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On June 6, Governor Greg Abbott announced that a legislative special session would begin on July 18, 2017. In his announcement, Gov. Abbott identified 20 items that will be included on the special session call. The governor said, "Considering all the successes of the 85th legislative session, we should not be where we are today. A special session was entirely avoidable, and there was plenty of time for the legislature to forge compromises to avoid the time and taxpayer expense of a special session. As Governor, if I am going to call a special session, I intend to make it count."
Gov. Abbott indicated that after the Senate passes legislation extending the sunset date for the Board of Medical Examiners, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors, and the Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners, he would open the call to the other 19 issues.
The special session agenda items announced on June 6 included:
- Sunset legislation
- Teacher pay increase of $1,000
- Administrative flexibility in teacher hiring and retention practices
- School finance reform commission
- School choice for special needs students
- Property tax reform
- Caps on state and local spending
- Preventing cities from regulating what property owners do with trees on private land
- Preventing local governments from changing rules midway through construction projects
- Speeding up local government permitting process
- Municipal annexation reform
- Texting while driving preemption
- Prohibition of taxpayer dollars to collect union dues
- Prohibition of taxpayer funding for abortion providers
- Pro-life insurance reform
- Strengthening abortion reporting requirements when health complications arise
- Strengthening patient protections relating to do-not-resuscitate orders
- Cracking down on mail-in ballot fraud
- Extending maternal mortality task force
COMMENT'S ABOUT THE SPECIAL SESSION:
LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick issued a statement about the governor's special session call. Patrick said, "On Tuesday, Governor Abbott announced that he is calling the Texas Legislature back to Austin for a special session this summer, beginning July 18. Because the Speaker of the Texas House failed to vote out required legislation to ensure that the Texas Medical Board can continue to function and, since the state must have licensed doctors, that failure could result in a statewide crisis. However, remember the Chinese proverb - every crisis holds an opportunity. Bad management by the Speaker has created a crisis, but conservatives can seize this opportunity to pass some of the critical conservative legislation that the Texas House killed in the regular legislative session. Many of the issues the Governor wants to focus on in the special session were top priorities for me during the regular legislative session. Unfortunately, after passing the Senate, many important conservative bills were killed by the Texas House. Last week, Gov. Abbott said he believes the priorities of the Speaker of the Texas House are different from the priorities of the people of Texas. I agree. Still, for the good of our state, it is my hope that in the special session the Speaker will allow members of the Texas House to vote on all the conservative legislation Governor Abbott has put forward."
SPEAKER JOE STRAUS
Speaker Joe Straus also commented on the governor calling the special session in a Facebook post
, "I hope that members will take advantage of the next six weeks to spend time with their families after a long 140-day legislative session. The members of the House will return to the Capitol next month ready to put their constituents and the best interest of the state first. The House looks forward to resuming our work on school finance and other challenges facing this state."
TEXAS ASSOCIATION OF BUSINESS
Chris Wallace, President of Texas Association of Business, on behalf of the Keep Texas Open for Business Coalition commented on the "bathroom bill" being added to the special session call. He said, "The Governor has the prerogative of calling a special session to address issues he believes are important to Texans. Many of the issues Governor Abbott has listed for the special session will have a positive impact to the state. However, TAB is on record opposing discriminatory language such as HB 2899."
TEXAS MUNICIPAL LEAGUE
"The list of proposed topics for a special session represents an all-out assault on the ability of Texas voters to decide what's best for their communities and their neighborhoods. From proposed revenue caps, to spending caps, to tree ordinances, to texting while driving and more, no one has ever proposed such sweeping restrictions on local voters having a voice in shaping the character of their communities. Seventy-four percent of Texans live in our 1,215 towns and cities and the decisions they have made at the local level have put Texas cities at the top of the nation in success. Stifling their voices through an all-powerful, overreaching state government is a recipe for disaster," the Texas Municipal League announced.
SPECIAL SESSION PROCLAMATIONS
Governor Greg Abbott issued a special session proclamation on July 10th. The specific call says, "Legislation amending sections 151.004, 501.005, 502.003, 503.005, and 505.005 of the Texas Occupations Code to extend the expiration dates applicable to the Texas Medical Board, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors, and the Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners."
BILL SPONSORS: Senator Van Taylor and Rep. Larry Gonzales
- SB 20 extends the sunset dates to Sept. 1, 2019, has passed the Senate;
- SB 60 repeals appropriations contingency riders for Texas Medical Board and Board of Examiners of Psychologists, has passed the Senate;
- HB 1 extends the sunset dates to Sept. 1, 2019, was reported favorably without amendments from the House State Affairs Committee and will be on the House calendar for Monday, July 24, 2017; and
- HB 2 repeals appropriations contingency riders, was scheduled for a public hearing in the House Appropriations Committee on July 25, 2017 at 10 AM or upon adjournment in E1.030.
Several Additional Issues were listed in a supplemental proclamation that was issued upon Thursday morning's Senate passage of the Sunset legislation:
TEACHER PAY INCREASE OF $1,000
The specific call says, "Legislation to increase the average salary and benefits (including
) of Texas teachers; and legislation to provide a more flexible and rewarding salary and benefit system for Texas teachers."
Bill Sponsors: Representatives Travis Clardy, Joe Deshotel, and Richard Raymond
Gov. Abbott said, "Our teachers are some of the best in the country, but too many are choosing to work elsewhere because Texas lacks a competitive salary. To further ensure that our public schools attract and retain high quality teachers, we need legislation that supports our educators and provides administrators with more flexibility in compensating our teachers."
Rep. Travis Clardy commented, "Every Texas student deserves the opportunity for a quality education. That means we must have motivated teachers joining the ranks of the many outstanding professionals we have in Texas classrooms today. The first step to accomplishing that goal is providing competitive pay for our teachers while encouraging some of our best and brightest to work where our education needs are greatest. We must also give our school districts the tools they need to retain and reward our best teachers. I look forward to working with the Governor and my colleagues in the legislature to pass meaningful teacher compensation reform that restores the teaching profession to the honored and respected status it deserves with an increased focus on student outcomes."
- HB 198 establishes an average $1,000 pay raise by creating new teacher distinctions, establishes a Teacher Quality Allotment, and provides funding for the teacher pay raises and retention, was filed on July 18, 2017 and has been referred to the House Public Education Committee.
- SB 19 provides a salary increase and bonuses for teachers and addresses the Texas Public School Employees Group Insurance Program, was filed on July 20, 2017 and was scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Finance Committee on July 22, 2017.
The specific call says, "Legislation establishing a statewide commission to study and recommend improvements to the current public school finance system; and other legislation relating to school finance, including
Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction
Bill Sponsors: Senator Larry Taylor and Rep. Phil King
, "The school finance system in Texas is broken. That is why I have called for legislation to create a commission that will work throughout the interim on solutions to our failed Robin Hood program and craft serious reforms for our obsolete school finance system."
Senator Larry Taylor
, "By declaring our current school finance system constitutional, but in dire need of revision, the Texas Supreme Court has provided us with an unprecedented opportunity to fully reform our overly-complex school finance system. We must seize this opportunity to make real reforms and not just tinker with a system that so few really comprehend. Our legislation creating the
Texas Commission on Public School Finance
will bring together, during this interim, subject matter experts, legislators, and the education community to examine our current system, identify components that are outdated, inefficient, or inadequate, and develop recommendations for a 21st century education."
Rep. Phil King
, "While there have been many laudable attempts to address our broken school finance system, we've yet to reach consensus in the Legislature and enact real, substantive solutions into law. The problem is simply too complex, which is why we need a state commission - with representatives of the Governor and legislative leadership - to thoroughly study the issues, seek input from a wide array of stakeholders, and build consensus over the interim. I am proud to author legislation that will create the Texas Commission on Public School Finance so that we have a serious blueprint for school finance reform going into the next session."
- SB 16 would establish a commission to recommend improvements to the public school finance system, was scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Education Committee on July 21;
- HB 191, the House companion, was filed on July 18, 2017 and has been referred to the House Public Education Committee.
SCHOOL CHOICE FOR SPECIAL NEEDS STUDENTS
The specific call says, "Legislation to empower parents of children with special needs or educational disadvantages to choose an educational provider that is best for their child."
Senator Larry Taylor and Rep. Ron Simmons
said, "As elected officials, we have a responsibility to give our children every opportunity to succeed in the classroom. One size does not fit all when it comes to education, and parents of special needs children should have the option to choose the school that's best for their child's needs."
Senator Larry Taylor
added, "I believe no one understands a student's educational needs better than their parents. By creating a school choice program for students with special needs we are giving moms and dads and caregivers an opportunity to meet their child's unique needs regardless of their zip code. The limited student population eligible to take advantage of a school choice program represents 0.1% or 6,000 of 5.8 million Texas' students overall. The vast majority of parents of students with special needs are incredibly pleased with their current public school. However, we have heard testimony from a number of families that have been forced to fight their school for the services their child's needs and, in some cases, these protracted battles have lasted 6-8 years. This legislation will give those parents an option as well as other parents who may have access to a school that specializes in their child's special need."
Rep. Ron Simmons
concluded, "Texas should do everything within our power to provide parents of special needs children with the best education choices possible. I look forward to working with my legislative colleagues and Governor Abbott to make this hope a reality."
- HB 52 would give parents the flexibility to choose the school for their special needs child, including public, private, or homeschool and would allow funds to be used on educational therapy services; it was filed on July 10 and referred to House Public Education Committee.
- HB 58 would allow entities to make donations to educational assistance organizations, which can then be credited against the entities' insurance premium tax liabilities; it was filed on July 10, 2017 and has been referred to the House Public Education Committee.
- SB 2 establishes a tax credit scholarship and educational expense assistance program, was set for a hearing in the Senate Education Committee for July 21, 2017.
SPECIAL SESSION - ADDITIONAL ISSUES
PROPERTY TAX REFORM
The specific call says, "Legislation reforming the laws governing ad valorem property taxes."
Paul Bettencourt and Rep. Dennis Bonnen
Governor Greg Abbott
said, "Skyrocketing property taxes in this state are unacceptable, and Texans need reform right now. No government should be able to tax residents out of their home, and if we are going to work this summer at the taxpayer's expense, then let us work on relieving Texas homeowners from out-of-control property taxes."
Senator Paul Bettencourt
added, "It is time to recognize the obvious - when property values increase, tax rates should come down. Texans cannot continue to withstand property tax bills that are growing 2 1/3 times faster than their income. I look forward to working with Governor Abbott and Lt. Governor Patrick in the special session to pass meaningful property tax reform and relief for all Texas taxpayers and businesses."
Rep. Dennis Bonnen
said, "At a time when skyrocketing property taxes are rocking Texas homeowners, I am committed to working with the Governor to pass comprehensive property tax reform legislation. During the regular session, I was proud to author landmark property tax reforms that increased transparency, so that homeowners could see precisely who was raising their taxes - and dramatically reformed the appraisal protest process. I look forward to resuming this fight during the special session, and will introduce comprehensive property tax reform legislation that incorporates the sweeping reforms the Texas House passed last spring, as well as any other meaningful measures that will provide relief to Texas' overburdened homeowners.'"
- SB 1 is the Texas Property Tax Reform & Relief Act of 2017, was scheduled for a hearing in the new Senate Select Committee on Government Reform on July 22, 2017.
- Similar bills, SB 93 and SB 96 were also scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Select Committee on Government Reform on July 22, 2017.
- HB 3 reforms the appraisal appeal process and strengthens taxpayer rights and information and was filed on July 19, 2017; and
- HB 4 reduces the rollback rate from 8% to 5%; it was filed on July 19, 2017 and has been referred to the House Ways & Means Committee.
CAPS ON STATE & LOCAL SPENDING
The specific call says, "Legislation using population growth and inflation to establish a spending limit for state government; and legislation using population growth and inflation to establish a spending limit for political subdivisions."
Senator Kelly Hancock, and Representatives Tan Parker and Mike Schofield
said, "A key component to good governance is fiscal responsibility. By passing laws that ensure state spending does not exceed the growth rate of population and inflation, we can limit the size of government and control spending, while retaining the flexibility to meet the needs of our fastest growing communities."
Senator Kelly Hancock
commented, "In Texas, fiscal responsibility isn't just a catch phrase, it's a mandate from the people. While the Legislature was able to pass a conservative budget this year and cut spending by $200 million, this population and inflation spending cap bill looks ahead and provides permanent protection against sky-high government spending. Texans can't spend outside their budgets at home, and our government shouldn't be able to either. Texas can't afford to wind up like Washington, D.C."
Rep. Tan Parker
said, "Passing a state spending cap is vital to the long-term financial strength of our state and will ensure Texas continues to maintain its fiscal discipline for generations to come. As lawmakers, we must make certain our state government always operates at the lowest cost possible on behalf of the taxpayers who carry the load everyday."
Rep. Mike Schofield
concluded, "This legislation is designed to stop government from taking up a larger and larger percentage of the state's economy by preventing it from growing beyond its current size, allowing increases only for inflation and for the increased population of our state. I'll be working hard to make sure this vital legislation makes it across the finish line during the special session."
- HB 208 limits the growth in state spending to population growth and inflation, was filed on July 18, 2017 and has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.
- SB 9 sets the constitutional spending cap on population growth and inflation, was scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee on July 22, 2017.
- HB 41, a House companion to SB 9, was filed on July 10, 2017 and has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.
- HB 127, another companion to SB 9, was filed on July 12, 2017 and has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.
- SB 18 sets a spending limit for local governmental entities; It was filed on July 18 and scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Select Committee on Government Reform on July 22, 2017.
PREVENTING CITIES FROM REGULATING WHAT PROPERTY OWNERS DO WITH TREES ON PRIVATE LAND
The specific call states, "Legislation protecting the private property rights of land owners from political subdivision rules, regulations, or ordinances that interfere with, delay, or restrict private property owners' ability to use or enjoy their property."
Bob Hall and Rep. Paul Workman
Governor Greg Abbott
said, "Government has a responsibility to protect the rights of its citizens. Unfortunately, local governments throughout Texas are infringing on private property rights and prohibiting Texans from being able to do what they want with their own land. That is why I have added this item to my special session call, and I'm grateful to Senator Hall and Representative Workman for their efforts to end this regulatory overreach."
Senator Bob Hall
said, "Local tree ordinances blatantly violate individual property rights by saying that you don't actually own or control natural resources on property that you have purchased. This uncompensated taking of private property directly contradicts Article 1, Section 17 of the Texas Constitution and can increase the cost of housing in certain areas. I am pleased to partner with Representative Workman in offering legislation to recognize the property owner as the final authority on his or her own trees and prohibiting local governments from standing in the way of liberty and constitutional rights. It's time to take a stand against government overreach and for liberty by defending property rights. This bill will put local control back in the hands of property owners."
Rep. Paul Workman
concluded, "Local control is an effective tool for preserving individual liberties. Unfortunately, too many local governments have twisted the purpose of local control to strip more and more freedoms from their citizens. I am ready to get back to work in the upcoming special session to make sure Texans' freedoms are protected from government overreach."
- SB 14 would prohibit political subdivision rules, regulations and ordinances that interfere with a private property owner's right to plant, transplant, and remove trees and vegetation from their own property, was scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Business & Commerce Committee on July 22, 2017.
- HB 70, the House companion, was filed on July 10, 2017 and has been referred to the House Urban Affairs Committee.
SPECIAL SESSION - ADDITIONAL ISSUES
EXPEDITING LOCAL GOVERNMENT PERMITTING PROCESS
The specific call says, "Legislation expediting the issuance of permits by political subdivisions and reforming the laws governing the issuance of permits by political subdivisions."
Senator Konni Burton and Rep. Paul Workman
Governor Greg Abbott
said, "Some local governments are doing everything they can to overregulate, and in the process, stifle our economy and interfere with job creation. One way to end this regulatory overreach is by speeding up the permitting process so city bureaucrats can't drag out projects and drive up costs."
Senator Konni Burton
said, "If Texas' political subdivisions insist on robust permitting processes before development can occur in our state, then we must ensure that the process is efficient and completed in a timely manner. By setting basic expectations for the permitting process, we will make Texas an even more attractive place to do business. I committed to my constituents that I would take on government overreach, as well as regulations that stifle innovation and growth, and to this end, I look forward to working with the legislature and the Governor on smart permitting reforms."
concluded, "Once again, the City of Austin is using its police power to make businesses comply with their socialist agenda to turn Austin into San Francisco. They are doing this by making a person, simply wanting to get their building built, to accept their mandate to pay an artificial 'living wage' and hire a union front to harass the contractors and subcontractors building the project. Expedited permitting should be the normal way to get a permit, not the two-year process employed by the City of Austin to stop honest businesses from providing jobs."
- SB 13 limits the time for municipalities and counties to approve or deny a building permit and scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Business & Commerce Committee on July 22.
- HB 164, the House companion, was filed on July 14, 2017, but has not yet been referred to committee in the House.
PREVENTING LOCAL GOVERNMENTS FROM CHANGING RULES MIDWAY THROUGH CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS
The specific call says, "Legislation preventing political subdivisions from imposing on private property additional or enhanced regulations that did not exist at the time the property was acquired."
Senator Dawn Buckingham and Rep. Cecil Bell, Jr.
Governor Greg Abbott
said, "Local governments have gone well-beyond traditional land-use zoning ordinances and are now imposing rules on private property that severely limit a landowner's property rights. When new, stricter rules are enacted that limit the valuable development of land after the landowner has purchased the land, the new rules are nothing short of a taking of private property rights."
Senator Dawn Buckingham
added, "I look forward to working on property rights legislation to defend Texans from governmental overreach. I believe private property rights in Texas are sacred, and local governments should not be able to change the rules in the middle of the game. It's time to return some common sense to government regulation."
Rep. Cecil Bell, Jr.
concluded, "We have all seen or heard about those nightmarish situations where a property owner is confronted by a city ordinance that changes what they can do with their property. I am looking forward to working with Governor Greg Abbott during this special session to curb city ordinances that unduly infringe on the private property rights of Texans."
- SB 12 would prohibit cities and counties from enforcing an order or regulation adopted by the city or county that prohibits or restricts the use or development of real property that has been platted if the ordinance was not in effect on the date the owner acquired title to the property, is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Business & Commerce Committee on July 22, 2017.
- HB 188, the House companion, was filed on July 17, 2017 but has not yet been referred to committee in the House.
TEXTING WHILE DRIVING PREEMPTION
The specific call says, "Legislation preempting local regulation of the use of hand-held mobile communication devices while driving."
Senator Don Huffines and Rep. Craig Goldman
Governor Greg Abbott
said, "Now that Texas has passed a statewide texting while driving ban, I am calling for legislation that fully preempts cities and counties from any regulation of mobile devices in vehicles. We do not need a patchwork quilt of regulations that dictate driving practices throughout the state."
Senator Don Huffines
said, "Across the state of Texas, we're currently micromanaging drivers with a confusing and inconsistent mix of local ordinances. The rules of the road should be consistent across our great state, which is why we must get local regulators' hands off of hands-free ordinances. This is an important step to finish the job we started by banning texting while driving. Drivers may sometimes need a lifeline that they can legally use in an emergency or to communicate with family. That's why we need to stop sending mixed signals to drivers. I look forward to working with Governor Greg Abbott, Representative Craig Goldman, and our colleagues in the Legislature to make it clear that although drivers must put down the text when they're behind the wheel, they can still pick up the phone as a safer alternative."
Rep. Craig Goldman
concluded, "Texas drivers should not face a patchwork quilt of local regulations micromanaging how they use their mobile devices in their cars and trucks. Now that a statewide texting while driving ban has been enacted, these local ordinances should be preempted so that there is a single, uniform statewide standard and Texas drivers are not subjected to unnecessary traffic tickets just because they don't know every ordinance in every town and city across our great State."
- SB 15 preempts local regulation of the use of a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle, was scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Business & Commerce Committee on July 22, 2017.
- HB 171, the House companion, was filed on July 17, 2017 and has been referred to the House Transportation Committee.
The specific call says, "Legislation regarding the use of multi-occupancy showers, locker rooms, restrooms, and changing rooms."
BILL SPONSORS: Senator Lois Kolkhorst and Rep. Ron Simmons
, "To avoid a patch-work quilt of conflicting local regulations, Texas should establish a single statewide rule protecting the privacy of women and children. At a minimum, the legislature should pass a bill that protects the privacy of our children in public schools."
, "I was proud to lead the way in protecting women's and children's right to privacy during the 85th Legislative session. The overwhelming majority of Texans agree that privacy, safety and dignity must be preserved in public showers, locker rooms, dressing rooms and restrooms. I thank Gov. Abbott for his leadership and I look forward to crafting thoughtful privacy legislation with the governor and my fellow lawmakers on this sensitive issue."
, "Privacy and respect for all has always been a hallmark of our great State, and our citizens deserve a consistent workable policy that ensures the privacy and protection of our children and avoids a patchwork of inconsistent regulations across the state. The issue of privacy protection must be addressed the same in Houston as it is in Hutto and the same in Amarillo as in Austin. I look forward to working with Governor Abbott on this important issue in the special session. A strong majority of my colleagues joined me as coauthors in a similar version of this bill that was filed during the regular session, and I anticipate strong support during the special session as well. This legislation is about protecting our women and children through a consistent statewide policy, the same as existed in Texas before a patchwork of individual ordinances were created."
- HB 46 would prohibit political subdivisions from creating a protected class over and above what state or federal law provides, was filed on July 10, 2017;
- HB 50 would specify that no school district may create a protected class above what state or federal law provides, was filed on July 10, 2017 and has been referred to the House State Affairs Committee along with HB 46.
- SB 3 prohibits local regulation of bathrooms and changing facilities by political subdivisions, school districts, and open-enrollment charter schools, was scheduled for a hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee on July 21, 2017.
- A similar bill, SB 91, was also scheduled for a hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee on Friday, July 21, 2017.
An issue expected to be in the call, but was not included in the supplemental list of bills in the special session call released by Gov. Abbott on Thursday:
MUNICIPAL ANNEXATION REFORM
The specific call released in the draft list said, "Legislation reforming the authority of municipalities to annex territory, to exert control over territory, or to regulate the use of annexed land or land in a municipality's extraterritorial jurisdiction."
Donna Campbell and Rep. Dan Huberty
Gov. Greg Abbott
said, "Cities abusing their authority with forced annexation practices is nothing more than a form of taxation without representation. Cities that annex property without the approval from those affected is piracy by government, and it must end."
said, "Across Texas, we have seen years of tax abuse through forced municipal annexation. Forced annexation threatens the property rights of Texans, subjecting them to higher taxes and regulations that they did not consent to when they purchased their property. Last session, HB 424/SB 715 would have permitted property owners to have a say in whether or not their property could be annexed by these municipalities, consenting to the higher tax rates in these areas. In Texas, we have to remember that cities do not have a right to vote; citizens do. This bill would have prohibited taxation without representation that currently exists in some of the major metropolitan areas in Texas and allowed voters to have more control over their property."
said, "Our nation was founded on the right to determine who governs us, yet current law allows cities to determine who they will govern. This is backwards and it's why we need annexation reform. I applaud Governor Abbott for guaranteeing Texas citizens the right to vote as part of the annexation process, bringing greater accountability to local governments and limiting the appetite of big cities to tax, spend, and expand with no end in sight."
- SB 6 is the Texas Annexation Right to Vote Act and was scheduled for a hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee on July 23, 2017.
- HB 6, the House companion, was filed on July 18, 2017 and has been referred to the House Land & Resource Management Committee.
LT. GOV. PATRICK'S EDUCATION PLAN
On July 13, Lt. Gov. Patrick rolled out his education plan for the special session. The plan includes:
- Bonuses of between $600 and $1000 to long-term and retired teachers;
- Additional funding for small and rural school districts; and
- Additional facilities funding for fast-growth school districts and charter schools.
Speaker Joe Straus
commented on the Lt. Governor's plan
, "It's encouraging to see the Lieutenant Governor's newfound focus on school finance reform. Nothing could be more important in this special session than beginning to fix our school finance system so that we improve education, keep more local dollars in local schools, and provide real property tax relief, just as the House overwhelmingly approved in the regular session."
The Senate was in session July 18-20 last week week. On July 18, they put the sunset bills on the fast track -
by Van Taylor extends the sunset date on the
Board of Medical Examiners
and other health care licensing agencies to Sept. 1, 2019; and
, also by Van Taylor, removing appropriations contingency riders for sunset bills that did not pass in the regular session.
There was opposition from the Democrats to suspending the rules for the Business & Commerce Committee to immediately take up the bills. Rules suspensions for committee hearings are routine in the Senate; however, suspension of the so called "tag rule" which a Senator can place on a bill to prevent it from being taken up in committee for 48 hours, is rare. Ultimately the posting and tag rules were suspended along party line votes of 20-11. The bills were then heard in the Senate Business & Commerce Committee and voted out on July 21.
Senator Jose Rodriguez
commented on suspension of his "tag" on
saying, "Although I tagged SB 20 to give the public sufficient notice and an opportunity to participate in the hearing, the Senate voted, strictly along party lines, to retroactively suspend Rule 11.19. This is unprecedented. In reviewing the Senate records, we could not find any instance where a member invoked his or her right, and the body subsequently voted to retroactively suspend the rule and take away that individual member's right. The tag rule has been in place and respected by the Senate since at least 1939. Once invoked, the Senate should not be able to retroactively destroy the right it creates. This is much bigger than any one Senator's desire to have more time to consider a bill. This rule serves the public, which has a right to stay informed and participate in the legislative process. That is almost impossible when we suspend all of our rules to hear a bill that has just been introduced."
Also on July 21, Lt. Gov. Patrick appointed the
Senate Select Committee on Government Reform
composed of Senators Paul Bettencourt, Chair, Brandon Creighton, Kelly Hancock, Eddie Lucio, Jr., Carlos Uresti, Van Taylor, and Charles Perry.
On July 22, the Senate passed SB 20 and SB 60 to Third Reading and adjourned. Then, they re-convened at 12:01 on Thursday morning to give both bills final approval. The governor immediately opened the call to the supplemental items, and bills addressing issues in the expanded call were referred to Senate committees, which are holding hearings on them Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
The Senate re-convened on Monday, July 24, 2017 at 9:00 AM.
The House was in session July 18-20 conducting routine business and referring bills.
Next Week: The House will re-convene on Monday, July 24, 2017 at 2:00 PM. House Calendars Committee Chairman Todd Hunter announced that HB 1 by Larry Gonzales, the sunset extension bill, will be on the House calendar on Monday. Proposed amendments must be pre-filed with the chief clerk by 2:00 PM on Sunday.
COMPTROLLER'S REVISED REVENUE ESTIMATE
On July 17,
Comptroller Glenn Hegar
released his estimate of revenue available for the 85th Legislature, First Called Session. He said, "Following actions by the 85th Legislature, Regular Session, including appropriations for supplemental items, as well as appropriations made for the 2018-19 biennium; the approval, veto, or line item veto of certain items by the Governor; and updated projections by my office for revenue collections in the current fiscal year and the 2018-19 biennium, an estimated $42 million, of $108.8 billion available for general-purpose spending, remains unappropriated."
Hegar's Biennial Revenue Estimate
(BRE), which he released in January, projected $104.9 billion available for general-purpose spending by the 85th Legislature, Regular Session. Various actions taken by the Legislature resulted in an overall increase in available revenue. The new revenue estimate also takes into account stronger than expected sales tax collections. However, his revised predictions indicate that franchise tax collections for this fiscal year will finish below BRE projections, substantially reducing remaining revenue available for certification.
KEEP TEXAS OPEN FOR BUSINESS
On Monday, a group of business leaders and tourism officials gathered at the capitol to urge lawmakers to reject efforts to pass a "bathroom bill." Phillip Jones, President & CEO of VisitDallas said, "Wholly unnecessary and highly discriminatory legislation is threatening Texas' reputation as open and welcoming for businesses and families. The pursuit of a bathroom bill represents a willful disregard for those vulnerable people and for businesses, workers and communities across our state. The economic costs are already being felt and they cut to the heart of our tourism industry, our small businesses and everyday Texans working to make ends meet."
The group presented data tracked by Texas Welcomes All, indicating that $66 million in conventions have already been cancelled in Austin, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and Arlington. Jones added, "That's almost 38,000 hotel room nights. An additional $205.2 million in conventions have told us they will cancel if a bathroom law passes, totaling another 167,000 hotel nights. And, a further $1.5 billion is on the line, with conventions and events that have said they're on the fence, that's another 423,000 hotel nights across the state."
Phil Gilbert, Global Head of Design for IBM also weighed in saying, "A global company with over 10,000 employees here in Texas, IBM stands firmly against any discriminatory legislation that would hurt our ability to attract and retain talent in the state. Diversity and inclusion are longstanding values of IBM, and those values go hand-in-hand with innovation. We want to continue to see a world-class pipeline of innovators and thinkers who are excited to put down roots in Texas, and discriminatory measures like bathroom bills put that at risk. IBM is going straight to the legislature to make our case that these types of laws are bad for business and bad for Texas."
PROPERTY TAX APPRAISAL REFORM
Senator Jane Nelson filed
reforming the property tax appraisal process. Sen. Nelson
, "Homeowners in Texas are shouldering a significant share of the tax burden. We need to reduce this burden and ensure that taxpayers are treated fairly in the appraisal process. This legislation will strengthen the rights of taxpayers and make the appraisal process fair, accountable and more transparent," SB 21 would amend the Tax Code to:
- Increase education requirements for Appraisal Review Board (ARB) members and arbitrators and require the Comptroller to establish and supervise a training program for arbitrators;
- Expand ways for taxpayers to provide feedback of their experience with the ARB;
- Establish term limits for ARB members in larger counties; and
- Prohibit ARBs from raising a property's appraised value above the amount in the notification and require that protest hearing orders be issued within 15 days.
Advocacy initiatives are made possible with support from:
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