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Texans will decide on eight constitutional amendments this election. Here's what they mean.

Voters wait in line at the Ruiz Branch Library in Southeast Austin in November 2020.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Voters wait in line at the Ruiz Branch Library in Southeast Austin in November 2020.

Lee esta historia en español.
This Nov. 2 election, Texans have the chance to vote on eight amendments to the state constitution. What would each amendment actually do? Read our voter guide below to find out.

Early voting begins Monday and ends Oct. 29.

State of Texas Proposition 1

What it says: "The constitutional amendment authorizing the professional sports team charitable foundations of organizations sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) or the Women's Professional Rodeo Association to conduct charitable raffles at rodeo venues."

What it means: If this sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve voted on something similar before. Six years ago, the state voted to allow professional sports teams to fundraise and sell raffle tickets through their charity foundations at games. The state constitution is very careful about games of chance; unauthorized raffles are considered illegal gambling.

Two years later, the state voted to expand the list of sports allowed to hold charitable raffles to include motorsports, pro golf and major league sports teams. Professional rodeos were not included. This amendment would broaden that permission to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.

State of Texas Proposition 2

What it says: "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 means: When a major transportation project is built, nearby property values often go up because the area becomes easier to access or more desirable. This can be especially true in places that have historically been deprived of things like new roads, sidewalks or bridges. Sometimes property values go up for other reasons, like when a new water park or sports stadium is planned for the area.

Either way, the increase in property values means more tax revenue for the county.

Proposition 2, if passed, would let counties borrow against a future increase in tax revenue in a specific area to pay for transportation projects or other infrastructure in that same area. For example, if a water park is coming to town, the county government may decide it needs to build new roads so more people can get to the water park. The extra money coming in from the increases in nearby property value would then go toward paying off the debt for those new roads.

Cities can already do this. But the Texas Attorney General has said counties are not explicitly authorized to do so under the state’s constitution.

Prop 2 includes some exceptions. The area in question has to be “unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted.” No more than 65% of the increase in tax revenue could go to a transportation project. None of the money could be used to build toll roads.

State of Texas Proposition 3

What it says: "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 means: Proposition 3 is a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the state of Texas or any local governments in Texas from prohibiting or restricting religious services. The proposition is a reaction to public health measures put in place to combat the spread of COVID-19.

To reduce the size of large crowds during the pandemic, state and local governments have, at times, restricted the size and ways that groups are allowed to gather, including religious groups. If passed, Prop 3 would exempt religious meetings from such public health regulations under the state constitution.

Supporters of Prop 3 say that restricting religious gatherings is an overreach of governmental power and may infringe on people's constitutional rights.

Opponents of the proposition point out that large gatherings are known to increase the spread COVID-19 and other diseases. They argue that the freedom of religion does not guarantee the right of a religious group to spread disease and endanger the public as a whole.

State of Texas Proposition 4

What it says: "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 means: This proposed amendment aims to increase the experience — and residency — thresholds for appellate and trial court judges in Texas. Currently, anyone who’s been a practicing attorney or judge can run for the state’s highest courts — the Texas Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals — or serve on regional appeals courts, if they’ve been licensed to practice law or they’ve been a judge for a combined 10 years. This amendment would require that they’re licensed in Texas or that they’ve been a judge in Texas for 10 years. On top of that, they’re disqualified from running if their license to practice is suspended or revoked.

For lower court judges, the level of experience required would be raised from four years to eight years. Currently, if you’ve been a licensed and practicing lawyer in Texas or you’ve been a judge, or both, for four years, you can run for a seat on the bench. The amendment would change that to eight years and require you to live in Texas, rather than just have U.S. citizenship.

These requirements would also apply to folks who are appointed to judgeships. If it passes, it wouldn’t go into effect immediately. It would apply to anyone elected or appointed on or after Jan. 1, 2025, and it wouldn’t apply retroactively to someone who is in office.

This was a rather non-controversial resolution in the regular session. It pretty much sailed through its House and Senate committees and had bipartisan backing, which, these days, is exceedingly rare in the Texas Legislature.

It’s worth noting, this would not apply to justices of the peace, who handle smaller offenses like traffic tickets, as well as evictions and small claims court cases.

State of Texas Proposition 5

What it says: "The constitutional amendment providing additional powers to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct with respect to candidates for judicial office."

What it means: Currently, if an incumbent is running to be a judge, their behavior and actions are going to be checked by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, the department that handles any complaints and conducts investigations into judicial behavior. But if someone is an attorney or a person with no prior background running for judicial office, the commission doesn’t have the same authority to make sure they’re following the rules, too.

Proposition 5 basically evens the playing field for anyone running to be a judge; it subjects everyone, whether they're already a judge or attorney, or if they're a regular person with no experience, to oversight by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

State of Texas Proposition 6

What it says: "The constitutional amendment establishing a right for residents of certain facilities to designate an essential caregiver for in-person visitation."

What it means: During the COVID-19 pandemic, visitation was restricted in group facilities, like nursing homes and assisted living centers, to help prevent the spread of disease among vulnerable people.

If this proposition passes, there will be an amendment to the Texas Constitution creating a right for residents in these facilities to designate an “essential caregiver” who cannot be prohibited from visiting in person.

State of Texas Proposition 7

What it says: “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 means: The current constitutional language allows for homeowners age 65 and older, as well as disabled people, to have a cap on their property taxes issued by the local school district. This amendment would expand that privilege to the spouse of a disabled person after they die, if the spouse stays in the house. The Texas Tax Code was updated to include this change in 2019, but without a constitutional amendment it cannot be enforced in all Texas counties.

State of Texas Proposition 8

What it says: "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 means: This proposition would expand a homestead property tax exemption for the surviving spouses of a member of the military who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty. The current language in the constitution allows for a similar property tax exemption, but it only applies to spouses of members of the military who were killed in action.

Proposition 8 would extend that to include members of the military who die from injuries that are not combat-related. The amendment would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

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