Amendments Sail to Easy Passage
by Aman Batheja (reprinted from the Texas Tribune)
Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.
With more than 90 percent of all precincts counted, statewide measures aimed at cutting property taxes, boosting funding for road projects and reiterating Texans' right to hunt and fish appeared headed toward easy passage Tuesday evening.
Texas lawmakers asked voters to approve seven amendments to the constitution, all related to measures passed during this year's legislative session. All seven propositions were drawing at least 67 percent support Tuesday evening.
Several Republican elected officials were quick to declare victory, including Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus.
"By voting to lower property taxes, invest in transportation infrastructure and constitutionally guarantee the right to hunt and fish, Texans are creating an even better place for future generations to live, work and raise a family," Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement.
Here’s how the seven propositions were faring, based on unofficial, incomplete returns:
Proposition 1, which raises the homestead exemption for school districts from $15,000 to $25,000, was leading with 87 percent support. Texas will pay about $600 millionannually out of state coffers to cover the loss of revenue to school districts, according to the Legislative Budget Board. The measure is expected to save the average homeownerabout $126 per year.
Proposition 2 addresses a quirk in state law that only allowed spouses of disabled veterans who died after Jan. 1, 2010, to be eligible for 100-percent property tax exemptions. The amendment, which was leading with 92 percent support, extends state law to the spouses of veterans who died before 2010, as long as the surviving spouse has not remarried.
Proposition 3 would overturn a constitutional requirement that statewide officials including the comptroller, land commissioner, agriculture commissioner and attorney general live in Austin. The measure was leading with 67 percent.
Strongly backed by the Dallas Cowboys and other Texas sports franchises, Proposition 4 would allow charitable foundations of professional sports teams to conduct charity raffles known as “50/50” games at stadiums. Usually, fans would buy raffle tickets and the winner gets half the pot, with the other half going to charity. The measure was leading with 69 percent.
Proposition 5 raises the population limit — to 7,500 people, from 5,000 — for counties where the government can perform road construction. The measure was leading with 83 percent.
Proposition 6 reiterates Texans’ right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife, a measures supporters said was needed to prevent future legislative attempts to limit the right. The measure was leading with 82 percent.
Under Proposition 7, the state would dedicate some taxes collected on car sales for the State Highway Fund. That fund is used to maintain and construct public roadways and bridges in the state and decrease transportation-related bond debt. The measure was leading with 84 percent.
After legislative sessions, lawmakers typically require multiple amendments to the state's rigid constitution to allow for some laws to be enforced. Since it was adopted in 1876, Texans have amended their constitution more than 400 times.
In the six-way special election to replace state Rep. Joe Farias, D-San Antonio, in state House District 118, Republican John Lujan and Democrat Tomas Uresti appeared headed for a runoff, with 26 percent and 24 percent support respectively, with 49 percent of precincts counted. Farias' son, Gabe, was in third place, with 21 percent of the vote. The three other candidates all drew less than 15 percent support.