Texas REALTORS® Positions on Nov. 5, 2019 Propositions

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House Author: White, James (R)

Senate Sponsor: Huffman, Joan (R)

What you’ll see on the ballot

“The constitutional amendment permitting a person to hold more than one office as a municipal judge at the same time.”

What it does

Allows a municipal judge to serve as a municipal judge in more than one city.

Analysis*

Supporters say: Proposition 1 would make it easier for all cities to have qualified municipal court judges. These judges play an important role in the state’s judicial system, but many cities, especially smaller and rural ones, have trouble finding qualified candidates. Cities that have chosen to appoint their municipal court judges have the option to appoint individuals who also hold appointments as municipal judges in other cities. However, the Texas Constitution does not allow elected municipal court judges to hold either an elected or appointed judgeship in another city at the same time.

Proposition 1 would amend the Constitution so that both elected and appointed judges would be allowed to serve more than one city, giving all municipal courts the opportunity to have the best judge possible. The amendment would be a logical extension of current law that allows appointed municipal court judges, who make up more than 95 percent of the approximately 1,300 municipal court judges, to serve in more than one court.

Municipal court judges handle a range of issues, including city ordinance violations, certain misdemeanor offenses, and certain preliminary proceedings in felony criminal cases. When municipal courts lack qualified judges it can have a negative impact on public health and safety. Proposition 1 would prevent such impacts by allowing cities to appoint or elect municipal court judges who also serve in other cities, expanding the pool of qualified judges.

Proposition 1 also would allow judicial resources to be used more efficiently and effectively and would be especially beneficial to small or rural cities that do not need a full-time judge and might hold municipal court only occasionally. The state pays for judicial training, and the amendment would allow training resources used for one judge to benefit more than one city. A judge serving in more than one city would gain valuable experience, and individuals would be more willing to run for an elected position and invest the time in training if they could work in more than one court.

Proposition 1 would be in line with the numerous exceptions to the Constitution’s provision prohibiting dual office holding, including one for justices of the peace. Local voters and city governments could best determine whether they should hire or elect a municipal judge who is appointed or elected in another city and whether the judge could give adequate attention to a court. Judges serving in more than one city would continue to be accountable to each city, the voters, and others. Any requirements imposed by a city on its municipal judges, such as a residency requirement, would continue to apply.

Allowing elected municipal court judges to serve more than one city would not create conflicts of interest because each municipality is its own jurisdiction with no overlap in cases. Conflicts do not exist under current law when judges are appointed to sit on more than one municipal court bench and would not exist if elected municipal judges served on more than one court.

Opponents say:​ Proposition 1 would create another exception to the long-standing constitutional prohibition against certain elected officials holding more than one paid public office. Amending this provision could set a precedent for further exceptions to the single-office rule. Issues could be raised about whether judges working in more than one court were able to give adequate focus to each court.

*Analysis from Texas House of Representatives House Research Organization, https://hro.house.texas.gov/constitutional.aspx

Senate Author: Lucio, Eddie (D)

House Sponsor: Gonzalez, Mary (D)

What you’ll see on the ballot

“The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board in an amount not to exceed $200 million to provide financial assistance for the development of certain projects in economically distressed areas.”

What it does

Proposition 2 would let the Texas Water Development Board sell bonds, the proceeds of which would be used to encourage building water supply and wastewater facilities in economically distressed cities.

Analysis

Proposition 2 would provide essential financing for necessary water and wastewater infrastructure projects in economically distressed areas of Texas. The Economically Distressed Areas Program (EDAP) needs to be replenished if it is to continue funding existing projects and support future projects for communities that otherwise could not afford access to safe water.

While the costs of water infrastructure are high, it is critical that Texans have access to water that meets state standards. Financing some of these costs through bond issues would allow for greater and more reliable funding over a longer period of time. Using general revenue to support EDAP and water infrastructure development would strain available resources without providing the long-term benefits of a bond issuance, which allow expenses to be funded in a more flexible manner.

House Author: Shine, Hugh (R)

Senate Sponsor: Bettencourt, Paul (R)

What you’ll see on the ballot

“The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for a temporary exemption from ad valorem taxation of a portion of the appraised value of certain property damaged by a disaster.”

What it does

Following a disaster, as declared by the governor, Proposition 3 would provide a temporary property tax exemption for property owners.

Analysis

Proposition 3 is necessary to enable the Legislature to pass laws entitling individuals to a temporary tax exemption for properties damaged by a disaster.

Under HB 492, the enabling legislation that would take effect if Proposition 3 was approved by the voters, such an exemption would give taxing units a less expensive, easier to administer, and more easily understood method for providing relief to taxpayers harmed by a disaster than does the current method of disaster reappraisal. Under current law, a taxing unit may, but is not required to, authorize property reappraisal after a disaster. Many choose not to allow reappraisals. If a taxing unit does allow reappraisals, appraisal districts must use extensive time and resources to personally examine damaged property and appraise its value. The current statute’s language and unspecified timeline are vague and have led to confusion for taxing units, appraisers, and property owners.

Under the proposition and its enabling legislation, property owners would be entitled to a temporary exemption after a disaster if it occurred before the local tax rate was set. If the disaster occurred after rates were set, local governments would have the option to allow the exemption. The amount of the exemption would be based on damage assessments provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency or another source the chief appraiser considered appropriate. This method would allow appraisers and taxing units to save time and money and avoid duplicative assessments or reappraisals at potentially hazardous properties. Taxpayers are more familiar with property tax exemptions than with reappraisals and amending the Constitution to allow an exemption would provide taxpayers with more immediate relief. The enabling legislation also would provide a clear timeline to claim exemptions and give taxpayers the opportunity to protest the results of a damage assessment rate.

House Author: Leach, Jeff (R)

Senate Sponsor: Fallon, Pat (R)

What you’ll see on the ballot

“The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual income tax, including a tax on an individual’s share of partnership and unincorporated association income.”

What it does

Constitutionally prohibits an individual income tax.

Analysis*

Supporters say: Proposition 4 would help keep the Texas economy strong by ensuring that the state could not impose an individual income tax, sending a message that Texas was committed to maintaining a business-friendly, low-tax economic environment.

The lack of an individual income tax in Texas is part of the low-tax, pro-growth approach that has fueled the state’s robust economic expansion. It also helps attract families and businesses relocating from other parts of the country and seeking relief from burdensome taxes. Prohibiting an income tax would safeguard the state’s continued prosperity, as income and capital accumulation are critical to economic growth. The introduction of an individual income tax would discourage savings, investment, productivity, job creation, and economic growth in the state. It also would increase the size of the state government at the expense of individual liberty and result in higher costs to the taxpayer. Constitutionally prohibiting an income tax would help prevent this growth in state bureaucracy.

Although the Texas Constitution already requires a proposed income tax be approved by voters in a referendum, it does not explicitly prohibit such a tax. This proposition would make it clear once and for all that the state could not impose an individual income tax, protecting both taxpayers and the state’s economic expansion. Proposition 4 would not endanger the state’s revenue stream, as Texas already generates enough revenue to fund public education and public health without imposing an individual income tax. In addition, the proposed constitutional amendment would not jeopardize the franchise tax or invite legal challenges regarding the definition of an “individual” because the legislative intent of the joint resolution is clearly to prohibit a state income tax on the incomes of natural persons.

Opponents say: Proposition 4 is unnecessary because the Texas Constitution already includes a high bar for imposing a personal income tax by requiring that it be approved by a majority of voters in a statewide referendum.

Explicitly prohibiting an income tax in the Texas Constitution could eliminate a potentially valuable source of revenue for future Texans. Revenue from an individual income tax would increase with economic growth and in the future could help reduce the tax burden on Texas businesses, which currently pay a higher proportion of taxes in Texas than in other states. Constitutionally prohibiting an income tax could constrain the state’s ability to fund education and close off a potential avenue for property or sales tax relief. It also would reduce options for creating a less regressive tax system.

Because the proposition lacks a definition for the word “individual” and fails to specify that the income tax prohibition refers exclusively to natural persons, it could invite an interpretation that businesses should be legally considered individuals and therefore exempt from state taxation

*Analysis from Texas House of Representatives House Research Organization, https://hro.house.texas.gov/constitutional.aspx

Senate Author: Kolkhorst, Lois (R)

House Sponsor: Cyrier, John (R)

What you’ll see on the ballot

“The constitutional amendment dedicating the revenue received from the existing state sales and use taxes that are imposed on sporting goods to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to protect Texas’ natural areas, water quality, and history by acquiring, managing, and improving state and local parks and historic sites while not increasing the rate of the state sales and use taxes.”

What it does

Dedicates sales tax revenue from sporting goods to Texas Parks and Wildlife and Texas Historical Commission.

Analysis*

Supporters say: Proposition 5 would ensure that the statutory allocation of the sales tax on sporting goods was used as intended by automatically appropriating the money to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and Texas Historical Commission (THC). The state parks system deserves a constitutionally protected source of revenue to fulfill promises made when the Legislature allocated the existing sales tax on sporting goods to funding for state parks and historic sites. Since 2007, the Legislature has often diverted a significant portion of the sporting goods sales tax statutorily allocated for parks to other budgetary purposes.

The proposal would provide sustained and predictable funding to help TPWD plan for an estimated $800 million backlog of deferred maintenance priorities, including repairing damage to park facilities from flooding and other natural disasters. Consistent funding also would allow TPWD to meet demands for construction of new state parks and upgrades to existing parks to meet the demands of a growing population. Parks play an important role in wildlife habitat and conservation and have a large economic impact through outdoor sporting, hunting, fishing, and tourism. The Texas Historical Commission has a $40 million backlog of deferred maintenance and also needs a reliable source of revenue to maintain its historic sites.

Because constitutionally dedicated appropriations from the sporting goods sales tax could be temporarily reduced with a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate, the proposed amendment would accomplish these goals without unnecessarily tying the hands of the Legislature and compromising the state’s ability to fund critical services. The Legislature also would maintain the power to determine the specific uses of the funds in accordance with existing statutory provisions.

Proposition 5 would be similar to a constitutional amendment approved by Texas voters in November 2015 to dedicate certain revenue from state sales and use taxes, including a percentage of motor vehicle sales, use, and rental taxes, to the State Highway Fund.

Opponents say: By creating constitutionally dedicated accounts, Proposition 5 would diminish the Legislature’s discretion to prioritize state needs when budgeting. Dedicated accounts give appropriators less flexibility in allocating funds and could lead to unnecessary growth of the state budget by requiring money to go to a particular area even if needs were greater in another. The proposal also could create a precedent for requesting constitutional amendments to create other general revenue dedicated accounts.

The proposed constitutional amendment is unnecessary because the Legislature already may spend all or nearly all of the revenue from the sporting goods sales tax on TPWD and THC, as it has done in recent budget cycles.

*Analysis from Texas House of Representatives House Research Organization, https://hro.house.texas.gov/constitutional.aspx

House Author: Zerwas, John (R)

Senate Sponsor: Nelson, Jane (R)

What you’ll see on the ballot

“The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to increase by $3 billion the maximum bond amount authorized for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.”

What it does

Increases the bonding capacity for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

Analysis*

Supporters say: Reauthorizing funding and continuing taxpayer support of the Cancer Research and Prevention Institute of Texas (CPRIT) under Proposition 6 is important to maintain the agency’s current level of activity and continue Texas’ national leadership in cancer research and prevention. Since the creation of CPRIT, Texas has become the second-largest public funder of cancer research in the country, behind only the federal National Cancer Institute. CPRIT’s support of cancer research has accelerated the development of potential cures and prevention strategies.

Although CPRIT has statutory authority to continue awarding grants through August 31, 2022, without additional funds it could issue its last awards by the end of fiscal year 2021. The 86th Legislature this year appropriated the remaining voter-approved funds for CPRIT to the institute for fiscal 2020-21, so its funding beyond 2021 is not guaranteed. The sustained funding proposed by Proposition 6 is necessary to plan and complete research and report on prevention successes and failures.

Funding CPRIT is an investment in the state economy. Annual grant funding under CPRIT has supported world-renowned scholars, including a 2018 Nobel Prize recipient, and has helped make Texas a biomedical center. The multiplier effects of CPRIT’s programs have created thousands of jobs, generated billions of dollars in economic activity, and encouraged biotech companies to expand or relocate to the state.

By approving the original bond program in 2007, voters agreed that cancer research was worthy of public investment. CPRIT’s efforts have been shown to reduce cancer costs and enhance patients’ quality of life, productivity, and lifespans. The substantial benefits to the state’s economy and to the health of Texans from the sustainable funding for CPRIT’s programs in Proposition 6 would far outweigh the direct commitment of taxpayer resources and state debt.

Opponents say: Funding cancer research is not an essential function of state government, and although CPRIT’s mission is noble, the bonds that would be made possible by Proposition 6 would require interest and future appropriations that could be better spent on other priorities and more pressing needs.

Instead of doubling the size of the original bond package approved by voters for CPRIT, committing $3 billion more in taxpayer money and increasing state debt, the state should support critical cancer research in a more sustainable way that would reduce the debt burden that comes with taxpayer-backed bonds and that would allow the state to fund other priorities. The annual debt service on the previously issued CPRIT-related bonds is forecast to cost the state $120.6 million in the current fiscal year. According to the Legislative Budget Board, Proposition 6 would cost an additional $246 million combined from fiscal 2020 through 2024.

Proposition 6 is not necessary at this time because CPRIT has authority to issue the original bonds through the end of fiscal 2022. Instead of asking voters to commit more taxpayer money, the Legislature should use the next legislative session to discuss CPRIT’s long-term future, including a plan for it to become financially self-sufficient with independent or additional funding streams.

*Analysis from Texas House of Representatives House Research Organization, https://hro.house.texas.gov/constitutional.aspx

House Author: Huberty, Dan (R)

Senate Sponsor: Taylor, Larry (R)

What you’ll see on the ballot

“The constitutional amendment allowing increased distributions to the available school fund.”

What it does

Doubles the authorized amount of the annual distribution to the available school fund from the General Land Office.

Analysis*

Supporters say: Proposition 7 would improve funding for public schools by doubling the constitutionally authorized annual distribution from the School Land Board to the Available School Fund. Recent investment returns realized by the land board would have allowed greater annual distributions were it not for the $300 million cap on distributions in the Texas Constitution. The land board would retain discretion to distribute revenue levels below the cap should investment returns be lower in a given year. The proposition would provide flexibility for the General Land Office and the State Board of Education to send additional funding derived from the Permanent School Fund to the Available School Fund.

As the Permanent School Fund’s assets grow and improve in performance, the Legislature should take advantage of the opportunity to make more revenue available through the Available School Fund for public education. The use of the Available School Fund is an appropriate way to increase funding for public education without having to raise taxes.

Opponents say: Proposition 7 would double the amount of revenue that the School Land Board could directly contribute to the Available School Fund without any assurances that the additional spending would improve education outcomes. Texas should be fiscally prudent by resisting continued growth in state spending.

*Analysis from Texas House of Representatives House Research Organization, https://hro.house.texas.gov/constitutional.aspx

House Author: Phelan, Dade (R)

Senate Sponsor: Creighton, Brandon (R)

What you’ll see on the ballot

“The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the flood infrastructure fund to assist in the financing of drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects.”

What it does

Creates a flood infrastructure fund to assist in the financing of certain projects.

Analysis

By creating the Flood Infrastructure Fund, Proposition 8 would establish regional planning and coordination on flood mitigation projects to better provide for vital infrastructure in the state. A significant funding source is necessary to ensure cooperation among regions and affected stakeholders and to create a more resilient Texas in preparation for future flood events. Along with its enabling legislation, SB 7 by Creighton, the proposition would provide disbursement oversight for the fund. Under SB 7, a local government could access funds only if it had fully cooperated with other entities in the region, held public meetings to accept comments from stakeholders, and completed the project’s technical requirements and compared it to others in the area.

The infrastructure fund created by Proposition 8 and SB 7 would provide grants or low-cost loans to assist local governments with basic flood project planning, grant applications, and engineering flood mitigation projects that were structural (e.g., levees, dikes, and dams) and nonstructural (e.g., education, mitigation plans, and engineering studies). Federal funds are available for flood projects after disastrous events, but counties and cities may not be able to put up the matching funds necessary to access that money. Providing financing options for such projects could give communities the opportunity to overcome cost hurdles and expedite access to necessary funding. Proposition 8 would create the Flood Infrastructure Fund outside of the general revenue fund to ensure that money in the fund was available to the Texas Water Development Board for the same purpose in future budget cycles.

House Author: Capriglione, Giovanni (R)

Senate Sponsor: Fallon, Pat (R)

What you’ll see on the ballot

“The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation precious metal held in a precious metal depository located in this state.”

What it does

Exempts precious metals held in a precious metal depository in Texas from ad valorem taxes.

Analysis*

Supporters say: Proposition 9 would allow the state’s precious metal depositories to compete on an even footing with those in other states that do not tax deposits of precious metals. While Texas exempts certain precious metals from sales taxes, these metals currently could be subject to local ad valorem taxes if they are income-producing, and the potential exists for local governments to override the exemption for non-income-producing precious metals. Proposition 9 would help the Texas Bullion Depository and the state’s other depositories succeed by allowing the Legislature to create an exemption for both income producing and non-income-producing precious metals stored in a Texas depository.

Proposition 9 would remove uncertainty about whether local jurisdictions could tax non-income producing precious metals deposited in commercial depositories. While current law exempts from property taxes personal property not held or used to produce income, local taxing jurisdictions have authority to rescind this exemption. No local jurisdictions are known to have done so to tax precious metal deposits, but the potential to rescind this exemption could discourage the use of Texas depositories by creating uncertainty for depositors.

Proposition 9 also would allow the Legislature to create a property tax exemption for deposits of precious metals held for the production of income so that they were treated appropriately and not potentially subject to ad valorem taxes. Precious metals held in depositories are similar to other types of wealth, such as cash, and should not be taxed as income-producing property. Because these deposits generally are not taxed now, Proposition 9 would not make a significant change to the system of property tax exemptions. With Proposition 9, the state would be making it possible for Texas depositories to compete on equal footing with those in other states, not picking winners or losers in the market.

Proposition 9 would ensure that all Texas precious metal depositories operated under the same set of rules. The amendment would allow the Legislature to exempt precious metals held in the state-created Texas Bullion Depository as well as in private depositories.

Opponents say: The state should not expand property tax exemptions when the property tax system as a whole is being examined and revised. Additional tax exemptions could reduce taxable property, and an evaluation of all exemptions should occur before more are added.

Exemptions to the property tax system should not be used to incentivize economic behavior, such as depositing precious metals in Texas depositories, or to pick winners or losers in the market.

*Analysis from Texas House of Representatives House Research Organization, https://hro.house.texas.gov/constitutional.aspx

Senate Author: Birdwell, Brian (R)

House Sponsor: Tinderholt, Tony (R)

What you’ll see on the ballot

“The constitutional amendment to allow the transfer of a law enforcement animal to a qualified caretaker in certain circumstances.”

What it does

Allows a law enforcement dog to be transferred to the dog’s handler following the dog’s retirement.

Analysis*

Supporters say: Proposition 10 is necessary to allow the Legislature to clarify the authority of law enforcement agencies to retire law enforcement animals to their former handlers or other qualified caretakers for no fee. Many law enforcement agencies in Texas use dogs, horses, and other animals to help them perform their duties. The animals and handlers create a bond, especially in the case of K-9s that go home with their handlers every day while in service, which for some dogs can be around 10 years. When these animals retire, their former handlers often adopt them from the agencies for no fee. However, current law has caused confusion about this common and humane practice. Texas law classifies domestic animals as property, and sections of the Texas Constitution generally prohibit the state, a county, a city, or other political subdivision from transferring valuable property to an individual or private organization without payment. Approving this constitutional amendment would honor the bond between law enforcement animals and their handlers by ensuring that these animals could retire in the homes where they live and receive continued humane care.

Opponents say: Because under current law the transfer of law enforcement animals may occur for a nominal fee, Proposition 10 is not necessary to achieve the transfer of such an animal to its handler’s care upon the animal’s retirement.

*Analysis from Texas House of Representatives House Research Organization, https://hro.house.texas.gov/constitutional.aspx