Voters approve 13 of 14 constitutional amendments statewide

Measures passing will raise homestead exemption, give retired teachers cost of living adjustment


Voters statewide approved 13 of the 14 constitutional amendments on the Tuesday, Nov. 7 election ballot, including Proposition 4 that will raise the homestead exemption for homeowners from $40,000 to $100,000, in complete but unofficial returns.

The lone amendment which failed was Proposition 13, which would have raised the mandatory retirement age for judges and state justices. With 99 percent of precincts counted, voters rejected that measure by a 62.69 percent to 37.31 percent margin.

Prop 13 would have allowed state judges to retire at 79 rather than the current mandatory retirement age of 75, and would have increased the minimum retirement age from 70 to 75 for state judges.

Proposition 4, which voters approved by an 83.43 percent to 16.57 percent margin, also includes a temporary limit on appraisals for commercial, mineral and residential properties that don't receive a homestead exemption that are worth less than $5 million. Appraisal districts will not be allowed to raise the taxable value of those properties by more than 20 percent each year for the next three years. The limit will expire in 2026 unless lawmakers and voters decide to extend it.

The raising of the homestead exemption from $40,000 to $100,000 is expected to save taxpayers an extra $5.6 billion. Prop 4 also will result in $7.1 billion being sent to school districts to lower their property tax rates.

Also, Prop 4 will make it possible for voters to elect three members of their local appraisal district’s board of directors. Currently, those directors are nominated by the taxing entities, who then use their votes to determine which five individuals are chosen to serve.

Proposition 9, which got a lot of attention statewide, passed by an 83.73 percent to 16.27 percent margin. It provides retired Texas teachers with a cost-of-living raise to their monthly pension checks, the first some will have seen in almost 20 years. To offset this, voters will allow the use of $3.3 billion from the general revenue fund, which will now be moved to the retired teachers fund.

Proposition 1, which makes it tougher to restrict farming, ranching, timber and horticulture in certain areas, passed by a 79.03 to 20.97 margin. The measure requires state and local governments to provide evidence that regulation of what are considered generally accepted farming and ranching practices is needed to protect the public from danger. For example, it prevents a city from banning farming in an area for no specific reason, but it will allow for a government to require ranchers to put up fences for their livestock.

The amendment does not affect state or local government efforts needed to preserve or conserve natural resources, such as water, fish, wildlife and trees. Nor does it affect state actions needed to protect animal health and crop production.

Proposition 3, approved by a 67.88 to 32.12 percent margin, prohibits the imposition of so-called “wealth taxes” without voter approval. While other states have passed these types of measures, which put a tax on a person based on the market value of the assets they own — which can include real property and retirement accounts — Texas has not introduced any similar legislation.

This amendment forces lawmakers to ask voters for authorization before they could impose any new state taxes on residents that would be based on net worth or wealth.

Other amendments passed create tax exemptions for child-care facilities (Prop 2) or medical or biomedical equipment (Prop 10); create or alter funds to support higher education research (Prop 5), water infrastructure (Prop 6), natural gas-fueled power plants (Prop 7), broadband infrastructure (Prop 8) and maintenance and creation of state parks (Prop 14).

The Texas Tribune contributed to this report.