February 25, 2019

Join the Plano Chamber of Commerce on the first Wednesday of the month from 7:30-9am for our monthly Public Policy Committee meeting. This committee discusses legislation and issues that affect the business community. Committee meetings are open to all members in good standing. CLICK HERE for more details. 

Collin County Days will be held March 26-27, 2019 at the Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel in Austin, TX. CLICK HERE for more information and to reserve your hotel room. 

CLICK HERE to view the bills we are tracking this session. 

The Plano Chamber works tirelessly to identify the issues of highest priority to our business community and to act on their behalf.  View the Legislative Priorities  for the 86th Texas Legislative Session for more details.

The Senate was in session Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of last week conducting routine business. On Wednesday, they recessed until Thursday for first reading and referral of bills to committees.
This Week: The Senate will reconvene at 3:00 p.m. on Monday, February 25, 2019. 

The House was in session on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week conducting routine business.
House Freedom Caucus - On Tuesday, the Tea Party-affiliated Texas House Freedom Caucus held a press conference to announce their agenda for the session. Caucus Chair Mike Lang (R-Granbury) said, "During the interim over 1000 people at the grassroots sent us their priorities. We went through the priorities and condensed them to about 7 or 8 priorities. It's time for conservatives to get with our colleagues and start governing."
Representative Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) discussed property tax reform and public school finance reform saying, "Many of us personally know constituents who have had to move out of their homes and into apartments." He then aligned the caucus with school finance reform and merit-based teacher pay. He further restated the caucus' pro-life stance.
Representative Mayes Middleton (R-Wallisville) spoke in favor of open carry legislation and "stopping illegal voting," urging paper trails in the election booth. He also committed the caucus to defending "religious freedoms," and opposing "taxpayer-funded lobbying," claiming it was being used to quash property tax reform.
Representative Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) discussed border security characterizing it as a "federal responsibility but a Texas problem." He cited statistics indicating that 10,000 illegal immigrants were detained at the Texas/Mexico border last week, and he threw the caucus' support behind both state funding on the issue as well as President Donald Trump's initiatives to build a border wall.
Other House Members in the House Freedom Caucus are Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg), Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park), Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth), Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford), Valoree Swanson (R-Spring), Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington), and Bill Zedler (R-Arlington).
House Democratic Caucus' Texas Kids First Plan - On Thursday, the Texas House Democratic Caucus announced its "Texas Kids First Plan" linking school finance reform and property tax reform. House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie) said, "This plan will provide as much as $14.5 billion more in state dollars for public schools, lower property taxes for homeowners, expand mental health care access for students seeking help, and give a meaningful pay raise to Texas teachers and support staff. This substantial increase in state spending should reduce the pressure to increase property taxes at the local level. Our vision for public education is a vision we share with parents across the state. We want our children to have the best education possible. We want teachers and support staff to be paid a fair wage. We want a system that puts Texas kids first." The plan includes funding recommendations and proposed policy changes.

Texas Kids First Plan - Funding Recommendations:

Classroom Improvements: $8.75 billion in GR (Two-Years)
  • Full day pre-K ($1.6 billion)
  • Increase basic allotment to $5,400 ($2.8 billion)
  • More money for economically disadvantaged students ($2.2 billion)
  • Investment in special education students ($1.8 billion)
  • Increase investment in English language learners ($200 million)
  • More money for school facilities, prioritizing pre-K facilities ($150 million) 
    • Note: the increased investments should reduce the impact of recapture
Teacher Compensation: $3.78 billion in GR, $1.75 billion in ESF (Two-Years)
  • Payraises for all teachers and support staff ($2.56 billion)
  • $100/month increase for health care premiums ($1.05 billion)
  • Hold districts harmless for health costs related to pay raises ($174 million)
  • Fully stabilize the Teacher Retirement System ($1.57 billion from ESF)
  • $500 check to teachers for classroom supplies ($180 million from ESF)
Ending Gun Violence in our Schools: $212 million in GR
  • Hire behavioral health professional for every school campus ($212 million)
Double Homestead Exemption to $50,000: $1.7 billion in GR (One-Year)
  • Provides average tax cut of $325 to every Texas homeowner
Texas Kids First Plan: Proposed Policy Changes

Classroom Improvements:
  • Strict review of the state's testing accountability system, and fight outcomes-based funding that is directly tied to more money based on student to test scores
  • Direct increased funds to assist with transportation and technology needs
  • Limited purpose sunset review (not abolishment) of Texas' special education programs
  • Ensure disciplinary policies and codes of conduct are not subjective or lead to discrimination or prejudice
Teacher Compensation:
  • Creation of a "Legacy Fund" that redirects extra money in the Rainy Day Fund into an account that can be invested in the Teachers Retirement System
 School Safety:
  • Support facilities improvements such as secure doors and better lighting in schools
  • Provide on-campus mental health and reimbursement under Medicaid for eligible kids
  • Allow social workers to collaborate with school administrators and other school professionals in order to enhance students' learning environments
Doubling the Homestead Exemption - Implemented in Fiscal Year 2021, this proposal would be an additional $1.7 billion cost to the state for the coming two-year budget cycle, and provide Texas homeowners with an average annual tax cut of $325. The proposal to double the homestead exemption would be in addition to the expectation that if the state increases its share of public education investment, there would be reduced pressure by local governments to raise property taxes.
This Week:   The House will reconvene at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, February 25, 2019. 

On Tuesday, the House Business & Industry Committee heard invited testimony.  Texas Association of Manufacturers (TAM) president Tony Bennett discussed TAM's legislative priorities for a competitive manufacturing economy. He recommended:
  • Preserve property tax abatements by renewing Chapters 312 and 313 of the Tax Code.
  • Conform the Texas franchise tax to federal acquisition regulations for Department of Defense contracts.
  • Increase workforce educational opportunities through applied and experiential learning, CTE, dual credit and project-based learning.
  • Support full funding of Texas State Technical College's outcomes-based funding formula and for community college's "success points" initiative.
  • Support Texas Workforce Commission funding for the Internship Challenge Program, JET Fund, Skills Development Fund, and the Statewide Student Outreach/Marketing Campaign.
Other witnesses:  included representatives of Texas Association of Business, San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, Austin Chamber of Commerce, Texas Chemical Council, TechNet Texas, Expedia, Department of Information Resources, State Auditor's Office, Independent Bankers Association of Texas, and Texas Bankers Association.

On Wednesday, the House Public Health Committee held an organizational meeting and heard invited testimony from representatives of:
  • Texas State Anatomical Board
  • Texas Health Services Authority
  • Health Professions Council
  • Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation
  • Health and Human Services Commission
  • Department of State Health Services
Texas Mental & Behavioral Health Research Institute - On Wednesday, House Public Health Committee Chair Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), a former public school teacher, filed legislation to make Texas schools safer by improving the mental and behavioral health of Texas children. Her proposal, HB 10, calls for the creation of the Texas Mental & Behavioral Health Research Institute to be funded with voter approved bonds. It is modeled in part after the Cancer Research Institute of Texas. The Texas Mental & Behavioral Health Research Institute (TMBHRI) would focus on increasing the number of mental and behavioral health care providers for children, rapid delivery of care, and mental and behavioral health focused research. Chair Thompson said, "The program's research would be administered statewide through the state's medical schools, other health related Institutions, and their public-private partners to tackle one of the most important assets of our state's future - our children," Specifically, HB 10 would:
  • increase the number of child and adolescent psychiatrists and specialized nurses across the state;
  • create a telemedicine program to rapidly connect pediatricians and school health providers with trained mental health providers; and
  • create a state funded Texas Mental and Behavioral Health Care Research Institute to develop cures and treatments.
Chairman Thompson added, "This legislation will place Texas on the leading edge in school safety through mental and behavioral health research." To fund the program, Thompson has also filed HJR 5 calling for statewide voter approval of a multi-billion dollar bond fund which can draw down matching federal dollars. Thompson concluded, "Texans' are all too familiar with the tragedies of mental and behavioral health illness. From school shootings, to homelessness, to some of our own family members and friends who struggle with addiction and mental illness. Much like CPRIT is bringing success to Texas in fighting cancer, the Texas Mental & Behavior Health Research Institute (TMBHRI) will do the same with making a healthier state of mind and safer schools for our children. It deserves to be our top priority."

On Wednesday, the House Higher Education Committee held an organizational meeting and heard invited testimony from two panels, one on community colleges and one on emerging research universities.

Community Colleges - Panelists were:
Dr. William Coppola , president, Tarrant County Community College, said his college focuses on university transfer programs, workforce education programs, developmental courses, adult literacy courses, continuing education and community services, affordability, and community and workforce partnerships.
Dr. Richard Rhodes , president, Austin Community College, talked about ACC's role in early college high schools targeting first generation college students and minority populations; and ACC's 10-step process in applying for a baccalaureate degree in nursing, which started last fall with 28 students all of whom work at either Seton or St. David's hospital and are LVN' studying toward a BSN degree.
Dr. Mark Escamilla , president, Del Mar College, said his institution offers associate degrees in over 42 university transfer majors and offers certifications and marketable skills achievement awards in more than 193 occupational fields.
Dr. Robert Riza , president, Clarendon College, said his institution has doubled its dual credit offerings mostly on-line due to the distance between small rural districts. Local foundations help support the dual credit cost to free- and reduced-lunch students. He also touted success in developmental education in the past four years after implementing the co-requisite model, increased focus on advising, and faculty and peer tutoring.

Expanding Research Capabilities - Panelists were:
Dr. Vistasp Karbhari , president, University of Texas at Arlington, said her university has the R1 Carnegie Classification; has 15 fellows from the National Academy of Inventors (the most of any Texas institution); is the 5th fastest growing national university; 56 percent of the students are transfer students; 54 percent are first generation undergraduate students; and 11 percent are military veterans. They focus on building the pipeline with partnerships with community colleges through structured pathways and articulation agreements and with the Arlington ISD's Science and Teacher Academies.
Dr. Richard D. Benson , president, University of Texas at Dallas, gave background information on Emerging Research Universities. In 2009, the Texas legislature targeted 7 emerging research universities for incentive funding to reach "Tier 1" research status through the Texas Research Incentive Program (TRIP) and the National Research University Fund (NRUF). Note: the current TRIP backlog of State matching funds is $182.5 million. He reported that UT Dallas has focused on conducting research that aligns with the high-tech focus of the Metroplex; almost 90 percent of graduates are in the STEM and management fields; and UT Dallas entered into R1 Carnegie Classification in 2015.
Neal Smatresk , president, University of North Texas, reported that UNT first achieved Tier One status in February, 2015. In the last decade, UNT has become a research hub for plant science, renewable energy technologies, bioproducts, computational research, materials science and engineering, and logistics.
Paula Myrick Short , senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, University of Houston, told the committee that U of H's research expenditures increased from $84 million in 2008 to $177 million in 2018; their 4-year graduation rate increased 36.3 percent and the 6-year graduation rate increased 59.4 percent between 2013 and 2018; total credit hours at graduation decreased from 151 in 2007 to 141 in 2017 saving students $6.8 million in tuition and fees; and its areas of research expertise are drug discovery and development, cyber and physical security, sustainable communities and infrastructure, and accessible healthcare.

Public Information Act - On Thursday, Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) filed SB 943, and Representative Giovanni Capriglione HB 2189 related to transparency in state and local government contracting. Senator Watson said, "Last session, a bi-partisan coalition came together to close loopholes that two Texas Supreme Court rulings created, but we were stonewalled by a committee chairman who refused to give the bills a vote. This session we're coming back with an even larger and more diverse coalition with a proposal that protects businesses' proprietary information without sacrificing the public's right to know how their tax dollars are spent. Last session's bills sought to return the Public Information Act to the way it had been interpreted by the Attorney General's Office for decades. This session, we are taking a different approach that addresses businesses' legitimate concern in protecting proprietary information. We remain committed to ensuring the public can obtain key information about the deals that state and local governments make in the public's name." Representative Capriglione added, "Month after month, year after year, in Texas we have seen the erosion of the public's right to know. Bad actors have used legal loopholes to hide their contracts with government entities. Over the past two years we have worked diligently with a variety of stakeholders to find common ground to create this legislation. I look forward to working with the public and other members of the Legislature to bring our 'sunshine' laws back to where they deserve to be."
Specifically, SB 943/HB 2189 would:
  • Create a new exception for contractors' proprietary information, ensuring that, even with the new exception, the public can obtain key contract terms (overall price and deliverables) and information indicating whether or not a contractor performed its duties under the contract;
  • Require specific contractors that are truly intertwined with government to respond to PIA requests they receive about their government work; and
  • Require other contractors that receive large government contracts to maintain information about the contract and share it with the governmental body when the governmental body receives a PIA request for that information.
Sunshine Coalition - The Sunshine Coalition includes the Texas Public Policy Foundation, ACLU Texas, the League of Women Voters of Texas, and other organizations.

On Tuesday, the House Public Education Committee took up:
HB 55 by Mary Gonzalez (D-El Paso) would limit the pre-kindergarten instructor/student ratio to 11-1 for classes of 16 students or more or at least one certified teacher or teacher's aide per class for smaller classes. It was left pending.
HB 102 by Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) would make several changes to teacher mentoring statutes including:
  • requiring mentor teachers to demonstrate interpersonal skills, instructional effectiveness, and leadership ability;
  • requiring school districts to provide training that includes content related to best mentorship practices to mentor teachers and other district and campus employees that work with classroom teachers;
  • requiring mentor teachers to meet with each classroom teacher assigned to the mentor at least once a week for at least 45 minutes;
  • requiring school districts to schedule release time or a reduced teaching load for mentor teachers to facilitate mentoring activities;
  • instituting a mentor program allotment for school districts that have implemented a mentoring program for classroom teachers who have less than two years of teaching experience to fund the mentoring program and provide stipends for mentor teachers with the amount of the formula determined by the commissioner; and
  • requiring teachers that are assigned as a mentor to agree to serve as a mentor teacher for at least two school years.
  • It was left pending.
HB 108 by Mary Gonzalez (D-El Paso) would require the Commissioner of Education to establish a pilot program for participating school districts to implement a digital portfolio method to assess students in grades three through eight and use student performance under that method as a percentage (50 percent) of a student's overall performance on assessment instruments for accountability purposes. It would require the Texas Education Agency to contract with a single entity to facilitate the use of the digital portfolio method of assessment by school district participating in the pilot program. It was left pending.
HB 109 by Armando "Mando" Martinez (D-Weslaco) would apply the statute prohibiting classes on Memorial Day to open-enrollment charter schools. It was left pending.
HB 111 by Mary Gonzalez (D-El Paso) would require training for school employees to include prevention of sexual abuse, sex trafficking, and other maltreatment of children with significant cognitive disabilities in both educational and non-educational settings. It was left pending.
HB 116 by Mary Gonzalez (D-El Paso) would require the State Board of Educator Certification to adopt rules specifying what each educator is expected to know and be able to do, particularly regarding students with disabilities. It was left pending.
HB 120 by Mary Gonzalez (D-El Paso) would exempt students with limited English proficiency from state-administered assessment instruments for up to two years (instead of one year) after initial enrollment in a school in the United States. It was left pending.
HB 128 by Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin) would require school districts to provide parents with a copy of the results of the physical fitness assessment of the parent's child by the last day of the school year. It was left pending.
HB 134 by Valoree Swanson (R-Spring) would require ballot propositions authorizing the issuance of bonds to contain only one project or category of expenditure. It was left pending.
HB 165 by Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) would allow special education students to earn an endorsement on the student's transcript by successfully completing curriculum and endorsement requirements identified by the State Board of Education, with or without modification by the student's admission, review, and dismissal committee. It was left pending.
TEA Office of Inspector General - On Thursday, Senator Bettencourt (R-Houston) filed SB 933 to create an office of Inspector General in the Texas Education Agency. Senator Bettencourt said, "Nearly twenty-five percent of the current state budget goes toward public education. The Texas Education Agency is one of the few major agencies that does not already have authority for an Office of Inspector General. This bill will ensure that taxpayer money is not being wasted and will give the agency the ability to root out fraud and abuse."
Next Week:
The Senate Finance Committee will meet on Monday, February 25, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. in E1.036 of the capitol extension to take up:
SB 3 by Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) would:
  • provide a permanent $5,000 annual salary increase to approximately 350,000 classroom teachers;
  • direct that the pay increase is paid for by the state with funding flowing through a new Classroom Teacher Salary Allotment;
  • stipulate that the additional state funding must pass through districts for the sole purpose of raising each classroom teacher's pay by $5,000 over their salary for the 2018-19 school year; and
  • have an estimated cost of $3.7 billion in the FY 20-21 budget.
The House Public Education Committee will meet on Tuesday, February 26, 2019 at 10:30 a.m. or upon adjournment in E2.036 of the capitol extension to take up:
HB 76 by Dan Huberty (R-Katy) would require high school student athletes to receive a physical exam that includes an electrocardiogram before being allowed to participate in a sports activity.
HB 92 by Eddie Rodriguez (D- Austin) would allow a campus turnaround plan to operate as a community school that provides strategies and programs to coordinate academic, social, and health services that reduce barriers to learning including:
  • early childhood education;
  • after-school and summer school academic and enrichment programs;
  • college and career preparation;
  • service learning opportunities including internships and community service programs;
  • leadership and mentoring programs;
  • activities to encourage community and parent engagement in students' education;
  • health and social services for students and their families; and
  • parenting classes.
It would prohibit the commissioner from ordering the closure of a campus without giving the campus the opportunity to operate as a community school.
HB 129 by Diego Bernal (D-Sab Antonio) would require campuses in which 90 percent of the students are educationally disadvantaged, homeless, or in foster care to have at least one licensed counselor, audiologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, physician, nurse, social worker or speech language pathologist assigned to the campus; and would provide state aid to assist the district in employing the required licensed professionals.
HB 198 by Shawn Thierry (D-Houston) would add mental health services to the list of services that a school district provides through a cooperative health care program and school-based health centers.
HB 199 by Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) would expand the permissible uses of the instructional materials and technology fund to include the salary and other expenses of an employee who is directly involved in student learning or addressing the social and emotional health of students.
HB 204 by Shawn Thierry (D-Houston) would add mental health and the relationship between physical and mental health in the health curriculum in public schools.
HB 239 by Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) would authorize a social worker to provide social work services to students and families in a school district.
HB 314 by Donna Howard (D-Austin) would allow compensatory education allotment funding to be used to provide child-care services or assistance with child-care expenses for students at risk of dropping out of school or pay the costs associated with services provided through a life shills program; and would require the Commissioner of Education to adopt rules including pregnancy as a reason a student withdraws from or otherwise no longer attends public school in the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS).
HB 330 by Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) would exclude students who have suffered a condition, injury or illness that requires substantial medical care and leaves the student unable to attend school from the dropout and completion rate calculations.
HB 391 by Cesar Blanco (D-El Paso) would require school districts to provide instructional materials to a student in printed book format if the student does not have reliable access to technology at the student's home. It would also require school districts to report to the Texas Education Agency the number of requests by parents to allow a student to take home instructional materials that were denied by the school district; and require TEA to aggregate that information annually to report to the legislature.
HB 396 by Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) would prohibit money in the instructional materials and technology fund to be used to pay the expenses associated with intrastate freight and shipping; and would allow funding to be used to pay for inventory of software or systems for storing and accessing instructional materials.
HB 397 by Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) would allow money in the instructional materials and technology fund to be used to for inventory of software or systems for storing and accessing instructional materials.
HB 403 by Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) would require training for school superintendents and trustees regarding sexual abuse, human trafficking, and other maltreatment of children.
HB 422 by Alma Allen (D-Houston) would require school boards to annually certify to the Texas Education Agency that the board has established the required district- and campus-level planning and decision-making committees.
HB 455 by Alma Allen (D-Houston) would require Texas Education Agency to develop model policies on the recess period during the school day that encourages constructive, age-appropriate outdoor playtime that maximizes the effectiveness of outdoor physical activity; and would require school districts to adopt a recess policy based on the model policies.
HB 638 by Giovanni Capriglione (R-Keller) would establish procedures for a high school diploma to be issued posthumously to a student that dies while enrolled in the school district.
HB 663 by Ken King (R-Canadian) would require the State Board of Education (SBOE) to review and revise the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) to narrow the number and scope of student expectations for each subject and grade level and require less time for a demonstration of mastery. The SBOE would be required to ensure that a revision of the TEKS does not result in a need for the adoption of new instructional materials.
HB 674 by Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) would require school districts to report to the Commissioner of Education information on the district's reliance on education service centers in complying with federal and state education laws and rules and indicate the specific federal or state education laws or rules for which compliance is the most burdensome and expensive.
HB 678 by Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City) would add a course in American Sign Language completed at an elementary school to count for one credit toward an elective course for graduation.

On Wednesday, the House Ways & Means Committee heard invited testimony.
The first panel included Texas Taxpayers and Research Association (TTARA) President Dale Craymer; Dick Lavine, Senior Policy Analyst for the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP); and Vance Ginn of Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF).
TTARA's Dale Craymer told the committee that state and local taxes, particularly property and sales taxes, are higher in Texas than the average for other states are particularly burdensome for capital intensive industries. He said, "Because Texas does not have a personal income tax, Texas relies on business to pay 61.7 percent of state taxes, far above the 50 state average of 43.7 percent.
CPPP's Dick Lavine pointed out that sales tax exemptions leave $93 billion on the table. He said that the state should particularly look at expanding the sales tax base to include services. On the property tax, $31 billion is lost through exemptions including homestead exemptions ($10 billion), agriculture exemption ($8 billion), and other exemptions ($13 billion). He discussed the actions the legislature took in 2015 that put a strain on future budgets including diverting Economic Stabilization Funds to the highway fund, and the franchise tax cut. He called the Texas tax system regressive and said, "Texas households with the lowest income pay the highest percentage in state and local taxes, while the top one-fifth of Texas households pay less than their fair share of state and local taxes." He also suggested that the state consider a state personal income tax.
TPPF'S Vance Ginn said, "The Texas Model of limited government provides an institutional framework supporting more prosperity than frameworks allowing a more interventionist government in comparable states and the U.S. The Texas Model can and should be improved to remain competitive and support greater prosperity by reducing and eliminating government barriers to competition." He specifically suggested:
  • limiting the growth in government spending;
  • eliminating the state's business franchise tax;
  • reducing barriers to international trade;
  • reducing property taxes; and
  • relieving Texans from burdensome occupational licenses.
In a discussion with committee members he suggested possibly expanding the sales tax to services, and he said TPPF is opposed to Chapter 312 and Chapter 313 agreements.
The second panel discussed Local Chapter 312 and Chapter 313 Tax Incentives and included Deborah Cartwright of Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, Tony Bennett of Texas Association of Manufacturers, Hector Rivero of the Texas Chemical Council, and Jeff Clark of Advanced Power Alliance (APA).
TTARA's Debbie Cartwrigh t gave an overview of Chapter 312 agreements. She explained that Chapter 312 of the Tax Code is the Property Redevelopment and Tax Abatement Act, which authorizes local taxing units, other than school districts, at their discretion to offer TEMPORARY (no more than 10 years) property tax exemptions for improvements to existing properties. A project must provide:
  • Specific improvements or repairs to real property, including residential, commercial, industrial, and outdoor advertising property;
  • New facilities or expansion or modernization of existing facilities; and
  • A benefit to existing property that would contribute to the economic development of the area
APA's Jeff Clark said, "Texas is one of the most attractive places in the world to live and do business. Unfortunately, our Tax Code, and its reliance on property taxes, harms our ability to recruit capital investment to our state. For highly competitive and capital intensive industries like power generation, this obstacle means that investments go to other communities in other states. For rural communities, the communities that we work in every day, a lost opportunity can be the difference between a prospering and well-funded school system and continuing to struggle with an economy that is not diversified. I'm proud of what windpower has meant for rural economies and school districts, as a direct result of the use of tools like Chapter 312 and Chapter 313. Local leaders recognize that the short-term incentive they offer to attract a renewable energy project means long-term tax revenue and economic activity in their communities. Chapter 312 and Chapter 313 keep rural Texas competitive for global investment dollars in industries of all types, but especially in renewable energy. I urge you to continue these important programs."
Sales Tax Collection by Marketplace Providers - On Tuesday, House Ways & Means Committee Chair Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) filed HB 1525 and Senate Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) filed SB 890. Representative Burrows said, "These bills will ease the administrative burden on small to medium-sized remote sellers that are using the national providers' platforms by requiring the providers to collect the sales tax. This would accelerate collection of taxes that are currently due under Texas law on sales of taxable items by remote sellers. This administrative change could potentially mean an additional $300 million in state and local sales tax revenue for Texas in the first full fiscal year of collections. Currently, national marketplace providers have no responsibilities related to the taxes due on sales made by third party sellers on these platforms. This legislation defines marketplace providers as those that own or operate a marketplace and process sales or payments for third-party sellers. Marketplace providers such as Etsy Inc., eBay, and Amazon would have all the rights and duties of a seller for sales made through the marketplace, including collection and audit responsibilities." Senator Nelson added, "This legislation is needed to ensure that we fairly implement the Supreme Court decision regarding online sales tax without placing an undue burden on remote sellers." The local tax due would be assessed on the taxable item's destination in Texas. The proposed bills are part of a broader Texas legislative response to the June 2018 U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair, which allowed states to require remote sellers, meaning those without any physical presence in a state, to collect sales tax. Chairman Burrows concluded, "This bill is good news for Texas small businesses and retailers who comply with sales tax regulation. It will help level the playing field by allowing the state to require remote sellers to collect and remit taxes in much the same way it requires countless businesses large and small who have a physical presence here in Texas to act as responsible partners with the state by collecting and remitting these taxes." Specifically, HB 1525 and SB 890 would:
  • Deem the marketplace provider the seller of the items sold on their marketplace platforms.
  • Define marketplace providers as those who own or operate a marketplace and process sales or payments for third party sellers.
  • Provide that a marketplace provider has the rights and duties of a seller with regard to sales made through the marketplace, which include collection and audit responsibilities.
  • Require a marketplace provider to report all sales made through the marketplace and to collect and remit sales and use tax on the sale of taxable items.
  • Require a marketplace provider to certify to each marketplace seller that it is collecting and remitting sales and use tax on the marketplace seller's behalf.
  • Require marketplace sellers to comply with recordkeeping requirements for all marketplace sales; and require them to furnish information to the marketplace provider to allow the marketplace provider to collect and remit correctly.
  • Provide liability relief to marketplace providers for failure to collect and remit the correct amount of tax if the marketplace provider shows that it relied in good faith on incorrect information from the marketplace seller; but would hold the marketplace seller liable for any deficiencies.
  • Provide rulemaking authority to the comptroller in the implementation of the legislation, including the ability to except marketplace providers from some or all of the requirement of the bill.
  • Provide class action protection to marketplace providers based on the marketplace providers duties as the seller for marketplace sales.
  • Source sales of taxable items by a marketplace provider for a marketplace seller to the destination of the taxable item.
This Week: The Senate Property Tax Committee will meet on Tuesday, February 26, 2019 at 1:30 p.m. or upon adjournment in 2E.20 of the capitol building to take up:
SB 67 by Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) would make several changes regarding property tax appeals. It would:
  • Require the comptroller to establish a Property Tax Administration Advisory Board to advise the comptroller regarding the agency's property tax responsibilities and make recommendations regarding improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the property tax system, best practices, and complaint resolution procedures.
  • Require a minimum of 8 hours of training for appraisal review board (ARB) members.
  • Require the comptroller to produce material for training arbitrators, make them available on-line, and establish and supervise the training program.
  • Require the comptroller to prepare an ARB survey form for property owners to report on fairness and efficiency of the process and produce an annual report summarizing the surveys.
  • Prohibit a person related to another ARB member from serving on an ARB.
  • Move the responsibility for selecting ARB officers from the ARB to the local administrative district judge.
  • Prohibit requiring more than a majority of an ARB to make a determination.
  • Prohibit appraisal districts from charging for copies of information.
  • Prohibit an ARB from determining a value that is higher than the value determined by the chief appraiser.
  • Allow a designated agent of a property owner the same hearing postponement and scheduling authority as the owner.
  • Allow an ARB to schedule hearings on all protests filed by a property owner consecutively.
  • Prohibit the use of information in a hearing if the information was previously requested by the protesting party but was not provided at least 14 says before the first hearing.
  • Prohibit an ARB from scheduling the first hearing on a protest on a weekday evening or a Sunday.
SB 135 by Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) would restrict the eligibility of property used by an institution of higher education for ecological research to be appraised as open space that to land that has been used primarily for that purpose by the institution for five of the preceding seven years.
SB 449 by Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) would repeal subsection (i) of 42.23 of the Tax Code, "Judicial Review: Scope of Review" which provides that in a court case for a valuation dispute, the court "may give preference to an employee" authorized to perform an appraisal of real estate under the Occupations Code.
SB 462 by Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) would require ballot propositions of political subdivisions that authorize bonds to clearly state the purpose of the bonds, the principal amount to be authorized the taxes sufficient to pay the principal and interest on the bonds, the aggregate amount of the outstanding principal of the previously issued bonds, and the ad valorem debt service tax rate expressed in an amount per $100 valuation of taxable property.

Toll Payer Protection Act - On Wednesday, Representative Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) filed the Toll Payer Protection Act (HB 1951) which would require voter approval for all new toll projects, bring uniform toll reform, set a timeline for taking the tolls off when a road has been paid off, and partner with the private sector for funding where it makes sense to complete a project that otherwise is too costly without raising taxes. Representative Krause said, "The truth is that the people are rightfully tired of business as usual when it comes to tolling in Texas. Whether it's not feeling like they have a voice in the process, notorious problems with toll billing, or no light at the end of the tunnel once a toll goes up, the status quo can no longer be maintained. And, it shouldn't be. It's time for change."
This Week: The Senate Transportation Committee will meet on Wednesday, February 27, 2019 at 8:00 a.m. in E1.016 of the capitol extension for an organizational meeting and to hear invited testimony from the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
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