Texas voters easily pass 7 constitutional amendments

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

AUSTIN, TX -- Voters statewide approved all seven proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution on Tuesday - giving themselves tax breaks, cementing their rights to hunt and fish, pumping billions of extra public dollars into roads and freeing some top elected officials from having to live in the state capital.

But the fate of the most-watched ballot initiative still hadn't been determined.

It wasn't immediately clear if Houston residents accepted or rejected a city ordinance extending nondiscrimination protections to gay and transgender residents as the polls closed in El Paso, which has a time zone that's an hour behind the rest of Texas.

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



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.

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.



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.



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.



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.



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 was backed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and allows the GOP-controlled Legislature to increase sorely needed funding for critical infrastructure without raising taxes.



Houston was still tallying the votes on its nondiscrimination ordinance. The City Council passed one last year, but the Texas Supreme Court ordered that it be put to a public vote.

The measure was defeated soundly in early voting. If that trend holds, it would be 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.



Voters in the nation's fourth largest city also were 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. The race is technically nonpartisan, but the last five mayors have all been Democrats.