Making Amends: Texas Voters to Decide Constitutional Items

Texans will head to the polls this fall, but not to elect anybody. The November 2nd election will decide eight state constitutional amendments. Many of the amendments are items already passed by the legislature that now need to be codified by voters.

The amendments cover a range of issues, from changing the eligibility requirements for Texas judges (Prop 4) to changing how counties can issue bonds for public projects (Prop 2). Two amendments (Props 7-8) extend the property tax homestead exemption to the spouses of deceased beneficiaries. Prop 6 allows residents of nursing homes or long term care facilities to designate an essential caregiver who cannot be banned from in-person visits.

The ballot item getting the most attention may be Prop 3, which bars the state or any locality from closing or restricting religious services. This year's legislature passed a bill that does the same thing, but activists say this amendment is still necessary. "If we have it in our state constitution, it's more of a permanent impact in law," says Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values. "It makes it a much higher hurdle if anyone wanted to try to change that law in the future."

Saenz and his group are strongly promoting Prop 3 as an important tool for religious freedom. "We remember last year when government officials were forcing churches to close, even on days like Easter," he says. "Now we're all gonna get to vote to make it clear in our constitution that religious freedom is protected, that the government can't shut churches down or other religious organizations."

The deadline to register to vote in this fall's election is Monday October 4. Saenz is encouraging values voters to participate and send a powerful message. "I was taught in law school the law is a teacher," he tells KTRH. "So what we put in our constitution is an expression and an indication of what's important, and we get to do that on November 2nd."

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