemption from property taxes of all or part of the market value of the spouse’s residence homestead if the spouse has not remarried. The Texas Tax Code, Sec. 11.133, codifies the property tax exemption on the total appraised value of a surviving spouse’s residence homestead.
Texas Constitutional History
Since being adopted in February of 1876, the current Texas Constitution has been amended more than 500 times. This Constitution is the fifth since statehood. Since 1876, the Legislature has proposed more than 690 constitutional amendments; of those, 687 have gone before Texas voters. Only 180 proposed amendments have ever been defeated.