Politics & Government

Texans: Get ready to vote on updating the state’s 143-year-old constitution

The state’s founding fathers had a clear vision.

When they updated the Texas Constitution in 1876, they laid out a plan to make sure Texans would be free and independent.

Since then, lawmakers have proposed updating that document to give Texans more rights or protections through 680 amendments.

Texas voters approved 498 of those changes.

And they’ll will consider 10 more in the Nov. 5 election.

Proposed constitutional amendments range from letting retired police dogs live with their handlers to formally banning the creation of a state income tax in Texas, where there already is no state income tax.

Other issues on the Tarrant County ballot include bond programs, city council and school board races throughout Tarant County.

Early voting runs from Monday to Nov. 1.

Constitutional changes

Here’s a look at the proposed Constitutional Amendments that will be on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Proposition 1: “The constitutional amendment permitting a person to hold more than one office as a municipal judge at the same time.” This would let municipal judges, who can be appointed or elected to posts, hold more than one office at the same time.

Proposition 2: “The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board in an amount not to exceed $200 million to provide financial assistance for the development of certain projects in economically distressed areas.” This would let the water development board issue bonds to help pay for water and sewer needs in economically distressed areas in Texas.

Proposition 3: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the Legislature to provide for a temporary exemption from ad valorem taxation of a portion of the appraised value of certain property damaged by a disaster.” This would let Texas lawmakers exempt property owners in an area hard hit by a natural disaster from property taxes due that year.

Proposition 4: “The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual income tax, including a tax on an individual’s share of partnership and unincorporated association income.” Current law says Texans would have to approve putting an income tax in to place. This proposal would formally ban an income tax in Texas.

Proposition 5: “The constitutional amendment dedicating the revenue received from the existing state sales and use taxes that are imposed on sporting goods to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to protect Texas’ natural areas, water quality, and history by acquiring, managing, and improving state and local parks and historic sites while not increasing the rate of the state sales and use taxes.” These tax dollars on the sales of sporting goods have been earmarked for these two state agencies since 1993, but lawmakers have redirected the funds at times to more urgent funding needs. This measure would make sure that these tax dollars are no longer diverted and instead help with parks department and historical commission needs.

Proposition 6: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to increase by $3 billion the maximum bond amount authorized for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.” This measure would let lawmakers increase by $3 billion in bonds the amount to fund the institute.

Proposition 7: “The constitutional amendment allowing increased distributions to the available school fund.” This would let the amount allocated for education each year from the Permanent School Fund grow from $300 million to $600 million.

Proposition 8: “The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the flood infrastructure fund to assist in the financing of drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects.” This would create a Flood Infrastructure Fund that the state’s Water Development Board would be able to use for various flood drainage, control and mitigation projects in Texas.

Proposition 9: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation precious metal held in a precious metal depository located in this state.” Currently, someone who owns precious metals could be taxed on them if they generate income. This measure would state that those same metals would be exempt from taxes if they were held in a depository in Texas.

Proposition 10: “The constitutional amendment to allow the transfer of a law enforcement animal to a qualified caretaker in certain circumstances.” Currently, these animals are considered surplus government property that the government can’t give away. This measure would let these animals — dogs and horses alike — live out their golden years with the person who trained or handled them for no fee.

For more information about this election or voting in Tarrant County, call the local elections office at 817-831-8683.

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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.