Texas voters OK seven changes to the state constitution


Highlights

The Texas Constitution has been amended nearly 500 times.

The latest amendments would give tax breaks to disabled veterans and spouses of fallen first responders.

Seven amendments to the Texas Constitution, including tax breaks for disabled veterans and for the spouses of fallen first responders, easily won approval among voters Tuesday.

Propositions 1, 3 and 6 had the largest margin — between 83 and 86 percent voter approval.

Proposition 6 will give a property tax break for spouses of police, firefighters and emergency workers killed in the line of duty. The maximum value of the exemption would be capped at the home’s value when the first responder was killed, and the exemption would transfer to a new home if the spouse were to move. Surviving spouses no longer qualify for the exemption if they remarry.

The amendment was largely inspired by the deaths of four Dallas police officers and a transit police officer who were shot and killed during a downtown protest in July 2016.

“I am especially proud to vote for Proposition 6,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a news release Tuesday. “This was one of my legislative priorities in the last session.”

READ: Voters approve $1.1B Austin ISD bond, largest in Central Texas history

Proposition 1 will provide property tax breaks to a disabled veteran or his or her surviving spouse for a home that was donated by a charity — even if the residence was provided at some cost to the veteran.

Proposition 3 will require expired terms of governor-appointed officeholders to end when the next regular session of the Legislature ends.

This year’s voter turnout on the amendments was about 6 percent compared to 11 percent during the constitutional amendment election in 2015, which included some notable issues including diverting certain tax revenue to the state highway fund and adding the right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife to the state constitution’s Bill of Rights. Between 8 and 9 percent of Texas registered voters voted in the constitutional amendment election in 2013 and 5 percent in 2011.

“It really depends on whether there’s high profile issues on the ballot and if we’re seeing statewide campaigns … to drive others to the polls. This year we really didn’t see that,” said Sam Taylor with Texas secretary of state’s office.

Prior to Tuesday, the Texas Constitution had been amended 491 times since its birth in 1876.

Other amendments that were ratified are:

• Proposition 2, which 69 percent of voters favored, will make changes to home equity loans, including lowering the cap on loan fees from 3 percent to 2 percent, although additional fees could be charged. It will let borrowers refinance home loans and home equity loans into a single loan; allow home equity loans on agricultural land; and reduce restrictions on cash advances with a home equity line of credit.

• Proposition 4, which won 64 percent voter approval, will require state judges to notify the Texas attorney general any time a lawsuit seeks to overturn a state law. The attorney general would have 45 days to decide whether to intervene to defend the law.

• Proposition 5, with 60 percent favorable votes, will allow minor league baseball, hockey, soccer and basketball teams to conduct raffles during home games to raise money for charity.

• Proposition 7, also with 60 percent of voters favoring it, will allow banks and credit unions to offer prizes to encourage the use of savings accounts.



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