In the 85th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature, there were seven joint resolutions proposing seven particular constitutional amendments by a vote of two-thirds of all the members of each house. By law, these seven amendments must be approved by a majority of Texas voters in the November 7, 2017 Constitutional Amendment Election.

As a public service, the text of each proposition is included below, along with a brief explanation of its intent.

Further information and detailed explanatory statements can be found via the Texas Secretary of State.

 

AMENDMENT NO. 1:

Authorizes the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of part of the market value of the residence homestead of a partially disabled veteran or his/her surviving spouse if the residence homestead was donated by a charitable organization for less than the market value of the residence homestead.

Supporters Say:

  • Provides financial relief to disabled veterans receiving a partially donated home who may not otherwise be able to afford a home because of the tax burden.
  • Currently, a partially disabled veteran who pays part of the cost of a donated home receives no property tax exemption, unlike a partially disabled veteran whose home has been donated to the veteran in full. H.J.R. 21 addresses this inconsistency and avoids the risk that such a veteran might lose a home designed specifically for the individual's disabilities because of property taxes.

Opponents Say:

  • No witnesses opposed H.J.R. 21, however opponents say that the legislature should focus its efforts on reducing the property tax burden for everyone rather than granting exemptions for a specific category of people.

 

AMENDMENT NO. 2:

Establishes a lower amount of expenses that can be charged to a borrower and removes certain financing expense limitations for a home equity loan, establishes certain authorized lenders to make a home equity loan, changes certain options for the refinancing of home equity loans, changes the threshold for an advance of a home equity line of credit, and allows home equity loans on agricultural homesteads.

Supporters Say:

  • Would modernize Texas law regarding home equity loans, which is based on 1997 legislation.

  • Would improve access to home equity loans and allow home equity loans to be made on smaller‐value properties.

  • It is important to keep Home Equity loans available because other types of loans do not offer the same benefits and protections to homeowners.

  • Would keep the home equity market stable and lending responsible while improving consumers' access to credit.

  • Would afford consumers greater access to funds for which they have been approved by repealing a restriction on home equity lines of credit that prohibits additional advances on a loan from being made under certain circumstances.

  • Retains the limitation of home equity loans to 80 percent of total equity that saved the Texas market during the last recession.

    Opponents Say:
  • Would eliminate constitutional protections for homeowners that were carefully negotiated when home equity loans were first authorized.

  • Currently there are no significant issues with obtaining home equity loans in Texas..

  • Disguises the potential for lender fee increases since the amendment excludes the items that generally represent the highest up‐front costs ‐ third‐party appraisals, surveys, title insurance, and title examination reports ‐ from the calculation of the fee cap, lenders would have greater incentive to increase their own origination fees despite the two percent limit.

  • Increases the prospective profits from loan origination fees, regardless of the loan's expected performance encouraging improvident lending. Lenders could later sell poorly performing loans in the secondary market. Such behavior contributed to the 2007‐2009 recession.

  • When home equity loans were initially authorized, it was expected that homeowners would be protected from forced sales by the requirement for judicial foreclosure and because these are nonrecourse loans. The amendment would allow conversion of a home equity loan to a purchase money loan, which lacks these protections.

  • Home equity loan borrowers already have the ability to refinance their loans with a new home equity loan that provides certain protections.

 

AMENDMENT NO. 3:

Limits the service period of certain officeholders appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate after the expiration of the person's term of office.

Supporters Say:

  • Addresses concerns that unpaid gubernatorial appointees on state boards and commissions hold over in office long after expiration of the appointees' terms. Would ensure that unpaid volunteer positions are rotated among qualified Texans.

  • The Senate’s prerogative for advice and consent would be preserved by placing term limits at the end of a regular legislative session on the service of appointees whose terms have expired, allowing the Senate to hold confirmation hearings on replacement appointees.

  • The amendment would provide the Office of the Governor ample time to find and appoint a willing and qualified successor after an officer's term expires.

Opponents Say:

  • Could result in unfilled vacancies in important state offices if successors are not duly qualified by the deadline proposed by the amendment.

  • The existing constitutional provision providing for the continued service of officers until their successors are duly qualified affords the Office of the Governor flexibility in finding qualified replacements for appointive offices.

 

AMENDMENT NO. 4:

Authorizes the legislature to require a court to provide notice to the Attorney General of a challenge to the constitutionality of a state statute and authorizes the legislature to prescribe a waiting period before the court may enter a judgment holding the statute unconstitutional.

Supporters Say:

  • Would ensure that Texas laws could not be struck down through a constitutional challenge without the Attorney General having a fair opportunity to defend the laws.

  • Overturns a Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decision in 2013 that it is unconstitutional to require a court to have to notify the Attorney General that the constitutionality of a state statute is being challenged.

  • Would not substantially alter the state's separation of powers doctrine, restrict the ability of courts to strike down laws on constitutional grounds, or change the authority of the Attorney General's office over criminal matters.

Opponents Say:

  • The Constitution should not be amended in a manner that may undermine the state's separation of powers doctrine.

  • Texans should be able to pursue and receive relief from unconstitutional laws without delay due to a waiting period for the Attorney General to consider intervening during which a court may not enter a judgment.

  • May create confusion regarding the Attorney General's role in criminal cases by requiring notice to be provided to the Attorney General in such cases. Under current law, the Attorney General is not authorized to represent the state in criminal cases, subject to certain exceptions. Requiring notice to be provided serves little purpose unless the prosecutor requests the Attorney General's assistance in a pending case.

 

AMENDMENT NO. 5:

Allows more professional sports teams' charitable foundations to conduct charitable raffles.

Supporters Say:

  • Would provide opportunities for charitable revenue to be brought to more areas of the state, such as rural and suburban communities.

  • Charitable raffles held under the current authorization have been successful in raising large amounts of money for charitable purposes without abusing the process.

  • The amendment would not remove existing safeguards that protect against improperly conducted raffles.

Opponents Say:

  • The existing constitutional limitation was established to protect against the creation of new entities solely to take advantage of charitable raffles.

  • Would expand gambling in Texas by encouraging less well‐established professional sports teams to set up charitable foundations to conduct raffles and may prompt other groups to seek similar authorization to conduct charitable gaming.

 

AMENDMENT NO. 6:

Authorizes an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a first responder who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty.

Supporters Say:

  • Would help ensure that families of fallen first responders would not face the loss of their home because of the property tax burden.

  • Would extend to surviving spouses of first responders the same well‐deserved property tax exemption given to surviving spouses of disabled veterans and members of the armed services killed in action, and would continue the legislature's long‐standing practice of addressing the hardships faced by families of fallen first responders.

Opponents Say:

  • No witnesses opposed the Amendment. However, opponents say that the legislature should focus its efforts on reducing the property  tax  burden  for  everyone  rather  than  granting  exemptions  for  a  specific category  of  people,  regardless  of  how deserving,  which  results  in  higher  taxes  for others.

 

AMENDMENT NO. 7:

“The constitutional amendment relating to legislative authority to permit credit unions and other financial institutions to award prizes by lot to promote savings.”

Supporters Say:

  • Savings incentives would promote more savings.  More than one‐third of Texas households lack a savings account, and about half do not have a three‐month emergency fund.

  • A number of other states that have adopted such legislation saw a substantial increase in consumer savings and new accounts as a result.

  • Some banks that offer prize‐linked savings accounts may receive additional credit under the federal Community Reinvestment Act for providing services that encourage savings. 

Opponents Say:

  • Would provide unfair favoritism to traditional banks and credit union at the expense of all other financial institutions.

  • The amendment is not necessary under the Texas Constitution, which only prohibits lotteries that require a form of payment or consideration.