Capital Highlights: Eight proposed amendments on November ballot

By Gary Borders

The order has been drawn for eight proposed amendments to the much-amended Texas Constitution that will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot. The proposed amendments were approved by at least two thirds of both houses of the state Legislature. According to the Austin American-Statesman, they include:

• Allowing families to designate an “essential caregiver” to have access to loved ones in nursing homes and other long-term facilities. The issue came up when visitors were banned from such facilities during the pandemic.

• Banning all government entities – state, cities, counties, etc. – from limiting or preventing religious services, also an issue that arose during the pandemic.

• Providing property tax exemptions to spouses of soldiers killed in the line of duty.

• Barring attorneys whose law license has previously been suspended or revoked from serving as judges, and requiring district judges to be practicing lawyers for at least eight years. The minimum required now is four years.

• Allowing counties to issue bonds to finance transportation or other infrastructure projects in blighted or unproductive areas.

• Allowing the state’s professional rodeo associations to raise money through raffles, as other charities can do.

• Authorizing the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which investigates complaints against judges, to also oversee the conduct of judicial candidates.

• Allowing school taxes to continue to be reduced for those 55 and older upon the death of a spouse with a disability.

As the Statesman reported, Texas voters to date have approved 507 amendments, making the Texas Constitution one of the longest in the nation.

Advice on trees recovering 

As August arrives, landowners wondering about trees stricken during Winter Storm Uri in mid-February can quit wondering what to do about trees that are still completely bare: they are almost certainly not going to come back.

Specialists with the Texas A&M Forest Service, along with Neil Sperry, a widely known gardening and horticulture expert, teamed up last May to urge Texans to wait until mid-July before cutting down leafless trees. The vast majority of trees that were slow to leaf out have mostly recovered. 

Gretchen Riley, the Urban and Community Forestry Program Leader at Texas A&M Forest Service, said if a tree is bare and hasn’t put out a single leaf, it is almost certainly dead. This also applies to palm trees, which were especially hard hit by the storm.

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