With just 14 days left until the 86th Texas Legislature adjourns, the top two issues for the most powerful elected state officials - property taxes and school finance - are headed to conference committees where groups of appointed members of the House and Senate will work to iron out the final details of the bills.
||The "Big Three" - Lt. Gov. Patrick, Gov. Abbott, and Speaker Bonnen
The "Big Three" - Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen - have been touting reforms on these two issues in one form or another since before the session began in January. While both the House and Senate chambers have approved property tax and school finance reform bills, they passed different versions whose differences need to be reconciled in a conference committee before a final bill can be sent to Gov. Abbott for signature and final approval.
The biggest news last week was that the Senate approved House Bill 3, which is the school finance bill that originated in the House, on a 26-2 vote. Most notably, the bill passed without a provision favored by Abbott that would increase the state sales tax rate by one percent and use the revenue to lower school district property taxes. While the measure passed by the House has no relationship to sales taxes, the bill ties property tax reform to public school districts, which comprise the largest share of the state's revenue from property taxes.
Meanwhile, the House has passed Senate Bill 2, the vehicle for property tax reform, but it passed with some variation on the bill that originated in the Senate. The main provision in the bill would require cities, counties, and and emergency service districts to hold an election to approve raising 3.5% more property tax revenue than the previous year. The details of exactly when such "rollback elections" would be triggered still need to be negotiated between the House and Senate in conference committee.
House Speaker Bonnen and Lt. Gov. Patrick have appointed five members each to negotiate the final details of House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 2 in conference committee. Members have also been appointed to confer on the final details of the state's two-year budget contained in House Bill 1. The conferees are as follows:
House Bill 1 (Budget)
House: Rep. Zerwas (Chair); Rep. Greg Bonnen; Rep. Sarah Davis; Rep. Longoria; Rep. Walle
Senate: Sen. Nelson (Chair); Sen. Huffman; Sen. Kolkhorst; Sen. Nichols; Sen. Taylor
Senate Bill 2 (Property Tax Reform)
Senate: Sen. Hancock (Chair); Sen. Bettencourt; Sen. Creighton; Sen. Hinojosa; Sen. Perry
House: Rep. Burrows (Chair); Rep. Canales; Rep. Guillen; Rep. Murphy; Rep. Noble
House Bill 3 (School Finance Reform)
(Chair); Rep. Ashby; Rep. Bernal; Rep. Mary Gonzalez; Rep. Ken King
Senate: Sen. Taylor (Chair); Sen. Campbell; Sen. Nelson; Sen. Watson; Sen. West