TagTexas state legislature

Election legislation roundup: Texas State Legislature

As of May 21, members of the Texas State Legislature, which includes the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas State Senate, have passed two bills related to election administration since the beginning of the year. Of those two bills, legislators passed one during the week of May 15-21. A bipartisan group of legislators sponsored the bill. The bill is:   

  • TX SB2038: Relating to release of an area from a municipality’s extraterritorial jurisdiction by petition or election, click hyperlinked bill to see sponsors. 
    • Establishes that residents of an area with a population of less than 200 in the municipality’s extraterritorial jurisdiction may file a petition to be released from the extraterritorial jurisdiction.
    • Establishes that the owner or owners of a majority value of the land in a municipality’s extraterritorial jurisdiction may file a petition to be released from the extraterritorial jurisdiction.
    • Outlines petition requirements, including signature requirements and inclusion of a map.
    • Outlines administrative requirements for the municipal secretary upon receiving the petition, including signature verification and notification of residents.
    • Directs that if the petition meets requirements, the municipality must immediately release the area from extraterritorial jurisdiction.
    • Click the hyperlinked bill number above for more information.

Of the two bills passed this year, two have been enacted. This is two more than this point a year ago. A bipartisan group of legislators sponsored both bills. The bills are: 

  • TX SB2038: See above bullet point for more information.
  • TX SB1052: Relating to the compensation of an election judge or clerk, click hyperlinked bill to see sponsors. 
    • As introduced, this bill prohibits a judge or clerk from being paid for more than two hours of work before the polls open except for making changes to the list of registered voters at another polling place.

From May 15-21, legislators passed 11 bills related to election administration nationally. As of May 21, South Dakota legislators have passed the most bills this year with 17, while legislators in 20 states have passed none. The state with the most enacted bills is South Dakota with 16, while 22 states have enacted none.

The Texas State Legislature is scheduled to be in session from Jan. 10 to May 29 this year. In 2022, Texas legislators passed zero election-related bills. Texas is a Republican trifecta, meaning Republicans control the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature. 

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Texas Legislature sends property tax exemption for medical equipment and inventory to November ballot

The Texas State Legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment that would authorize the legislature to provide for a property tax exemption on equipment and inventory manufactured by medical or biomedical companies to the November ballot. The legislature also passed the enabling legislation, Senate Bill 2289 (SB 2289), which would take effect if the amendment is passed in Nov. 2023.

SB 2289 defines medical and biomedical property as “tangible personal property that is stored, used, or consumed in the manufacturing or processing of medical or biomedical products by a medical or biomedical manufacturer.” This would include devices, therapeutics, pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, instruments, implants, and manufacturing inventories, including finished goods.

This amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 87 (SJR 87) on March 10. To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67%) vote was required in both chambers. On April 13, the state Senate passed SJR 87 by a vote of 26-4 with one absent. On May 17, the state House passed SJR 87 by a vote of 125-10 with 14 not voting and one vacancy.

Sen. Joan Huffman (R-17) authored the amendment. The Texas Medical Center, Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute, Greater Houston Partnership, and Biotechnology Innovation Organization registered in support of the amendment when it was considered by the Senate Finance Committee. No organizations registered in opposition to it.

This is the fifth amendment to be referred to the November ballot. The state legislature has also voted to refer amendments related to issuing bonds for conservation districts in El Paso County; establishing a right to farming and ranching; increasing the mandatory retirement age for state judges and justices; and abolishing the office of Galveston County treasurer.

Between 1995 and 2022, Texans decided on 179 measures. Ballot measures related to taxes were the most common during that period with 41 measures followed by bonds (21) and measures related to the administration of government (16).

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Texans to vote on right to farm, ranch, timber production, horticulture, and wildlife management in November

The Texas State Legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment establishing a right to farm, ranch, timber production, horticulture, and wildlife management on a person’s owned or leased property to the Nov. 2023 ballot. The amendment states that the right does not preclude the state legislature from passing laws to regulate farming, ranching, timber production, horticulture, or wildlife management practices to protect public health and safety, prevent danger to animals or crop production, or preserve the natural resources of the state.

The amendment was proposed as House Joint Resolution 126 on Feb. 24, 2023. The amendment received no opposition votes in the legislature. The state House passed HJR 126 by a vote of 144-0 with six not voting on April 10. The state Senate passed HJR 126 by a vote of 31-0 on May 4.

The amendment was authored by Reps. DeWayne Burns (R-58), Dustin Burrows (R-83), Mary Gonzalez (D-75), Trent Ashby (R-9), and Diego Bernal (D-123). In the authors’ statement of intent included with the amendment, they wrote, “Farmers and ranchers who engage in production agriculture within municipal boundaries are being subjected to broad overregulation by municipal ordinances that prohibit and greatly restrict normal practices of agricultural operations, such as the raising and keeping of livestock, the production of hay, and the cultivation of certain row crops. H.J.R. 126 seeks to address this issue and empower landowners in the state by constitutionally protecting their right to engage in certain generally accepted agricultural practices on their own property.”

The Texas Farm Bureau, Texas Poultry Federation, Texas Landowners Council, Texas Forestry Association, and Texas Wildlife Association were among those that registered in support of the amendment.

Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance and the Humane Society registered in opposition to the amendment.

Texas passed a right-to-farm statute in 1981. The law limits the circumstances under which an agricultural operation may be considered a nuisance. Agricultural operations include soil cultivation, farming, animal feed, planting seeds, floriculture, viticulture, horticulture, silviculture, wildlife management, raising livestock, and grain storage facilities.

Two other states—Missouri and North Dakota—have adopted right-to-farm constitutional amendments. Voters in Missouri adopted the legislatively referred constitutional amendment in Aug. 2014 by a vote of 50.12% to 49.88%. North Dakotans adopted the citizen-initiated amendment in 2012 by a vote of 66.89% to 33.11%. In 2016, Oklahomans defeated a similar amendment placed on the ballot by the legislature by a vote of 60.29% to 39.71%.

In 2021, Maine approved a first-of-its-kind right to produce, harvest, and consume food amendment. It was approved with 60.84% of the vote.

In Nov., Texas voters will also be deciding on an amendment to authorize the state legislature to permit conservation and reclamation districts in El Paso County to issue bonds to fund parks and recreational facilities.

As of May 5, 36 constitutional amendments have received at least one vote by a chamber of the state legislature. Texas is one of 16 states that requires a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber during one legislative session to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot. During the 2021 legislative session, 18 constitutional amendments received at least one vote by a chamber with eight measures certified for the ballot. In 2019, 19 constitutional amendments received at least one vote with 10 measures ultimately making the ballot.

The state legislature is set to adjourn on May 29.

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