Constitutional Carry, Property Tax Clarity, Bills Moving

April 16, 2021

We have officially entered the busiest part of session where we spend the majority of the day on the House Floor to debate, amend, and pass legislation, while still attending committee hearings for the next several weeks. These long days get even longer when controversial bills are introduced. As one might imagine, this week's gun-related bills were the most contentious items up for discussion. 

The Texas House passed "constitutional carry" or "permitless carry" earlier today in a bipartisan 87-58 vote. HB 1927 will ensure that Texans who are lawfully able to carry a handgun are able to do so for personal protection and for the protection of their family. There has been quite a bit of misinformation surrounding this piece of legislation, so I want to make sure that a few things are clear:
  • It asserts the right of all law-abiding citizens age 21-and-older to carry a handgun in a holster in public places where it is not otherwise prohibited;
  • It maintains background checks that are required when you purchase a gun at a retail store;
  • It does nothing to affect laws related to the misuse of any firearm;
  • It does not affect the right of business owners and private property owners to exclude handguns on their property in the same manner they do today;
I was proud to vote for this bill that allows law-abiding adults the freedom to better protect themselves and their families and hope the Senate passes it so that it can become law.

Changing gears, many people have been reaching out to our office over the past week rightfully concerned that the sudden value increase in their homes will mean a nasty surprise come tax time. While there is no guarantee this won't happen, I would like to reintroduce you to a bill that became law last session that may very well keep many of you from having the kind of property tax increase you are fearing.

SB 2 from last session limits actual city and county property tax revenue growth to 3.5% UNLESS a higher amount is approved by voters (school district growth is limited to 2.5%). For example, if the overall property value increases by 8.5%, then the tax rate will automatically drop by at least 5% (to net a 3.5% increase). It's important to note that this controls the TOTAL increase, not an increase of each single property. I've included more information below. 

Finally, we've had plenty of movement on our bills this week, and I've included a brief update on the bills we advanced out of committee. I'm also excited to report that our bill finalizing the agreement between Midwestern State University and the Texas Tech System overwhelmingly passed the House. From here, Senator Springer will pick up the bill in the Senate and will no doubt carry it across the goal line. 

May God bless you and your family,
James B. Frank Signature
James B. Frank

Property Tax Clarification

A recent story in the Times Record News indicated that Wichita County property values were up, in total, nearly 8.5%. Of course, this means some properties will see increases significantly above that number while others will be much lower.

As we've discussed before, your property tax that you pay has two primary components: the value of your property (determined by the appraisal) and the rate for payment (set by the taxing entities--school district, city, and county). If the value goes up and the rate stays the same, your tax bill will go up. If the value goes up and the rate is reduced by an equal amount, your tax bill will stay the same. Rapidly increasing values, if not accompanied by rate reductions, have recently led to drastically higher tax bills for Texans. That is why the Legislature passed SB 2 last session to limit the amount of growth in property taxes across the state.

SB 2 capped increases for city and county taxes at 3.5%. That means that the amount of revenue raised by property taxes cannot increase by more than 3.5% in total year over year. So, in a year like this one where values have increased by 8.5% overall, our city and county governments can adopt reduced rates from last year to bring in the same level of revenue. In fact, because of the Legislature's actions last session, those rates will have to come down to get under the 3.5% cap.

Because there is some confusion around the issue I want to be clear. Your personal tax bill may see a greater increase than 3.5%. If your property value increases by a greater rate than the average, you will see a higher increase than 3.5%. Similarly, if it's lower than the average, it will be less than 3.5%.

You have the ability to protest the new value with the appraisal review board. You also have the ability to get in touch with your member of city council and your county commissioner to provide feedback on rate setting. If you need assistance determining who represents you at these local levels, my office will be happy to help.

Last year, we recorded a couple of videos to help explain the process, which you can watch here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).

Out of Committee

I'm pleased to report that four of our bills were voted out of their respective committees this week. I've talked about each of these bills before, but as a reminder:

HB 548 creates a faster pathway for military veteran physicians and nurses to receive a respective occupational license in Texas once they retire from active duty. 

HB 3691 makes several changes to improve implementation of the community-based care model that the legislature created in 2017. In particular, this bill makes it clear that the goal of community-based care is to strengthen and preserve families, thus preventing children from being unnecessarily placed into foster care. HB 3691 also calls for a clear focus on child welfare outcomes when evaluating how our community-based care providers are doing, rather than measuring inputs to the system.

HB 3752 would allow the Texas Mutual Insurance Company to offer a health insurance product to Texas residents and small businesses, including high-deductible catastrophic care or other innovative options. By bringing in additional competition and allowing Texans more choices, HB 3752 is one piece of the larger effort by the Legislature to make healthcare more accessible and affordable for all Texans, and give patients more control over their healthcare.

HB 4094 was requested by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to amend procurement rules. It's a pretty technical bill that essentially just makes it easier for DFPS to enter into contracts with various entities. 

Photo of the Week

MSU President Dr. Suzanne Shipley and Director of Government Relations Debbie Barrow stopped by the office to celebrate passage of our bill to make MSU the newest member of the Texas Tech System. Unfortunately I missed them as I was laying out a bill in the Public Health Committee at the time. 

Bill Tracker

COVID-19 Protocols at the Capitol

If you are planning to visit the Capitol during the next few months, I encourage you to contact my Austin office (512-463-0534) to get the latest updates on health and safety protocols before making the trip down.  The rules are constantly changing but are gradually heading toward normalcy once again. 

You may find the following information useful as your plan your visit:
  • My office is always open to constituents. 
  • The House Gallery will be open to the public at reduced capacity.
  • Committee hearings will be open to the public both in-person and virtually. 
  • There are no public tours, groups, or sponsored event spaces.
  • All visitors must enter the Capitol through the north door.
  • COVID-19 rapid testing is available prior to entering the Capitol (located outside, north of the building).
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