Texas voters to decide on amendment banning restrictions on religious gatherings and organizations in November – Ballotpedia News
The Texas state legislature on Tuesday voted to send back its first constitutional amendment in the November ballot. The amendment would add a section to the state constitution prohibiting the state or any political subdivision from issuing or promulgating a statute, order or rule prohibiting or restricting religious services, including religious services held in the churches.
The amendment was proposed in response to restrictions put in place requiring religious institutions to refrain from meeting in person in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Texas cities and counties have issued stay-at-home orders requiring religious gatherings to broadcast their services. On March 31, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott (right) issued an executive order that included âreligious services held in churches, congregations and places of worshipâ in the definition of âessential servicesâ.
Representative Scott Sanford (right), who voted in favor of the amendment, said: âChurches provide essential spiritual, mental and physical support in times of crisis. The closure of churches not only eliminated these critical ministries and services, but violated their religious freedom, guaranteed by our laws and our Constitution. “
Douglas Laycock, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, opposes the measure and similar bills being considered by lawmakers: “There are very few opportunities or reasons why it would ever be necessary to close a place of worship, but COVID is one of them. “
As of May 10, Ballotpedia has identified 10 measures on statewide ballots that have been proposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic and coronavirus-related regulations. On May 18, 2021, Pennsylvanians will decide on two constitutional amendments to the governor’s emergency powers, which have been a point of contention between the Republican-controlled legislature and Democratic Governor Tom Wolf during the pandemic. The other voting measures, to be decided in 2022, relate to changes in electoral procedures, the convening of state legislatures and the increase in emergency credit limits.
In Texas, to bring a constitutional amendment subject to the law to voters, a two-thirds majority vote (66.67%) is required in the Texas State Senate and the Texas House of Representatives. This requirement is equivalent to 100 votes in the House and 21 votes in the Senate.
The amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 27 on January 25, 2021. On March 25, 2021, the State Senate passed SJR 27 by 28 to 2 votes with one absent. All but two Democratic members voted in favor of the amendment. On May 11, 2021, the House approved the amendment by a vote of 108 to 33, of which nine did not vote or are absent. In the House, 27 Democrats joined the Republican majority and 33 Democrats were in the minority.
In the general election of November 3, 2020, Republicans retained control of the House and Senate. They maintained their 83-67 majority in the House and lost a Senate seat. The new Senate majority after the election was 18 to 13, meaning the support of at least three Democrats is needed to pass a constitutional amendment in the Senate.
During the 2021 legislative session, 218 constitutional amendments were tabled in the Texas State Legislature. Lawmakers were allowed to table constitutional amendments until March 12, 2021, unless permission was given to introduce an amendment after the deadline. Democrats tabled 92 (42.2%) of the constitutional amendments. Republicans tabled 126 (57.8%) of the constitutional amendments. The legislator has until May 31, the date of the adjournment, to return a measure to the ballot.
Since 1876, when the current constitution was adopted, it has been amended 507 times. Voters approved 91% (154 out of 169) and rejected 9% (15 out of 169) of the constitutional amendments on ballot papers between 1995 and 2019.