This week marks the start of early voting for the 2017 Constitutional Amendment election. While these constitutional amendment elections normally don’t have high turnout rates, they’re still important for our state and our community.
The voter ID procedure for this election is the same as it was in 2016. If you have a photo ID, you should bring it to the polls to vote. If you don’t have a photo ID, you can still cast a ballot as long as you bring other proof of identification, such as your voter registration certificate, utility bill, or bank statement. You’ll then have to sign a “reasonable impediment declaration” stating that you were unable to obtain a more official form of ID. If you have any questions on the process, please call my office or check out the good Q&A on this website, www.GoVoteTexas.org.
Here’s what’s on the ballot:
Proposition 1: Expand Property Tax Breaks for Disabled Veterans
Current law allows a disabled veteran to claim a partial property tax exemption for a home donated by a charity at no cost. The change in Prop 1 would expand current law to include any home donated by a charity for less than the market value of the residence homestead. This measure provides additional financial relief for veterans that may not otherwise be able to afford a home.
Proposition 2: Updating Home Equity Loan Laws
This amendment is designed to modernize Texas’ home equity loan process. Overall, the amendments makes five updates. First, borrowers have a lower cap on fees charged for their home equity loan, and there would be more lenders to choose from. It will be easier for homeowners to pay off their equity line of credit in advance, and under certain conditions, a home equity loan can be refinanced as a non-home equity loan. Finally, agricultural homesteads could qualify for these kinds of loans. The bill creating this constitutional amendment passed unanimously; for more details, I encourage you read this op-ed from the San Antonio Express-News that details how the changes proposed by this constitutional amendment could help.
Proposition 3: Change to Length of Service for State-Appointed Officials
The central question of Proposition 3 is whether or not an unpaid state-appointed official whose term has expired should be allowed to continue serving in that position until a replacement is named. Current law allows these officials to serve indefinitely until a replacement is named; this amendment creates a hard cut-off date for an appointee whose time has expired. If you want to ensure volunteer, state-appointed positions are properly turned over so that new volunteers can serve on them, you should vote for the amendment. If you think these unpaid appointees should be able to remain in their positions on boards and commissions until a replacement is named, then you should vote against the amendment.
Proposition 4: Requiring Notice to the Attorney General of a Challenge to State Law
This amendment simply ensures that if a state law is challenged in a Texas court, the Attorney General must be notified. There can then be a waiting period of up to 45 days of that notification during which the law itself cannot be ruled unconstitutional. It would make sense for the state to have a right to defend itself in a lawsuit brought before it and for the state to be made aware of any challenge. The 45-day delay raises fair concerns about whether or not unconstitutional laws would be allowed to remain in effect, even temporarily. However, once the state responded, that 45-day delay would be over. Additionally, the delay only applies to a final judgment “holding the statute unconstitutional.” A court could still place a temporarily hold on a law that could limit constitutional rights, ensuring it didn’t go into effect while the court case was settled.
Proposition 5: Expanding Charity Raffles
This measure expands a recent constitutional amendment that allows professional sports teams to conduct raffles at home games. The original law limited this to only well-established sports teams. Prop 5 would allow minor league teams to hold such raffles, as well as anyone hosting a motorsports racing event or professional golf tournament.
Proposition 6: Property Tax Relief for Families of Fallen First Responders
This amendment lets families of first responders who have already suffered a devastating loss ensure they have relief on rising property taxes for their home. The law would operate the just like current Texas laws that allow spouses of military men and women who die or become disabled in the line of duty to receive some exemptions on his or her property taxes. This measure is appropriate for firefighters, police officers, and all first responders who risk their lives to keep us safe.
Proposition 7: Allowing Raffles for Savings Accounts
This measure, authored by State Representative Eric Johnson, ensures that banks and credit unions are allowed to offer prizes to individuals who create savings accounts. Many Texans lack a savings account or three-month emergency fund. This measure creates an incentive for individuals who establish those accounts, thereby encouraging more cost-effective and secure ways of saving money, as opposed to seeking out predatory payday lending options.