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Sunday, January 24, 2021

Voters OK amendments; Houston ordinance defeated

With almost 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 million annually 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 homeowner about $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. 

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2015/11/03/texas-statewide-2015-election-results/.

From the Associated Press:

Texas’ most-watched ballot initiative was defeated, as Houston residents rejected a city ordinance extending nondiscrimination protections to gay and transgender residents.

Tea party-backed Attorney General Ken Paxton declaring that America’s fourth largest city “defeated the latest extreme example of political correctness.”

“Houston rightly ignored Hollywood and the liberal elites,” Paxton said in a statement.

Here’s a guide to what happened on Election Day:

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TAX CUTS COMING

Voters approved Proposition 1, which will increase homeowners’ school property tax homestead exemption from $15,000 to $25,000, saving the average family roughly $125 annually while costing the state about $1.2 billion in tax revenue for school districts during the first two years.

The Legislature has budgeted extra funding so schools won’t see shortfalls, at least in the short term.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the Texas Senate, said the proposition’s “huge margin of victory” will “give us the clout to do more property tax relief” during the next legislative session in 2017.

Also passing was Proposition 2, which offers property tax exemptions to the spouses of totally disabled veterans who died before January 2010. Similar exemptions already exist for spouses of totally disabled veterans who died in 2011 or later.

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ANYWHERE BUT AUSTIN

The land and agriculture commissioners, comptroller, attorney general and members of the Railroad Commission will be allowed to live somewhere other than Austin under Proposition 3.

Supporters argued that modern technology allows elected officials to do their jobs from anywhere. None of the current holders of eligible offices have acknowledged any plans to move away from the Texas capital, however.

The amendment won’t apply to the governor and the 1856 Greek Revival-style Austin mansion he occupies. It also has no effect on the lieutenant governor, Texas Supreme Court justices or Court of Criminal Appeals judges.

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RAFFLE RIGHTS

Passage of Proposition 4 means professional teams can hold charitable raffles at all home games. That’s good news for supporters, which included the Dallas Cowboys and most of the state’s top sports franchises.

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GONE FISHIN’

Proposition 6 “recognizes the right for people to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife” and will protect those activities from future lawsuits.

Though such legal challenges have been sparse, Texas now joins 18 other states in solidifying such guarantees in their constitutions.

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ROAD FUNDING BONANZA

Proposition 5 lets counties with fewer than 7,500 people privatize road construction and maintenance — up from the current maximum of 5,000 residents. About 70 counties qualify.

And Proposition 7 means that when sales tax revenue exceeds $28 billion per fiscal year, the next $2.5 billion would go to road construction and maintenance starting in September 2017.

Then, beginning in September 2019, if tax revenue from vehicle sales and rentals exceeds $5 billion per fiscal year, 35 percent of the amount exceeding $5 billion would go to road funding.

The amendment allows the GOP-controlled Legislature to bolster transportation infrastructure strained by Texas’ booming population without raising taxes.

“Prop 7 will provide an efficient way to dedicate a portion of our sales tax revenue to build the roads that our children and grandchildren will use,” said Rep. Joe Pickett, an El Paso Democrat who chairs the House Transportation Committee. “All we are doing is taking the success of the Texas economy and dedicating a portion of it to transportation.”

Gov. Greg Abbott said that by passing all seven constitutional amendments, Texas residents “are creating an even better place for future generations to live, work and raise a family.”

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EQUAL RIGHTS RERERNDUM

Houston’s City Council passed a nondiscrimination ordinance last year, but a public vote ordered by the Texas Supreme Court went the other way.

It was a blow to national gay rights groups who vowed to make equal protection measures a priority after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages this summer.

Conservative pastors opposed the ordinance, saying homosexuality violated biblical teachings. Others worried about men being allowed to use women’s public restrooms.

“The voters clearly understand that this proposition was never about equality — that is already the law,” Patrick said in a statement. “It was about allowing men to enter women’s restrooms and locker rooms — defying common sense and common decency.”

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HOUSTON MAYOR’S RACE

Houston also was choosing a successor for term-limited, openly gay Mayor Annise Parker, but a runoff looked likely since none of a field packed with 13 hopefuls was expected to win a majority of the ballots cast.

A second round of voting would take place Dec. 12 between Tuesday’s top two finishers.

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