FEATURED: Futuro RGV – a group of citizen volunteers who provide information regarding issues and concerns in deep South Texas – will be hosting “Constitutional Amendments Forum 2023” through its Facebook page on Tuesday, October 17, 2023 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The videotaped recording of the forum will remain on its Facebook page until the election, which will be held on Tuesday, November 7, 2023. Early voting takes place from Monday, October 23, 2023 through Friday, November 3, 2023.
Photograph Courtesy FUTURO RGV FACEBOOK
Futuro RGV to broadcast “Constitutional Amendments Forum 2023” on Tuesday, October 17, 2023 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on its Facebook, then maintain videotaped recording of the symposium until November 7, 2023 election
With 14 state constitutional amendments to face Texas voters later this autumn, Futuro RGV – a group of citizen volunteers who provide information regarding issues and concerns in deep South Texas – will be hosting “Constitutional Amendments Forum 2023” through its Facebook page on Tuesday, October 17, 2023 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Futuro RGV is among numerous prominent public affairs organizations in deep South Texas. It began as Futuro McAllen as an advocacy citizen group in 1999 for quality-of-life issues that were in danger of being side tracked due to the tremendous growth taking place in that city.
Quality of life is a highly subjective measure of happiness that is an essential component of many financial decisions. Factors that play a role in the quality of life vary according to personal preferences, but they often include financial security, job satisfaction, family life, health, and safety.
Those proposed constitutional amendments, passed by the Texas Legislature last spring, require statewide voter approval.
On Tuesday, November 7, 2023, eligible Texans will be able to cast their ballots on any of the 14 state constitutional amendments facing citizens.
Early voting will take place from Monday, October 23, 2023 through Friday, November 3, 2023.
Among the more high-profile measures are Proposition 4, which would increase the homestead tax exemption by raising it from $40,000 to $100,000, Proposition 8, to establish the Broadband Infrastructure Fund, which will increase affordable, high-speed Internet access to millions of Texans, and Proposition 9, to provide for a cost-of-living increase for retired teachers.
The 14 proposed state constitutional amendments are:
• Proposition 1: Establishing the right to engage in certain agricultural practices;
• Proposition 2: Authorizing property tax exemption for child-care facilities;
• Proposition 3: Prohibiting a tax on the net worth or wealth of individuals;
• Proposition 4: Authorizing the Legislature to establish certain property tax relief measures;
• Proposition 5: Establishing the Texas University Fund for emerging research universities;
• Proposition 6: Creating the Texas Water Fund for financing water projects;
• Proposition 7: Establishing the Texas Energy Fund for electric facility construction and upgrades;
• Proposition 8: Establishing the Broadband Infrastructure Fund;
• Proposition 9: Authorizing a cost-of-living adjustment for retired teachers;
• Proposition 10: Exempting certain property held by medical manufacturers from taxation;
• Proposition 11: Authorizing El Paso County special districts to issue bonds for parks development;
• Proposition 12: Abolishing Galveston County’s Office of County Treasurer;
• Proposition 13: Increasing the mandatory retirement age for state justices and judges; and
• Proposition 14: Creating the Centennial Parks Conservation Fund.
As with any proposed changes to the Texas Constitution, the constitutional amendments to go before voters always have pros and cons.
Three of the more far-reaching constitutional to face Texas voters this fall, with the background and pros and cons provided by the House Research Organization – the unbiased, research-arm of the Texas House of Representatives – are:
Authorizing the Legislature to establish certain property tax relief measures
Proposition 4 would amend the constitution to enable key provisions of the property tax relief and appraisal reform package in Senate Bill 2, Second Called Session, the Property Tax Relief Act, providing substantial property tax relief to individuals and businesses across the state.
Many property owners in Texas have expressed concerns about the unpredictability and unaffordability of their property taxes driven by rapidly rising property values. By authorizing a limit on the increase in taxable value for non-homestead properties and increasing the homestead exemption from $40,000 to $100,000, Proposition 4 would provide significant property tax relief to both businesses and homeowners, particularly those with moderately priced homes, where relief is currently most needed.
The proposition also would ensure that elderly individuals and people with disabilities received the full benefit of the last homestead exemption increase and any future increases in exemptions.
Raising the homestead exemption would provide for a more evenly distributed tax reduction as every homeowner receiving the homestead exemption would receive the same reduction in their property’s taxable value.
While some have expressed concerns that the increased homestead exemption could shift a portion of the school property tax burden from homeowners to businesses, reducing the school district maximum compressed tax rate by the proposition’s enabling legislation, Senate Bill 2, would help to prevent a measurable change.
Reducing the maximum compressed tax rate also could benefit renters by reducing the amount of property taxes that could be passed on to tenants by landlords. Limiting the annual growth of the appraised value for certain non-homestead real property also would help more small business owners across the state stay in business.
Furthermore, these provisions are temporary, which would allow for necessary adjustments to be made if additional limitations were implemented in the future.
The proposed four-year terms for certain appraisal district board members could also promote stability in the appraisal process.
While property tax reductions would benefit many Texans, implementing such a significant homestead exemption could shift a portion of the school property tax burden from homeowners to businesses, which could lead to price increases.
In addition, rising property values could reduce the benefits of an increased homestead exemption and require further adjustments to ensure the exemption maintained the same or similar level of benefit for homeowners. It is crucial to ensure that any property tax reduction or exemption is implemented sustainably and does not compromise necessary funding for public services such as education and healthcare in the long term.
Reducing property taxes could make the state more vulnerable to not meeting its funding obligations in the case of a recession. With less reliance on property taxes, school funding could be in jeopardy if the state faced a decline in sales tax revenue, which could result in school funding cuts or a need to raise taxes.
Property tax relief also should include measures to directly benefit the state’s significant number of renters.
Establishing the Broadband Infrastructure Fund
Proposition 8 would increase broadband access and affordability across the state by authorizing major investments in broadband and telecommunications infrastructure in coordination with federal funding programs.
Millions of Texans currently lack broadband internet, limiting their access to online education, telehealth, and remote employment opportunities. This lack of access disproportionately affects rural communities, people of color, and low-income families.
The fund established by Proposition 8 would provide resources to help close this digital divide, which in turn could improve quality of life and spur economic growth, including higher personal incomes and job creation.
The state should support the use of all available tools, including both fiber and wireless technology, to close the digital divide in Texas. Each technology has advantages and disadvantages, but efforts to support the growth of broadband should retain the flexibility to determine which technologies are feasible for different areas of the state, depending on topography, population density, and other factors.
The proposition and enabling bill’s technology-neutral approach would promote competition and maximize efficiency. While some have suggested that the proposition and its enabling legislation should include a specific provision on labor standards, this is unnecessary because federal regulations already require states to include fair labor practices in their broadband development programs.
The federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program also requires states to develop a plan aimed at achieving a diverse and sufficiently skilled workforce to build and maintain broadband infrastructure.
Proposition 8 should require the Broadband Infrastructure Fund to prioritize the development of fiber optic broadband infrastructure, which would be faster, safer, more durable, and more reliable than wireless broadband.
In order to ensure that broadband investment in Texas is successfully implemented by a skilled and properly trained workforce, Proposition 8 should incorporate federally-recommended labor standards for broadband projects that call for a directly employed, rather than subcontracted, workforce.
Subcontracting could decrease quality of service and accountability. The state also should incorporate fair labor standards, including robust in-house training requirements, in the criteria for awarding money from the fund.
Authorizing a cost-of-living adjustment for retired teachers
Supporters say Proposition 9 would allow the 88th Legislature to allocate funds to provide a much-needed cost-of-living adjustment to Teacher Retirement System (TRS) benefits for thousands of retired teachers.
Under current law, the Legislature is not permitted to provide benefit enhancements, so TRS benefits do not change over time to account for price fluctuation.
Inflation can be especially burdensome for individuals living on a fixed income, such as retired teachers.
Although a cost-of-living adjustment could be provided for through other methods, a constitutional amendment would better guarantee funding amid competing priorities within the state’s budget surplus.
The cost-of-living adjustment would grant retired teachers a one-time supplemental payment of certain benefits. The provision of a cost-of-living adjustment could improve teacher recruitment and retention, which could help to address critical school staffing shortages. The proposition also would not require an increase in TRS member contribution rates.
While a cost-of-living adjustment for retired teachers is important, this adjustment could be provided without needing to amend the constitution.
Amending the Texas Constitution
Texas voters have approved 517 amendments to the state Constitution since its adoption in 1876, according to the Legislative Reference Library.
Fourteen more proposed amendments will be submitted for voter approval at the general election on Tuesday, November 7, 2023.
The following report contains an explanation of the process by which constitutional amendments are adopted and information on the proposed 2023 amendments, including a background, analysis, and arguments made by supporters and critics on each proposal.
The Texas Constitution is a living document that can be modified and adapted to suit the evolving needs and wants of the state’s residents. In order to make changes to the constitution, a majority of Texas voters must approve a proposed constitutional amendment.
When the Texas Legislature wishes to establish a constitutional amendment, it does so by passing a joint resolution. This can be accomplished in either a regular or a special session, and such resolutions cannot be vetoed by the governor.
According to Article 17, Section 1 of the Texas Constitution, a joint resolution must be adopted by at least two-thirds of the members in each legislative house before it can be presented to the electorate. For example, House Joint Resolution 3 (HJR) by Bonnen was proposed during the 88th legislative session related to funding for emerging research universities. The final version was approved by both legislative bodies, and on May 29, 2023, HJR 3 was approved for distribution to voters.
In order for a joint resolution to be presented to voters, it must include the proposed text of the constitutional amendment. Additionally, the resolution must specify the election date and the wording of the ballot proposition that will be presented to voters.
If multiple propositions are under consideration, the secretary of state conducts a random drawing to assign each proposition a ballot number. If voters reject a proposal to amend the constitution, the Legislature may choose to resubmit it. For instance, in 1921, the 37th Legislature passed a joint resolution to abolish the Board of Prison Commissioners. However, voters initially rejected the proposal on July 23 of that year. Later, in November of 1926, the resolution was resubmitted to voters and passed relatively unchanged.
The Legislature specifies an election date for voter consideration of proposed constitutional amendments. In recent years, most proposals have been submitted at the November general election held in odd-numbered years.
Some constitutional amendments are self-enacting and require no additional legislation to implement their provisions. Other amendments grant discretionary authority to the Legislature to enact legislation in a particular area or within certain guidelines. These amendments require “enabling” legislation to fill in the details of how the amendment would operate.
The Legislature sometimes adopts enabling legislation in advance, making the effective date of the legislation contingent on voter approval of a particular amendment. If voters reject the amendment, the legislation dependent on the constitutional change does not take effect.
Constitutional amendments take effect when the official vote canvass confirms statewide majority approval unless a later date is specified. Statewide election results are tabulated by the secretary of state and must be canvassed by the governor 15 to 30 days following the election.
For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).