OPINION: Your choice: Constitutional amendments let voters decide our future

Government of the people, by the people, for the people isn’t an ethereal ideal reserved for the highest halls of national governance; it’s the overriding goal that should rule all aspects of the laws and policies under which we live. In addition to voting in and out officials who do or don’t seem to respect our wishes, we can march into commission meetings and directly voice our opinions on proposals and issues.

To that end, almost every legislative session state produces proposed amendments to the state Constitution.

During the regular legislative session that was held this spring, lawmakers came up with eight proposed amendments, and voters will decide Nov. 2 which of them they wish to enact into law. The last day to register to vote in that statewide referendum is Monday, Oct. 4.

We encourage all people who can vote to ensure that they are registered, and then plan to make their opinions known through the referendum.

Traditionally, the highest voter turnout comes for presidential elections, and that usually is a little more than 50% of eligible voters. Votes on proposed constitutional amendments usually is around 10% and sometimes even less.

People should be more involved in every election, but especially those addressing constitutional amendments and other policy matters, as they directly affect our rights, freedoms and taxation.

We should all be more knowledgeable about our state Constitution and more involved in determining its provisions.

The state Constitution isn’t like its national counterpart, which by design is short and general in nature, serving as a guideline for legislation that provides the details of governance. The state document is more detailed, addressing specific issues. Texas’ Constitution is one of the nation’s longest, and has more than 500 amendments, with eight more proposed measures awaiting voters’ acceptance or rejection.

One proposal on this year’s ballot, for example, would allow counties to issue tax revenue bonds in order to invest in blighted or unproductive property in hopes of future development. Some people might see this as a worthy investment, while others might not want their taxes used on such speculation. People can only offer their opinions at the ballot box, however.

Two items would extend tax exemptions to the surviving spouse of a person under certain conditions. Two are reactions to local officials’ actions during the COVID-19 pandemic. One would prohibit officials from applying any orders to places of worship, such as keeping them from holding services if they wish. The other would allow a person to designate a caregiver who could not be denied access. Nursing home residents, for example, could enable specific people to visit, even if a pandemic makes such a visit a health risk to that relative and others living and working in that facility.

Others are more specific, despite their intended placement in the Constitution; one would allow professional rodeo organizations to hold charity raffles at sanction rodeo events.

We encourage all eligible voters to ensure by Monday that they are registered to vote, and to begin informing themselves about the constitutional proposals. The results could have direct impacts on our rights and tax bills.