Texas voters will decide in November whether to allow counties to issue bonds to fund infrastructure in blighted areas

On May 28, the Texas State Legislature voted to refer a constitutional amendment that would add counties to the list of political subdivisions that may issue bonds to fund transportation and infrastructure projects in underdeveloped or blighted areas of the county. Currently, the Texas Constitution states that the legislature by general law may authorize incorporated cities and towns to issue such bonds. The proposed amendment would also prohibit counties from allocating more than 65% of property tax revenue increases annually to repay the bonds and prohibit counties from using the funds from the issuance of the bonds to build toll roads.

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

This amendment was filed as House Joint Resolution 99 (HJR 99) on February 24, 2021. On May 13, 2021, the state House passed HJR 99 in a vote of 127-15, with eight absent or not voting. On May 26, the Senate approved an amended version of HJR 99 by a vote of 27-4. On May 28, the House voted to pass the amended version of HJR 99 by a vote of 126-13 with 11 absent or not voting.

The amendment is the eighth referred to the ballot during the 2021 legislative session, which adjourned on May 31. In November, Texas voters will also be deciding on

  1. limitations on religious services;
  2. a right to a designated essential caregiver in a nursing facility;
  3. homestead tax limits and exemptions for surviving spouses of disabled individuals and military service members;
  4. eligibility requirements for state judicial office;
  5. the power of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct over candidates seeking judicial office; and
  6. charitable raffles at rodeo venues.

During the 2021 legislative session, 218 constitutional amendments were filed in the Texas State Legislature. Legislators were permitted to file constitutional amendments through March 12, 2021, unless permission was given to introduce an amendment after the deadline.

• Democrats filed 92 (42.2%) of the constitutional amendments.

• Republicans filed 126 (57.8%) of the constitutional amendments.

• In the state Senate, 58 (26.6%) of the constitutional amendments were filed.

• In the state House, 160 (73.4%) of the constitutional amendments were filed.

• Of the Democrats, Rep. Richard Raymond (D-42) filed the most constitutional amendments—eight.

• Of the Republicans, Rep. Cody Vasut (R-25) filed the most constitutional amendments—seven.

Eight proposed constitutional amendments that received a vote in at least one chamber died with the adjournment of the legislative session. The amendments related to extending emergency declarations, property tax exemptions for certain physicians, the issuance of bonds, the reliability of state utilities, denial of bail for certain crimes, and the state budget. 

Between 2009 and 2020, 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 2021, 8 of the 218 proposed constitutional amendments were certified for the ballot, meaning the rate of certification was 3.7%, down from 4.6% in 2019.

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