This week the slow ramp-up on hearing legislation continued. The only committees that had substantive meetings this week were the House and Senate budget committees. The Senate referred bills to committee up to SB 230 today and adjourned until 10 a.m. Tuesday. This means that committee hearings can start soon now that they are in receipt of some legislation. The House may start referring bills to committee next week.
The biggest news of the week was the filing of the long-anticipated property tax bills. The Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker, and the two committee chairs whose committees will be hearing the bills held a joint press conference at the Capitol on Thursday. Each one stressed his support and declared unity on passing these bills. The House bill and the Senate bill are identical companions. In a nutshell, the bills lower the rollback rate from 8 percent to 2.5 percent for all taxing units that collect more than $15 million in taxes. This is basically the plan that the Governor unveiled last year. How this plan will intersect with the unsolved issue of school finance and the need to send more state money to local districts will be the big question.
SB 2 was referred to the Senate Committee on Property Taxes, and has been set for hearing on Wednesday, February 6th, at 8 a.m. The hearing will begin at 8 a.m., but most likely testimony will not begin until 12:30 p.m., after the state of the judiciary speech to a joint session of the House and Senate. Anyone who would like to testify needs to be signed up by 3:00 p.m. This hearing is expected to be long, similar to the hearing on the property tax bills in the 2017 Session.
It was a relatively drama-free week in Senate compared to last week-there will still be plenty of fallout to come over the demotion of Senator Seliger, and he commented on Thursday after the property tax bills were filed, “Most of the discussion that I have with the people in my district is about appraisals,” adding that “with the tax rates you have recourse at the ballot box but with the appraisals you don’t.” The Senate operates on what is known as the three-fifths rule, meaning that unless three-fifths of the Senators approve, and bill can’t be bought on the floor for a vote. There are 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats, and three-fifths equals 13, so on partisan issues, if Democrats stick together and one Republican defects, this can impact legislation that can be voted on.
Twenty-five years ago, the Legislature passed a law that said state parks and historic sites in Texas should receive every dollar generated by a tax on the sale of sporting goods. But in practice, the Legislature has only given the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department around 40 percent of those collections. Legislation was filed Wednesday to change that. Bills were filed in the House and Senate to ensure that the sales taxes collected on the sale of sporting goods should be allocated to the Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas Historical Commission. The bills would ensure that the state parks department gets the entirety of sporting goods tax collections, but voters must approve a constitutional amendment for this to happen.
The Secretary of State’s Office released a bombshell of a report on undocumented voters, first alleging that 58,000 non-citizens may have voted, and then distancing itself from this statistic-this may have ramifications on some of the bipartisan good feelings that have existed so far this early in the Session.
Next week the Governor is slated to give his state of the state address on Tuesday to a joint Session, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will give an address on Wednesday, then the House will adjourn for the week.
Bill filings continue:
FEBRUARY 1, 2019
Total Bills Filed: 1,814
House Bills: 1,271
Senate Bills: 543
Bill Filing Deadline: Friday, March 8