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The Texas Nov. 7 Election: What It Is & Why You Should Care

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TAMU chapter.

As a member of Gen-Z, I often hear from my peers that they are ‘uninvolved’ in politics, or that they ‘don’t bother voting’ because they don’t think their opinions matter, but I am here to prove that sentiment wrong and show my fellow college-age Texans how even general, statewide elections affect our lives.

On November 7th, 2023 the Texas general elections will be held to vote on 14 proposed amendments to the state constitution. According to the Texas State Law Library, the current state constitution has been in effect since 1876, but it has been amended several times over the years. The amendment process is a cornerstone of the American political system. Amending the constitution allows for the law to keep up with society and the ever-changing beliefs of the governed people. Electing representatives and voting on constitutional amendments is the only way for legislation to reflect the values of the people and enact change.

Why This election?

A general election is a great starting point for new voters to adapt to the process in a lower-risk environment than a presidential election. General elections also tend to have a more direct impact on our day-to-day experiences because they govern the specific areas in which we live. The 2023 Texas general election contains 14 proposed amendments to the state constitution, however the judicial jargon can make it difficult to understand the purposes of the amendments. I will be breaking down all 14 amendments, and what they are proposing, so that you can be informed when voting and see how elections impact our lives.

What’s On the Ballot?

Proposition 1- HJR 126

“The constitutional amendment protecting the right to engage in farming, ranching, timber production, horticulture, and wildlife management.”

What does this mean?

In short, the Texas Tribune states that this amendment will “require for state and local governments to provide evidence that the regulation is needed to protect the public from danger.” Meaning that this amendment will prohibit local government from regulating farming practices in any given area, unless they can prove that the practices would cause harm to the surrounding public. The Tribune also notes that the amendment will not affect local government’s involvement in the protection and conservation of natural resources, animal health, or crop production. Agricultural Commissioner, Sid Miller, and the Texas Farm Bureau are in support of this proposition, however there are criticisms from some liberal organizations. Mother’s Against Greg Abbott shared their voting recommendations for each proposition and they argue against this amendment. They argue that the proposition intends to “[take] away local control and government in favor of Big Industry, Big Ag, and Lobbyists,” adding that the amendment would categorize many separate industries (farming, ranching, timber production, horticulture, and wildlife management) under the same legislation.

Proposition 2- SJR 64

“The constitutional amendment authorizing a local option exemption from ad valorem taxation by a county or municipality of all or part of the appraised value of real property used to operate a child-care facility.”

What does this mean?

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, many childcare facilities have struggled to remain open. In addition, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation found that “the Texas economy loses nearly $9.4 billion a year from breakdowns in child care,” meaning that the decline in the childcare industry affects the overall economy of the state. This proposition would allow local governments to offer childcare businesses a tax exemption of at least 50% of the property’s value. Supporters of the amendment acknowledge the economic benefits of childcare facilities remaining open as well as the implications that the current shortage is having on early childhood education. However, critics point out that the tax exemption could lead to higher taxes for homeowners and other businesses to replace the lost revenue.

Proposition 3- HJR 132

“The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual wealth or net worth tax, including a tax on the difference between the assets and liabilities of an individual or family.”

What does this mean?

Currently the state of Texas does not impose a “wealth tax,” or a state tax on a person based on the “market value of assets they own.” This amendment would require authorization from voters before any Texas lawmaker can impose a state tax based on net worth or wealth. Those in support of “wealth taxes” claim that the revenue from these taxes would greatly benefit underfunded programs without burdening low-income citizens and at little cost to wealthy individuals. Mothers Against Greg Abbott argue that this bill does not guarantee protection for low- and middle-income residents and it increases the difficulty of achieving “a more equitable tax system in the future.” Critics of these taxes claim that it would discourage businesses and that there would be an overall decline in wealth, which would decrease tax revenue from other sources as well.

Proposition 4- HJR 2

“The constitutional amendment to authorize the legislature to establish a temporary limit on the maximum appraised value of real property other than a residence homestead for ad valorem tax purposes; to increase the amount of the exemption from ad valorem taxation by a school district applicable to residence homesteads from $40,000 to $100,000; to adjust the amount of the limitation on school district ad valorem taxes imposed on the residence homesteads of the elderly or disabled to reflect increases in certain exemption amounts; to except certain appropriations to pay for ad valorem tax relief from the constitutional limitation on the rate of growth of appropriations; and to authorize the legislature to provide for a four-year term of office for a member of the board of directors of certain appraisal districts.”

What does this mean?

This amendment asks voters to approve a $12.7 billion package of property tax cuts to combat the high property tax rates throughout Texas. Since school district taxes “make up the bulk of a Texas property owner’s tax bill,” $7.1 billion of the budget will be allocated to school districts to lower their property rates. The proposition also includes other tax reforms such as increasing the number of businesses receiving a franchise tax exemption. Critics of the proposition argue that these property tax exemptions are a temporary fix and that school districts and businesses will not benefit significantly either.

Proposition 5- HJR 3

 “The constitutional amendment relating to the Texas University Fund, which provides funding to certain institutions of higher education to achieve national prominence as major research universities and drive the state economy.”

What does this mean?

This amendment would change the name of the National University Research Fund to the Texas University Fund. Along with a name change, the fund will now receive the “annual interest income, dividends and investment earnings from Texas’ rainy day fund” to support research at state universities in Texas. The funds will be capped at $100 million for 2024, but the proposition allows for adjustments due to inflation with a 2% growth rate. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board will allocate each state university (excluding Texas A&M University and the University of Texas – due to their funding coming from another source) their agreed upon deposit for the year. Most people are in support of this proposition and note that it will elevate Texas’ public universities and draw academic interest to the state.

Proposition 6- SJR 75

“The constitutional amendment creating the Texas water fund to assist in financing water projects in this state.”

What does this mean?

This proposition would create a new fund dedicated to supporting various projects aimed to improve Texas’ water supply. The fund would be administered by the Texas Water Development Board and come with a $1 billion down payment. Some projects that this fund will support include; improving the water infrastructure in rural areas, fixing deteriorating pipes, and increasing the water supply through desalination and water treatment projects.

Proposition 7- SJR 93

“The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the Texas energy fund to support the construction, maintenance, modernization, and operation of electric generating facilities.”

What does this mean?

If this proposition is approved, a state fund will be created that will allow officials to distribute low-interest loans to companies aiming to build, or upgrade, natural-gas fueled power plants. $5 billion has been set aside by the state to fund these programs for the next two years. Supporters advocate that more gas-fueled power is necessary due to wind and solar power being dependent on nature and not always readily available. However, critics of this amendment argue that gas power plants can be unreliable and that more power plants could cost more in taxpayer dollars, not to mention the greenhouse gas emissions which are already reaching dangerous levels.

Proposition 8- HJR 125

“The constitutional amendment creating the broadband infrastructure fund to expand high-speed broadband access and assist in the financing of connectivity projects.”

What does this mean?

The approval of this amendment would create a $1.5 billion fund aimed to expand internet access across Texas. Currently about 7 million Texans lack internet or telecommunications services. This fund will finance the development of broadband and telephone services as well as 911 services to those currently without them.

Proposition 9- HJR 2

“The constitutional amendment authorizing the 88th Legislature to provide a cost-of-living adjustment to certain annuitants of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.”

What does this mean?

This amendment is asking the public to allow the state to move $3.3 billion from the general revenue fund to the retired teachers fund in order to finance Senate Bill 10 which was passed during the regular session. Bill 10 would provide cost-of-living raises to the monthly pensions of some retired teachers in Texas.

Proposition 10- SJR 87

“The constitutional amendment to authorize the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation equipment or inventory held by a manufacturer of medical or biomedical products to protect the Texas healthcare network and strengthen our medical supply chain.”

What does this mean?

Currently in Texas, school districts and counties can collect property taxes on inventory that is held by manufacturers of medical or biomedical products. This amendment “would exempt those from a facility’s overall property values, leading to a potential decrease in their taxes.” Those in favor of the proposition claim that it could encourage manufacturers to move to Texas and strengthen the medical supply chain of the state. However, these exemptions will greatly decrease the school system’s already minimal funding.

Proposition 11- SJR 32

“The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to permit conservation and reclamation districts in El Paso County to issue bonds supported by ad valorem taxes to fund the development and maintenance of parks and recreational facilities.”

What does this mean?

As of now in Texas, there are eleven counties who are allowed to issue property-tax-supported bonds to their conservation and reclamation districts. These districts manage “stormwater storage, land irrigation and the conservation and development of forests within their designated boundaries.” This proposition will add El Paso County to the list of those permitted to issue these bonds. Critics of the amendment argue that it could increase the property taxes of El Paso County, while supporters argue that this will support economic development in West Texas.

Proposition 12- HJR 134

“The constitutional amendment providing for the abolition of the office of county treasurer in Galveston County.”

What does this mean?

This amendment would abolish the office of the county treasurer in Galveston County. The current role acts as a bank for the county and oversees all funds and transactions. The amendment allows for the County to contract a qualified third party or an existing official of the county to take over these responsibilities. Hank Dugie, the current Galveston County treasurer, is in support of this proposition claiming that it is “a waste of more than half a million dollars each year.” Those who reject this proposition, however, assert that the change will not save significant money and it will create a separation of powers within the county.

Proposition 13- HJR 107

“The constitutional amendment to increase the mandatory age of retirement for state justices and judges.”

What does this mean?

With this amendment, voters will decide whether or not to raise the minimum retirement age from 70 to 75 and the maximum age from 75 to 79 for all state judges. Those in favor of this proposition say that people are working later into life than previous generations and retaining those who want to do this work will minimize turnover. However for those Texans concerned with the age of current members of Congress and the possibility of their mental deterioration, this proposition may be unappealing.

Proposition 14- SJR 74

“The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the centennial parks conservation fund to be used for the creation and improvement of state parks.”

What does this mean?

This amendment would create a fund with a $1 billion investment to support and conserve the state parks of Texas. This would also fund the purchases of more land for the park systems.

When to Vote

Unfortunately, at the time of publication, the final day for voter registration has passed for the November 7th election, but it can’t hurt to register now for future elections. For anyone already registered to vote, pay attention to these important dates this month:

  • October 23rd, 2023 – Early voting begins.
  • October 27th, 2023 – Last day to request a mail-in ballot from your county.
  • November 3rd, 2023 – Early voting ends.
  • November 7th, 2023 – Election day.

I encourage all fellow college students to take advantage of early voting or absentee voting if you are registered in a different county than where you attend university. Absentee voting is extremely limited in Texas, so early voting would be the best option for those who are able. If you are in need of an absentee ballot, the request must be received (not postmarked) by your county by October 27th and the Secretary of State lists these requirements for an absentee ballot:

  • must be 65 years or older on election day
  • must be sick or disabled
  • must be out of the country during election day and the two week early voting period
  • must be expected to give birth within the three weeks before or after election day
  • or, be in jail but otherwise eligible

I hope that more Gen-Z students can now see that the government truly does impact our lives and that voting is the only way to share the values of our generation through meaningful change. I highly encourage all Texans to vote on November 7th or register to vote for future elections if you are not currently.

Tenny Luhrs is an author and member of the Writing and Editing Committee for Her Campus at Texas A&M University. She writes and publishes articles for Her Campus with her main topic coverage being news, social justice, and activism. Outside of Her Campus, Tenny is a full-time, third year student at Texas A&M University and is majoring in Communications with a minor in Spanish. Tenny is also the co-owner of Mended Jewelry, a permanent jewelry business that she founded with her roommate in the College Station area. As partial owner of Mended Jewelry, Tenny oversees marketing, inventory, scheduling, and legal protections for the business. In her free time, Tenny enjoys streaming shows and podcasts, reading, and finding new music. Tenny is the mother of a beautiful black cat named Kitty, who is her whole world. She also frequents record stores and antique stores, taking pride in the fact that her home décor has been described as “grandma- chic.” She is most passionate about social justice issues and activism and has attended many marches for gun reform and LGBTQ+ rights. Seeing the divide within the media, she strives to work as a journalist to bring factual, unbiased news to the public.