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Hays County Democratic Party Analysis of 2021 Proposed Constitutional Amendments

Thanks to the League of Women Voters for the descriptions and pros and cons for the Texas constitutional amendments, referred to as “propositions.” And thanks to Ballotpedia for the tabulation of votes on the amendments by the Texas Senate and House.

The Hays County Democratic Party supports propositions 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 and 8. We take no position on propositions 3 and 4. However we point out that some Senate and a greater number of House members voted in opposition to them. Please review the pros and cons for these propositions to inform your vote.

The significant Democratic votes against propositions 3 and 4 are highlighted here.

Proposition 3 – Religious Services: “The constitutional amendment to prohibit this state or a political subdivision of this state from prohibiting or limiting religious services of religious organizations.”

Explanation: The proposed amendment would add a new section to Article 1 of the Texas Constitution, the Texas “Bill of Rights.” It would prohibit state or local governments from prohibiting or limiting religious services. This proposed amendment is a reaction to restrictions put in place by the governor and some local governments during the COVID-19 pandemic. The restrictions required religious services to be held remotely or limited the number of people who could attend in person. The governor’s restrictions were only in place for 12 days. He then declared that religious services are essential services and issued guidelines that said, “Houses of worship should conduct as many activities as possible remotely and should follow federal guidelines when providing services in person.”

Arguments For:

  • Churches provide important support in a time of crisis. Closing churches reduces access to their services.
  • Proponents say that closing churches violates religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution.
  • A government official should not be able to keep anyone from attending religious services.

Arguments Against:

  • The proposed amendment could prevent local governments from enforcing safety measures during natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, or another pandemic.
  • No faith group should have an unqualified right to spread a communicable disease.
  • Existing law and the Texas Constitution adequately protect religious organizations.

Proposition 4 – Judges: “The constitutional amendment changing the eligibility requirements for a justice of the supreme court, a judge of the criminal court of appeals, a justice of the court of appeals, and a district judge.”

Explanation: The proposed amendment would change the eligibility requirements for judges to run for office for the following:

  • Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeals, and the regional Courts of Appeals: Currently, the candidate for these courts must have been a practicing lawyer for at least ten years, or a practicing lawyer or judge of a court of record for a combined total of at least ten years. The proposed amendment would add the requirement that the candidate be licensed in the state of Texas for at least ten years and defines the court of record as a state court or county court established by the Legislature. Also, during the ten-year period, the candidate’s license to practice law must not have been revoked or suspended.
  • State District Judge: Currently, the candidate must be a U.S. citizen licensed to practice law in Texas and have been a practicing lawyer for at least four years, or a practicing lawyer or judge of a Texas court for a combined total of four years. The proposed amendment would add the requirement that a district judge candidate be a Texas resident and would change the four-year requirement to eight years. Also, during the specified eight-year period, the candidate’s license to practice law must not have been revoked or suspended.

Arguments For:

  • Increasing the required number of years of legal experience for district court judges could result in a better qualified Texas judiciary.
  • The quality and reputation of the Texas judiciary could be enhanced by the requirement that a judge’s license cannot have been revoked or suspended.

Arguments Against:

  • The requirement of additional years of experience as an attorney could adversely impact the diversity (age, race, gender, etc.) of judicial candidates and judges.
  • The amendment would restrict the size of the pool of candidates eligible to run for the judicial positions, which could result in a judiciary that does not reflect the population.

The following table shows the vote requirements for each constitutional amendment certified for the ballot, the votes each amendment received, and how Democrats and Republicans voted on each amendment in each legislative chamber (from Ballotpedia https://ballotpedia.org/Texas_2021_ballot_measures).

 

Texas Proposition 1, Authorize Charitable Raffles at Rodeo Venues Amendment Democrats Republicans
Senate: Required: 21 Yes votes: 28 (90.32%) No votes: 2 (6.45%) Yes: 12; No: 0 Yes: 16; No: 2
House: Required: 100 Yes votes: 123 (82.0%) No votes: 17 (11.3%) Yes: 64; No: 0 Yes: 59; No: 17
Texas Proposition 2, Authorize Counties to Issue Infrastructure Bonds in Blighted Areas Amendment Democrats Republicans
Senate: Required: 21 Yes votes: 27 (87.1%) No votes: 4 (12.9%) Yes: 13; No: 0 Yes: 14; No: 4
House: Required: 100 Yes votes: 126 (84.0%) No votes: 13 (0.7%) Yes: 62; No: 0 Yes: 64; No: 13
Texas Proposition 3, Prohibition on Limiting Religious Services or Organizations Amendment Democrats Republicans
Senate: Required: 21 Yes votes: 28 (90.3%) No votes: 2 (6.5%) Yes: 10; No: 2 Yes: 18; No: 0
House: Required: 100 Yes votes: 108 (72.0%) No votes: 33 (22.0%) Yes: 27; No: 33 Yes: 81; No: 0
Texas Proposition 4, Changes to Eligibility for Certain Judicial Offices Amendment Democrats Republicans
Senate: Required: 21 Yes votes: 30 (96.8%) No votes: 1 (3.2%) Yes: 12; No: 1 Yes: 18; No: 0
House: Required: 100 Yes votes: 120 (80.00%) No votes: 19 (12.67%) Yes: 49; No: 14 Yes: 71; No: 5
Texas Proposition 5, State Commission on Judicial Conduct Authority Over Candidates for Judicial Office Amendment Democrats Republicans
Senate: Required: 21 Yes votes: 31 (100.0%) No votes: 0 (0.0%) Yes: 13; No: 0 Yes: 18; No: 0
House: Required: 100 Yes votes: 137 (91.33%) No votes: 0 (0.00%) Yes: 58; No: 0 Yes: 79; No: 0
Texas Proposition 6, Right to Designated Essential Caregiver Amendment Democrats Republicans
Senate: Required: 21 Yes votes: 30 (96.77%) No votes: 1 (3.23%) Yes: 12; No: 1 Yes: 18; No: 0
House: Required: 100 Yes votes: 142 (94.67%) No votes: 1 (0.67%) Yes: 63; No: 1 Yes: 79; No: 0
Texas Proposition 7, Homestead Tax Limit for Surviving Spouses of Disabled Individuals Amendment Democrats Republicans
Senate: Required: 21 Yes votes: 30 (96.77%) No votes: 0 (0.00%) Yes: 13; No: 0 Yes: 17; No: 0
House: Required: 100 Yes votes: 147 (98.0%) No votes: 0 (0.0%) Yes: 67; No: 0 Yes: 80; No: 0
Texas Proposition 8, Homestead Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouses of Military Fatally Injured in the Line of Duty Amendment (2021) Democrats Republicans
Senate: Required: 21 Yes votes: 29 (93.5%) No votes: 1 (3.2%) Yes: 11; No: 1 Yes: 18; No: 0
House: Required: 100 Yes votes: 144 (96.0%) No votes: 0 (0.0%) Yes: 65; No: 0 Yes: 79; No: 0

 

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