November 2017 Texas Constitutional Amendments Voting Guide

Getting people out to vote for something that is intentionally opaque and hard to understand is a tough sell. We get it.

If you need a single reason to get out to vote for something that some view as arcane and inaccessible, it should be to vote against Prop 4, which we oppose. (See below).

Items appear on the ballot in proposition order, without reference to the bill number.  Proposition numbers are assigned at random by the Texas Secretary of State.  We’ve included bill numbers only to aid in research.  

The language used for most propositions is confusing to everyone, but voters are allowed to bring notes into the voting booth.

For more info from some trusted sources, the League of Women Voters has a non-partisan guide here.

And the Texas Legislative Council has more detailed analysis here.

Without further ado, here’s where we stand.

1. We Support Proposition 1 — HJR 21

Indivisible TxLege Stance on Prop 1: For.  

Proposition 1 allows a property-tax exemption on the homestead of a partially disabled veteran if the homestead was donated in part and purchased in part by the veteran.

Current law allows the exemption only if the homestead was donated in full.

That means that right now, partially disabled veterans get a property tax exemption according to the percentage of their disability on any homes entirely donated to them. This proposed amendment would tweak that law to allow disabled veterans who pay up to half of the donated home to get an exemption too.

This specific tax break for veterans would be expanded to include an additional, but unspecified, number of disabled veterans.

More information >>

2. We Oppose Proposition 2 — SJR   60

Indivisible TxLege Stance on Prop 2: Against.

Undermines homestead protections in Texas and benefit banks at the expense of borrowers.

Proposition 2 primarily eases restrictions on home-equity loans (extensions of credit secured by a lien on a homestead). If Prop 2 passes, it would allow a homeowner to refinance a home-equity loan as a non-home-equity loan.  Currently, the option to refinance a home-equity loan into a non-home equity loan is prohibited.  Changing the nature of the loan would allow foreclosure without a court order, remove other protections for borrowers, and permit lenders to have recourse against other assets.

More information >>

3. We Support Proposition 3 –S JR 34

Indivisible TxLege Stance on Prop 3: For.

Makes sense to us. Placing a limit on how long an appointee could continue serving in office would ensure that these unsalaried volunteer positions are rotated among qualified Texans. We believe that appointees should do their best while they can, then get out of the way so that someone else can bring their own life experiences, their perspective, their backgrounds to bear on the unique problems and opportunities our state faces.

Proposition 3 creates an exception to the requirement that appointed officials serve until their successors are confirmed.  State appointees who complete their terms of office currently continue to perform their duties until a successor is confirmed by the Texas Senate. This amendment would limit how long unsalaried officials with an expired term appointed by the governor could hold over even if no successor has been approved.

More information >>

4. We Oppose Proposition 4 – SJR 6

Indivisible TxLege Stance on Prop 4: Against.

It is the Attorney General’s job to advise the legislature when a proposed law is unconstitutional. Simply put, Texas deserves an AG who is better at their job. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Proposition 4 requires notice to the Texas Attorney General when a case is filed in state court that challenges the constitutionality of a Texas statute. After giving this notice, the court would have to wait 45 days before issuing a final judgment, to give the attorney general time to intervene in defense of the challenged law.

Courts should be able to give Texans relief from unconstitutional laws as soon as possible without a mandated waiting period. If you need a reason to get out and vote, it should be to vote No on this one.

More information >>

5. We Support Proposition 5 –H JR 100

Indivisible TxLege Stance: For.

Current law allows charitable foundations of certain professional sports teams based in Texas to conduct charitable raffles; this amendment would expand the list of teams eligible for this exemption from the general prohibition of lotteries and gift enterprises.

In 2015, voters allowed professional sports teams to conduct charitable raffles during home games. Teams can conduct so-called 50/50 raffles where half the money raised during a game would go towards cash prizes and the other half would benefit charities such as youth summer programs, food banks, etc. Only professional teams would qualify such as the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, and the National Hockey League. The proposed amendment would expand the number of professional sports leagues that qualify and would include the Women’s NBA, American Hockey League, United Soccer League, NASCAR, Professional Golf Association and others.

More information >>

6. We Support Proposition 6 – SJR 1

Indivisible TxLege Stance: For.

The constitution currently allows a homestead tax exemption for the surviving spouse of a member of the U.S. military killed in action. This proposition extends the same treatment to the surviving spouse of a first responder killed in the line of duty.

More information >>

7. We Support Proposition 7 – HJR 37

Indivisible TxLege Stance: For.

Proposition 7 and its enabling legislation would allow banks to hold raffles to provide incentives to put money in a savings account. Current law allows raffles only for charitable causes.

More information >>

Texans Do Not Want a Border Wall. Pass the DREAM Act Now.

The Texas border has never been more secure than it is now. On the Mexican border, there are already nearly 700 miles of fencepredator drone aircraft with facial recognition technology, military-grade surveillance equipmentaerostat balloons — gigantic blimps with 360-degree, infrared sensors that detect movement from 5,000 feet in the air–motion-triggered cameras, miles and miles of barbed-wire, and thousands of heavily armed border agents.

DHS employs more than 12,000 sensors along the border, with hundreds of license plate readers at ports of entry, and giant X-ray scanners for trains and trucks. In fact, once-sleepy border towns are now mass-surveillance zones, where every move of innocent residents is documented and cataloged.

Crime rates are lower in U.S. cities along the border with Mexico than elsewhere in the country. The border is safe. Unauthorized border crossings diminished to historic lows in recent years. In fact, net migration from Mexico is at zero or less. The number of Border Patrol agents along the border has OCTUPLED since 1982.

The border is already heavily militarized and secure.

And yet House Republicans, led by Michael McCaul (TX-10), unveiled a plan to provide $10 billion for Donald Trump’s border wall with Mexico. The package would add 10,000 more border patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers, tap the National Guard to patrol the southern border and target people who have overstayed visas.

A $20-billion dollar, 2,000-mile, 30-foot high, poured-concrete wall is, quite literally, the last thing that our country and our state needs.

According to the Department of Homeland Security:

The number of unauthorized foreign nationals deported from the U.S. has been declining since its 2012 peak of nearly 410,000. These include apprehensions at the border and those removed from the interior of the U.S., according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency charged with policing the border. Factors such as fewer immigrants trying to get to the U.S. and stronger border enforcement have contributed to the trend, as has an Obama administration focus on deporting criminals.

Like previous Republican-led efforts, McCaul’s “border security” package focuses exclusively on enforcement, without reforming our outdated system that fails to provide adequate channels for obtaining legal immigration status.

Republicans like Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick have been fear-mongering for years about the need for increased border security. Despite the reality of the situation, they continue to make specious claims that the United States government is not in control of the border, and that the lack of control is somehow deliberate, and speak as if “illegals”–the word used by white supremacists for undocumented immigrants–were pouring into the country in waves.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

And according to the Pew Research Center:

The undocumented population isn’t growing. Data analyzed by the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project show that the number of people living in the U.S. illegally has declined slightly to just over 11 million.

The cowardly pandering to a dwindling minority of nativists that Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and their lieutenants in the Texas GOP engage in will be their undoing in Texas. Demonizing, scapegoating, targeting, demeaning, and spreading lies about immigrants is now just what the Trump-era GOP does. It does not represent the spirit and wishes of real Texans, who know that immigrants are part of the fabric of our society. Those who vilify immigrants to appease their dwindling base–like the Empower Texans-backed “Texas Freedom Caucus” in the Texas Legislature are in the minority.

The majority of Americans do not want to pour billions of their tax dollars into funding Trump’s mass deportation machine. The fact is, the wall is an unpopular idea. Most Texans oppose it.

We’re calling on every Texan to shift the conversation to the urgent need for Congress to pass the DREAM Act, which would provide permanent protection and a pathway to citizenship to unauthorized immigrants who came to the country as children.

82% of voters believe that DREAMers should have a path to citizenship, including 69% of Republicans. 

Politicians want nothing more than to be popular. Not only do we have the leverage to put a stop to Republicans in Congress pandering to nativists with border wall and militarization, but we are in the majority. We have leverage to pressure Congress to pass the DREAM Act. And we should use it. 

I don’t subscribe to a view that a utilitarian or meritocratic justification for immigrants is necessary. But members of the Texas Congressional delegation do.

So in that regard, making an economic case for a clean DREAM Act is a no-brainer: there are 138,440 DACA recipients in Texas alone, and each year they contribute $313,095,000 in State and local taxes.

Passing the DREAM Act, and placing all of the potentially immediately eligible workers on a path to legal status, would add a total of $22.7 billion annually to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Because the gains from legalization grow each year, the cumulative increase in GDP over 10 years would be $281 billion.

Texas has the most to gain and the most to lose, based on how we move forward on immigration reform. Our leaders refuse to show courage and leadership, so it’s up to us.

We have to act, and we have to act now. Call your members of Congress. Tell them you do not want a wall, and urge them to pass a clean DREAM Act.

If helpful, use the following script:

YOU: Hi, my name is [name]. I’m calling from [address/city/ZIP Code].

YOU: I am calling to ask [MoC/House Member] to vote NO on the proposed “border wall” package that Michael McCaul has sponsored and brought to the House for a vote. This is not something that Texans want or need.The border is already heavily militarized and secure. Crime rates are lower in U.S. cities along the border with Mexico than elsewhere in the country. Unauthorized border crossings have diminished to historic lows in recent years. In fact, net migration from Mexico is at zero or less. The number of Border Patrol agents along the border has OCTUPLED since 1982. Our Members of Congress should not be wasting their time and energy on this when the country has other very urgent matters we could be addressing, namely, passing the DREAM Act.

YOU: This cannot wait. I implore the Congressman to vocally, publicly signal his support for a clean DREAM Act, which would provide permanent protection and a pathway to citizenship to unauthorized immigrants who came to the country as children. The economic incentive is a no-brainer. There are 138,440 DACA recipients in Texas alone, and each year they contribute $313,095,000 in State and local taxes. Passing the Dream Act, and placing all of the potentially immediately eligible workers on a path to legal status, would add a total of $22.7 billion annually to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).

YOU: Finally, it’s very important the DREAM Act not be held hostage with clauses, caveats, riders, or amendments that would add additional border militarization, or call for more deportation forces to be added. We will not accept the Congressman’s support for any bill that compromises the integrity of the DREAM Act with language that would allow any kind of “wall”, increased militarization, or deportation forces.

YOU: Thank you and have a nice day.

Capitol Switchboard:

(202) 224-3121