Updated: Nov 8
UPDATE: All of the propositions, with the exception of Prop 13, were approved by the voters on 11-7-23.
Early voting began on October 23 for the November 7, 2023 Texas election.
The largest portion of this election are the 14 proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution. These have been passed by the legislature but are only effective if approved by the voters. The list of proposals is long and varied, so here is a short recap of each so you can decide how to vote. The main resource for this information is non-partisan Ballotopedia.org:
Prop 1: the amendment protecting the right to engage in farming, ranching, timber production, horticulture, and wildlife management. Supporters argue this amendment would empower landowners by constitutionally protecting their right to engage in certain generally accepted agricultural practices on their own property. They believe it would protect local farmers from certain city ordinances. Opponents argue that the amendment's language is too broad and could be used to prevent not only local governments, but state agencies and even future state legislatures from taking action to rein in operations that truly harm their neighbors and communities. If your city or town has an ordinance restricting the number of farm animals your neighbor can raise in city limits, this would invalidate those limits. (UPDATE: Prop 1 was approved by the voters on 11-7-23.)
Prop 2: the 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. It would also authorize the state legislature to define “child-care facility” and impose eligibility requirements for qualifying for the tax exemption. Supporters argue this amendment would help address the child-care shortage in Texas, which would improve early childhood education, economic growth, and employment opportunities for parents. They assert that tax relief would make childcare more affordable for parents. As of now, no campaign in opposition to the proposition has been identified. (UPDATE: Prop 2 was approved by the voters on 11-7-23.)
Prop 3: the 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 is a wealth tax? That is undefined. Both the Houston Chronicle and the SA Express News editorial boards oppose this proposition. First, the Texas constitution already bans an income tax. Second, no state has any current type of wealth tax. Both editorial boards felt this was intended to signal billionaires that Texas would be a safe haven for them. As of now, no campaign in favor of the proposition has been identified. (UPDATE: Prop 3 was approved by the voters on 11-7-23.)
Prop 4: the amendment to a) allow the legislature to set a temporary limit on the maximum appraised value of non-homestead real property for property tax purposes, b) increase the homestead exemption from school taxes from $40,000 to $100,000, c) give those 65+ or disabled additional relief on school taxes, d) allow the legislature more flexibility to appropriate funds to pay for property tax relief, and e) allow the legislature to impose a four-year term of office for appraisal district directors in any county with a population of at least 75,000. The Editorial Board of the SA Express News supports the proposition, stating that the tax revenue school districts will lose can be made up by an allocation of around $7 billion from the state treasury. There is no campaign against the proposition, even though it vests more power (via funding) to the state legislature over local school districts. (UPDATE: Prop 4 was approved by the voters on 11-7-23.)
Prop 5: the amendment relating to the Texas University Fund. This would rename the current “National Research University Fund” so it would be called the “Texas University Fund.” The fund would accumulate part of the interest earned on the state surplus (in 2024, no more than $100 million) so that universities (except for the UT system and the A&M system, which get funds from the Permanent University Fund) can apply for research grants. Supporters argue this will enhance smaller universities in Texas, which will be good for the economy. No opposition has been identified. (UPDATE: Prop 5 was approved by the voters on 11-7-23.)
Prop 6: the amendment creating the Texas water fund to assist in financing water projects in Texas. The fund would be used to finance projects to create seven million acre-feet of new water supplies over the next 10 years. The projects would include marine and brackish water desalination, water treatment, aquifer storage and recovery, and the development of infrastructure to transport water. A wide variety of organizations and businesses support Prop 6 because more water resources are needed as the population of Texas expands. Opponents call government spending on water resources “socialism,” an “expansion of government ownership of means of production,” and a special subsidy for the water industry. (UPDATE: Prop 6 was approved by the voters on 11-7-23.)
Prop 7: the amendment providing for the creation of the Texas energy fund to support the construction, maintenance, modernization, and operation of electric generating facilities. We need a stronger grid and better electrical production and stability to avoid blackouts. If this proposition passes, it will trigger Senate Bill 2627 which limits how the fund can be used. It would prohibit funds from being used to weatherize the grid. It would allow upgrades to and the creation of new facilities only if they can produce at least 100 megawatts. Opponents, including Environment Texas, Texas Advanced Energy Business Alliance, and Texas Consumer Association assert that the fund would ignore clean energy sources like wind and solar, battery storage, energy efficiency, and interconnection with the national grid. The Houston Chronicle editorial board says Prop 7 is “hardly perfect” but could be a “bridge solution for keeping our lights on” while the San Antonio Express News editorial board says Prop 7 would only help natural-gas power plants, would exclude renewable energy sources, and should be opposed. (UPDATE: Prop 7 was approved by the voters on 11-7-23.)
Prop 8: the amendment creating the broadband infrastructure fund to expand high-speed broadband access and assist in the financing of connectivity projects. This is supported by the telecom industry. Broadband access is good, but the federal government already has allocated $65 billion for internet connectivity. The proposition is supported by the Chronicle and the Express News editorial boards and opposed by a variety of conservative citizen organizations who call it “corporate welfare.” (UPDATE: Prop 8 was approved by the voters on 11-7-23.)
Prop 9: the amendment authorizing the 88th Legislature to provide a cost-of-living adjustment to certain annuitants of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. If this passes, then Senate Bill 10 expresses how it will work: a one-time 2% cost of living allowance (COLA) for teachers who retired from 2013 to 2020, a 4% COLA for those who retired from 2001 to 2013, and a 6% COLA for earlier retirees. It would also pay a one-time lump sum of $2400 to retirees aged 70-74 and $7500 to retirees aged 75+. The proposition has broad support and no known opposition. (UPDATE: Prop 9 was approved by the voters on 11-7-23.)
Prop 10: the amendment to authorize the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation equipment or inventory held by a manufacturer of medical or biomedical products. This is supported by the medical industry, which states that it will encourage production of medical products in Texas (as opposed to being imported from abroad). It is opposed by fiscal conservatives who feel it will increase the tax burden on homeowners and small businesses. (UPDATE: Prop 10 was approved by the voters on 11-7-23.)
Prop 11: the amendment authorizing the legislature to permit conservation and reclamation districts in El Paso County to issue bonds for parks and recreation. This simply adds El Paso County to Section 59, Article 16 of the constitution, which already allows 10 other counties to issue such bonds. (UPDATE: Prop 11 was approved by the voters on 11-7-23.)
Prop 12: the amendment to abolish the office of county treasurer in Galveston County. Bexar County was allowed to abolish this office in 1983. The treasurer in Galveston County supports abolishing his office. If this passes, the voters in Galveston County will have the final word on whether the office is abolished or retained. (UPDATE: Prop 12 was approved by the voters on 11-7-23.)
Prop 13: the amendment to increase the mandatory age of retirement for state justices and judges. The constitution currently requires judges to retire at age 75. This amendment would allow Judges to serve until age 79. The Judges’ professional organizations, the Chronicle, and the Express News support the proposition, claiming that experience counts and Judges can function well for longer now. Opponents state that judicial turnover is good, to keep authority from sitting in the same hands for too long. (UPDATE: Prop 13 was rejected by the voters on 11-7-23, the only proposal that was rejected.)
Prop 14: the amendment providing for the creation of the centennial parks conservation fund to be used for the creation and improvement of state parks. If approved, this fund would consist of tax appropriations, gifts, grants, and donations. It would be dedicated to acquiring property in Texas to expand existing state parks or to create new state parks. The conservation fund could not be used for salaries or operating the parks. Various conservation and environmental groups strongly support the proposition, calling it a “great birthday present to give all Texans” for the state park system’s centennial. It is opposed by fiscal conservatives who, while supporting the parks, do not feel this is a responsible use of funds. (UPDATE: Prop 14 was approved by the voters on 11-7-23.)
Wow, you made it through all fourteen propositions. Now you can make an informed choice and vote to express your position. If you cannot vote early, the general election day is Tuesday, November 7.
Be sure to double-check your voting location. Last time we voted early, the location on the website did not match the location on the ground, and there was no sign at the “regular” location to send us to the “new” location. We had to dig to find the new location. Be persistent and participate in our democracy!
Paul Premack is a Certified Elder Law Attorney for Estate Planning, Trusts, and Probate. Paul is licensed to practice law in Texas and Washington. Visit our website at www.Premack.com to read the archive of articles or to make an appointment or call us at 210-826-1122 (Texas) or 206-905-1122 (Washington).
Article published on October 23, 2023