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Capitol Watch: Proposed constitutional amendments
By State Representative Larry Phillips
Sep 28, 2017
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This week’s column is the sixth in a series outlining the seven proposed constitutional amendments on which Texas voters will decide on November 7, 2017.  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.

PROPOSITION 6 (SJR 1)

"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 first responder who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty."

Texas Constitution requires that all real and tangible personal property be taxed in proportion to its value unless exempted under the Constitution. Proposition 6 would amend the Texas Constitution to allow the Legislature to entitle the surviving spouse of a first responder who was killed or fatally injured in the line of duty to a property tax exemption of all or part of the market value of the spouse's residence homestead, if the spouse had not remarried. If the surviving spouse moved to a new homestead after receiving an exemption, the Legislature could entitle the spouse to an exemption on the new homestead equal to the dollar amount of the exemption for the previous homestead in the last year in which it was received.  If approved by voters, the amendment would take effect January 1, 2018, and would apply only to a tax year beginning on or after that date.

Supporters say Prop 6 would extend the same well-deserved property tax exemption given to surviving spouses of veterans and disabled veterans to surviving spouses of first responders. The spouse of a fallen first responder loses a source of income, which can jeopardize his or her ability to pay property taxes and may ultimately affect the ability of surviving spouses to maintain their homesteads. Prop 6 would help ensure that families in these situations were not forced to sell their homes due to this sudden property tax burden. The tax exemption would be appropriate considering the significant sacrifices made by these families.

Those opposed to Prop 6 say it would continue a pattern of giving tax exemptions to specialized groups, when instead the Legislature should focus its efforts on reducing the aggregate property tax burden. Exempting a specific category of people, regardless of how deserving, results in an increased tax burden on other homeowners.

You can contact my office by writing to P.O. Box 2910, Austin, TX 78768-2910 or by emailing me at larry.phillips@house.texas.gov.

My district office phone number is (903) 891-7297.