What the proposed constitutional amendments mean

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There are eight proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot in this election. While in the past the proposals may have been just to get a pulse of where voters feel on certain topics, County Judge Chris Porter said these are proposed constitutional amendments.

“They are proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution,” Porter said. “This is not an informational election like we’ve had in the past where they just put out feelers for how the public feels. These are actual constitutional amendments.”

The following items are on the ballot:

Proposition 1: 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.

In 2015, an election was passed to help professional sports teams like Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, etc. The action helped raise a lot of funds for education cancer research and youth programs.

“This amendment will extend it to PRCA and WPRCA events because they fell into a loophole in not being able to participate due to state law at rodeo events,” Porter said.

Proposition 2: 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.

Currently, cities, towns and school districts have the authority to hold bond elections for development.

“Those bonds pledge an increase in tax revenue to support the bond,” Porter said. “Counties can not do that. This would enable counties to pass bonds to pay for county infrastructure with the exception of any maintenance, construction or acquisition of a toll road. For any county road, infrastructure for buildings, etc. We would be able to pass the bond and dedicate tax funds to pay for that bond.”

Proposition 3: The constitutional amendment to prohibit this state or a political subdivision of this state from prohibiting or limiting religious services of religious organizations.

This item comes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, when in its early stages, churches were forced to close because of government mandates.

“This makes it to where a governmental entity cannot restrict a religious service,” Porter said. “There was a lot of conflict over churches that closed during the early months of the pandemic. This makes it to where a local government official can’t make it to where you can’t have a church service. This would leave it up to the church and their decision.”

Proposition 4: 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.

Currently, the law requires 10 years of experience (including out-of-state) to be on the mentioned courts in the amendment. This amendment would change it to be required for those 10 years to be in Texas.

“Also, in order to be a district judge, you can be any type of judge for four years,” Porter said. “You can have four years of law practice or judicial experience to be a district judge. But now that kicks it up to eight years from the four years.”

Porter said that those in favor of the amendment believe it will create a higher-quality judicial system, while detractors are concerned about it limiting the diversification of the courts.

Proposition 5: The constitutional amendment providing additional powers to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct with respect to candidates for judicial office.

Currently, judges seeking re-election are required to follow the cannons, which are the rules they have to follow because they are a judge.

“You can’t get in the mud and hold yourself to a higher standard because of the Texas Judicial Ethics Rules, which are enforced by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct,” Porter said. “As a candidate (running against the incumbent judge) you are not a judge, so you’re not held to those same rules. You can run for office and not live up to the cannons. This would change so that anyone running for judicial office would be beholden to those rules. If you run for office you can’t go slinging mud while the judge can not sling mud.”

Proposition 6: The constitutional amendment establishing a right for residents of certain facilities to designate an essential caregiver for in-person visitation.

This is another pandemic-caused amendment as nursing homes and healthcare facilities limited the access for residents/patients to have loved ones come visit.

“In the mid-pandemic, nursing homes restricted any visitation to being outside of a window,” Porter said. “This makes it to where they can’t do that. They have to allow one person, who can have in-person contact at all times, with their loved one.”

Proposition 7: 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.

This amendment allows people to collect back-taxes to 2020-21 on school district ad volorem.

“The original legislation put a limit on a school district property tax incurred by a surviving spouse of a person with disabilities older than 65 who has died,” Porter said. “If you lived with a person who was 65 and has died, and the surviving spouse was at least 55 years old at the time of that partner’s death and still lives in the house, there is a limit on their school district property taxes.”

Surviving spouses will be allowed to have their taxes limited and eligible for the break in their taxes.

“(In this amendment) the spouse still has the right to have those school district taxes limited because they were living in the home with that disabled person,” Porter said. “It would enable it to where just because that person who is on disability and over 65 passed, their taxes don’t skyrocket just because that person passed away. The spouse, who has to be over 55 and still live in the home, will not see a huge increase in their taxes because the person who was disabled and had the exemption has passed.”

Proposition 8: 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.

Currently, if a person is killed in the line of duty, they are eligible for exemptions on their residential taxes (spouses included). This now expands it to include those killed in non-hostile military events and/or training exercises.

“The analysis says this would apply to fewer than 10 people/year,” Porter said. “This expands it from war-time killed in line-of-duty to non-hostile events, vehicle crashes, etc.”

Early Voting will be held every weekday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., now until Oct. 29 at the Gray County Courthouse. Full details and sample ballots can be found here: http://www.co.gray.tx.us/page/gray.Elections.

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