Texas voters will decide changes to the homestead tax exemption for surviving spouses of military service members

On May 23, the Texas State Legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment that would authorize a total residence homestead property tax exemption for a surviving spouse of a member of the armed services “who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty.” Currently, the constitution grants the exemption to the surviving spouse of a member of the armed services “who is killed in action.” The amended language would include service members who are killed or fatally injured during military training or other military duties. The amendment would take effect on January 1, 2022.

In 2013, Texas voters first authorized the state legislature to grant exemptions for the surviving spouse of a service member killed in action with the approval of Proposition 1. The amendment was passed with 86.98% of voters favoring it and 13.01% of voters opposing it. At the time of Proposition 1’s approval, Section 1-b, Article VIII of the Texas Constitution allowed for various property tax exemptions on the homes of disabled veterans and their surviving spouses but did not previously grant such exemptions for the surviving spouses of service members who were killed in action.

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote is required in both the Texas State Senate and the Texas House of Representatives.

This amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 35 (SJR 35) on February 8, 2021. On April 8, 2021, the state Senate passed SJR 35 in a vote of 29-1, with one absent. On May 23, 2021, the House approved SJR 35 in a vote of 144-0 with six not present or not voting.

During the 2021 legislative session, 218 constitutional amendments were filed in the Texas State Legislature. Between 2009 and 2019, an average of 192 constitutional amendments were filed during regular legislative sessions. The state legislature approved an average of nine constitutional amendments during regular legislative sessions. Therefore, the average rate of certification during regular legislative sessions was 4.7%. In 2019, 10 of the 216 proposed constitutional amendments were certified for the ballot, meaning the rate of certification was 4.6%.

The Texas State Legislature is set to adjourn on May 31.

Additional reading: