Ballot watch: What 7 proposed constitutional amendments do

October 29, 2017

FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2016, file photo, a huge "Vote!" flag waves above Interstate 35 as motorists pass, in San Antonio. Texas voters are being asked to approve or reject seven proposed amendments to the state constitution in upcoming elections. They deal with everything from property tax exemptions to looser home equity loan rules to sports raffles and savings accounts that offer prizes for opening them. The Legislature had proposed 673 constitutional amendments, with 491 approved by voters, 179 defeated and three failing to make the ballot for "reasons that are historically obscure," according to the Texas Legislative Council. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — No statewide offices are up for grabs on this year’s ballot and congressional and legislative races elections are still a year away. But Texans are being asked to vote on seven amendments to the state Constitution — which has already grown to among the nation’s longest thanks to so many past changes.

The Legislature had proposed 673 constitutional amendments, with 491 approved by voters, 179 defeated and three failing to make the ballot for “reasons that are historically obscure,” according to a report last year by the Texas Legislative Council. Here’s a look at the proposed changes that could add to that list:


Proposition 1 would allowing qualifying, partially disabled veterans or their surviving spouses to get exemptions from some property taxes if their home was donated by charity for less than market value. This is meant to fix a state constitutional amendment approved in 2013 that provided property tax exemptions for disabled veterans living in fully donated homes — which inadvertently excluded veterans who paid some of the cost of their homes.


Proposition 2 seeks to reduce restrictions on Texans borrowing against equity in their homes. It would allow access to more credit and lower fees associated with some home equity loans, while exempting some costs from counting toward caps on what can be charged. It also aims to let farmers and ranchers get home equity loans on agricultural property. Texas only legalized home equity loans 20 years ago but imposed restrictions to discourage homeowners’ over-borrowing against inflated home values. This amendment would ease what its supporters now say were unnecessarily cautious controls.


Proposition 3 would limit how long many gubernatorial appointees can serve in their posts. If passed, it mandates that most appointees whose term has expired but who haven’t yet had a replacement named continue serving only until the end of the next legislative session — rather than until a new appointee is named, as often happens currently. The aim is limit gubernatorial appointees retaining long-expired posts for extended periods.


Proposition 4 would require that judges notify the Texas attorney general’s office when the constitutionality of state laws are challenged. It also aims to mandate that those judges rule within 45 days if the laws are constitutional or not.


Proposition 5 would let minor league teams, women’s teams and entities like golfing events and motorsports associations hold chartable raffles in Texas. A state constitutional amendment approved in 2015 began allowing teams like the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Astros to hold cash raffles at games. This amendment would let more teams and sports do so.


Proposition 6 seeks to offer property taxes exemptions to surviving spouses of first responders killed in the line of duty. It’s similar to exemptions already given in Texas to surviving spouses of veterans killed while serving. The Legislature already approved first responder tax exemptions, which are set to take effect if this amendment passes.


Proposition 7 would allow banks and credit unions to offer raffles and other prizes to people opening savings accounts. Twenty-plus states have already approved “prize-linked” savings accounts legislation. The proposition is backed by the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a liberal, Austin-based think tank, which says that similar laws elsewhere have allowed more than 75,000 prize-linked savings accounts containing more than $175 million to open since 2009.

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