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Proposed Constitutional Amendments
Article By: by Texas State Rep. Larry Phillips
Posted: 8/23/2013 Views: 998  Impressions: 1795
Categories: Politics

This week's column will be the first in a series outlining the proposed constitutional amendments on which Texas voters will decide on November 5. These amendments were joint resolutions that were passed during the recent legislative session; however, because they change the Texas Constitution, they need state-wide voter approval before they can take effect. I will be providing information about the proposals in the order in which they will appear on the ballot. This information is taken from a report by the House Research Organization, a nonpartisan agency that provides information to the legislature.

Amendment No. 1 (H.J.R. 62)
The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a member of the armed services of the United States who is killed in action.
The proposed amendment authorizes the legislature to grant a property, or "ad valorem," tax exemption to the surviving spouse of a member of the United States armed services who is killed in action for all or part of the market value of their residence homestead. The amendment also provides that if a person who receives such an exemption subsequently qualifies a different property as a residence homestead, the surviving spouse is entitled to an exemption for the new home in an amount equal to the exemption received for the first homestead. Surviving spouses would only be eligible for the exemption if they have not remarried since the service member's death. The proposed amendment applies only to a tax year beginning on or after January 1, 2014.
Supporters say the surviving spouses of service members killed in action are as deserving as the surviving spouses of totally disabled service members, who were extended a property tax exemption just two years ago. Existing benefits for military widows and widowers can be inadequate, particularly for a newly-single parent. Although the cost of the exemption would be borne in part by local governments with taxing jurisdiction, the amendment would have only a small effect on individual local governments given the relatively small number of eligible surviving spouses and the average amount of Texas homeowner's property tax bill. While the effect on local governments would be small, the tax exemption would provide meaningful relief at a critical time of need.
Opponents have raised questions about the fiscal effect on local governments and whether the exemption would encourage surviving spouses in other states to move to Texas. There is also concern that the proposed amendment excludes other deserving populations and that if the legislature continues to expand the categories of property owners who receive property tax exemptions, local governments may have to raise property taxes on other property owners in order to generate the same amount of revenue.
You can view a complete list of the proposed constitutional amendments with analyses online at For more information regarding these propositions, you can contact my office by writing to P.O. Box 2910, Austin, TX 78768-2910 or by emailing me at My district office phone number is (903) 891-7297.

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