Texas voters OK amendments


AUSTIN - 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.

Smith County votes on the seven constitutional amendments closely aligned with voters statewide.

But one of the most-watched ballot initiatives in the state, a local Houston city ordinance to extend nondiscrimination protections to gay and transgender, was defeated.

Tea party-backed Attorney General Ken Paxton declaring that America's fourth largest city "defeated the latest extreme example of political correctness."

"Houston rightly ignored Hollywood and the liberal elites," Paxton said in a statement.

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



Voters approved Proposition 1, which will increase homeowners' 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.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the Texas Senate, said the proposition's "huge margin of victory" will "give us the clout to do more property tax relief" during the next legislative session in 2017.

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, nor Texas Supreme Court and 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 spelling out 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 allows the GOP-controlled Legislature to bolster transportation infrastructure strained by Texas' booming population without raising taxes.

"Prop 7 will provide an efficient way to dedicate a portion of our sales tax revenue to build the roads that our children and grandchildren will use," said Rep. Joe Pickett, an El Paso Democrat who chairs the House Transportation Committee. "All we are doing is taking the success of the Texas economy and dedicating a portion of it to transportation."

Gov. Greg Abbott said that by passing all seven constitutional amendments, Texas residents "are creating an even better place for future generations to live, work and raise a family."



Houston's City Council passed a nondiscrimination ordinance last year, but a public vote ordered by the Texas Supreme Court went the other way.

It was 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 values. Others worried about men being allowed to use women's public restrooms.

"The voters clearly understand that this proposition was never about equality - that is already the law," Patrick said. "It was about allowing men to enter women's restrooms and locker rooms - defying common sense and common decency."



Houston also was choosing a successor for term-limited, openly gay Mayor Annise Parker - but none of the 13-candidate field won a majority of the ballots cast.

Veteran state Rep. Sylvester Turner was Tuesday's top vote-getter. He will face second-place finisher Bill King, former mayor of the Houston suburb of Kemah, in a runoff Dec. 12.

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