Texas residents will have the chance to vote on 14 constitutional amendments Nov. 7.
The League of Women Voters of Tarrant County and the Fort Worth Report co-hosted a community forum Oct. 5 at the Texas A&M School of Law to discuss those amendments, and answer questions about what they’d mean for the future of the state.
“One of our core missions is education for voters, which is why we are here this evening,” said Peggy Hendon, youth outreach director of the League of Women Voters of Tarrant County, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization like the Fort Worth Report.
The Texas Constitution, first adopted in 1876, has been amended 517 times since its inception.
The process requires the proposed amendment to be approved by two-thirds of both the state House and Senate in order to make it onto the ballot. From there, it will be added to the constitution if a simple majority of voters approve it. To remove an amendment, the process has to start all over again.
“That’s one reason constitutional amendments in Texas are very powerful, and have the ability to sort of enshrine a policy for a long time,” Brian Holland, a constitutional law professor at Texas A&M, said.
The proposed 2023 amendments vary across multiple subjects; several will create new state funds, while others deal with property taxes. Two apply only to specific counties.
The Fort Worth Report gathered ballot language for each amendment and provided a simple explanation for each. For more information, including arguments from proponents and opponents of each amendment, visit the League of Women Voters guide.
- Proposition 1
- Proposition 2
- Proposition 3
- Proposition 4
- Proposition 5
- Proposition 6
- Proposition 7
- Proposition 8
- Proposition 9
- Proposition 10
- Proposition 11
- Proposition 12
- Proposition 13
- Proposition 14
– Proposition 1
The language that will appear on the ballot: “The constitutional amendment protecting the right to engage in farming, ranching, timber production, horticulture, and wildlife management.”
What it means: This amendment would create a constitutional right to farm, ranch, produce timber and manage wildlife on property you own or lease. State agencies would be allowed to regulate these rights only if there’s clear and convincing evidence that the regulation is needed to protect public health from imminent danger; to prevent danger to animal health or crop production; or to conserve the state’s natural resources.
– Proposition 2
The language that will appear on the ballot: “The constitutional amendment authorizing a local option exemption from ad valorem taxation by a county or municipality of all or part of the appraised value of real property used to operate a child care facility.”
What it means: This amendment would let cities and counties create a property tax exemption specifically for child care centers that are owned or rented and where at least 20% of their enrolled students are receiving subsidies.
– Proposition 3
The language that will appear on the ballot: “The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual wealth or net worth tax, including a tax on the difference between the assets and liabilities of an individual or family.”
What it means: This amendment would prohibit the state from implementing a wealth tax, or a tax on the net value of someone’s assets.
– Proposition 4
The language that will appear on the ballot: “The constitutional amendment to authorize the Legislature to establish a temporary limit on the maximum appraised value of real property other than a residence homestead for ad valorem tax purposes; to increase the amount of the exemption from ad valorem taxation by a school district applicable to residence homesteads from $40,000 to $100,000; to adjust the amount of the limitation on school district ad valorem taxes imposed on the residence homesteads of the elderly or disabled to reflect increases in certain exemption amounts; to except certain appropriations to pay for ad valorem tax relief from the constitutional limitation on the rate of growth of appropriations; and to authorize the legislature to provide for a four-year term of office for a member of the board of directors of certain appraisal districts.”
What it means: This amendment is four-pronged. First, it would increase the homestead exemption from $40,000 to $100,000. Second, it would require that a non-homestead property’s appraised value not be increased by more than 20% compared to the year prior. Third, it would send money approved by the Legislature to school districts to replace lost tax revenues. Fourth, it would require that counties with a population of 75,000 or more allow voters to elect three members of a nine-member appraisal board.
– Proposition 5
The language that will appear on the ballot: “The constitutional amendment relating to the Texas University Fund, which provides funding to certain institutions of higher education to achieve national prominence as major research universities and drive the state economy.”
What it means: This amendment would replace the National Research University Fund with two new funds: the Texas University Fund and the National Research Support Fund.
The Texas University Fund would support Texas State University, Texas Tech University, the University of Houston and the University of North Texas. The National Research Support Fund would support University of Texas Arlington, University of Texas Dallas, University of Texas El Paso and University of Texas San Antonio.
– Proposition 6
The language that will appear on the ballot: “The constitutional amendment creating the Texas water fund to assist in financing water projects in this state.”
What it means: This amendment would create a state water fund. The fund would be administered by the Texas Water Development Board, which is responsible for meeting state water needs. The funds would be used for grants and low interest loans to water projects across Texas.
– Proposition 7
The language that will appear on the ballot: “The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the Texas energy fund to support the construction, maintenance, modernization, and operation of electric generating facilities.”
What it means: This amendment would grant the state the right to create an energy fund. The Texas Legislature would put money into the fund, which would then be used by the Public Utility Commission to provide loans or grants to companies to build or upgrade electricity plants in Texas.
– Proposition 8
The language that will appear on the ballot: “The constitutional amendment creating the broadband infrastructure fund to expand high-speed broadband access and assist in the financing of connectivity projects.”
What it means: This amendment would create a $5 billion broadband infrastructure fund. Money in the fund would be used for investments in high-speed internet projects. The fund would be terminated in 10 years.
– Proposition 9
The language that will appear on the ballot: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the 88th Legislature to provide a cost-of-living adjustment to certain annuitants of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.”
What it means: There is a constitutional limit on state spending. This year, the state Legislature approved cost-of-living adjustments and a one-time extra payment to retired teachers who currently receive retirement or death benefits from the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. In all, the approved adjustments and payment would cost about $5 billion. The extra payment has already been paid out; this amendment would make it constitutional to make the cost-of-living adjustments, despite such payments exceeding the constitutional limit on state spending.
– Proposition 10
The language that will appear on the ballot: “The constitutional amendment to authorize the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation equipment or inventory held by a manufacturer of medical or biomedical products to protect the Texas healthcare network and strengthen our medical supply chain.”
What it means: This amendment would remove property taxes on equipment or inventory belonging to manufacturers of medical or biomedical products. Other property owned by medical and biomedical companies will still be subject to property taxes.
– Proposition 11
The language that will appear on the ballot: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to permit conservation and reclamation districts in El Paso County to issue bonds supported by ad valorem taxes to fund the development and maintenance of parks and recreational facilities.”
What it means: This amendment is specific to El Paso County. It would allow the county to join a list of 11 counties across Texas whose conservation and reclamation districts can issue bonds to fund their parks and recreational facilities.
Why do I have a say in what El Paso County does?: Per Holland, the constitutional law professor at Texas A&M, this is a result of the way the Texas Constitution and its amendments have worked in the past. Because the initial 11 counties had their rights approved through a constitutional amendment, another amendment is necessary to give El Paso County the same rights.
– Proposition 12
The language that will appear on the ballot: “The constitutional amendment providing for the abolition of the office of county treasurer in Galveston County.”
What it means: This amendment would abolish the county treasurer’s office in Galveston County in 2024. The treasurer’s duties would be doled out to other county officeholders by the Commissioners Court of Galveston County, or be conducted by an individual under a contract.
The current treasurer of Galveston County ran on a platform of abolishing the position. The amendment will only go into effect if it gains majority statewide approval and majority approval from Galveston County voters.
Why do I have a say in whether Galveston County gets rid of its county treasurer’s office?: Per Holland, the constitutional law professor at Texas A&M, the Constitution requires the state government to create and regulate the county treasurer’s office, which means any changes must be approved through a constitutional amendment.
– Proposition 13
The language that will appear on the ballot: “The constitutional amendment to increase the mandatory age of retirement for state justices and judges.”
What it means: This amendment would raise the mandatory retirement age for state justices and judges to 79, from the current retirement age of 75. It would also let the legislature set a lower mandatory retirement age (not lower than 75) in the future. In addition, it would end the requirement that judges serving a six-year term be forced to retire at the end of their fourth year if they reach age 75 during those first four years.
– Proposition 14
The language that will appear on the ballot: “The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of a centennial parks conservation fund to be used for the creation and improvement of state parks.”
What it means: This amendment would send up to $1 billion from the current budget surplus and other sources to create the centennial parks conservation fund. This fund would be used to buy land for the creation and improvement of state parks.