Property Tax Reform
After the House finished its long budget debate, the House Ways & Means committee met to speed through high-priority property tax reform legislation.  The committee voted on a version of the proposal that had many of the committee had just seen. That draft substitute would still require that local governments hold an election before raising 2.5 percent more property tax revenue than the previous year. It would allow on a carry-over provision that lets taxing units collect unused revenue growth for five years, potentially letting them exceed the amount requiring an election if they had less than 2.5 percent growth in preceding years. HB 2 passed out of committee around 1 a.m. in an 8-3 mostly partisan vote.
Chapter 312-313 bills voted out of committee this week:
HB  360 By Murphy, Jim. Relating to the extension of the expiration date of the Property Redevelopment and Tax Abatement Act (the extension of Chapter 312). – Voted favorably from committee on (House Ways and Means)
HB 2129 by Murphy.  Extension of Chapter 313 – Voted favorably from committee on (House Ways and Means)
Coming next week:
HB 3535 By Phelan, Dade. Relating to the payment of certain fees to municipalities by entities that provide telecommunications and cable or video services. – Meeting set for 10:30 A.M. OR ADJ., E2.028 House State Affairs 04/01
SB 1152 By Hancock, Kelly. Relating to the payment of certain fees to municipalities by entities that provide telecommunications and cable or video services. – S-Reported from committee as substituted Senate Business and Commerce –New text available: Senate Committee Substitute
Limitations on political subdivisions
SB  702 By Bettencourt, Paul. Relating to the authorization and reporting of expenditures for lobbying activities by certain political subdivisions and other public entities. – Passed the Senate and Received in the House
HB 281 by Middleton.  Voted out of House Committee on State Affairs.
The State Budget
Around midnight Wednesday, after 11 hours of fairly polite discussion, the House passed House Bill 1, its proposed 2020-21 state budget. Much of that debate was considering the over 300 were proposed amendments to the budget bill. House members approved a $251 billion budget, and, though debate was lengthy, the budget was passed with the original proposal largely intact. The House also passed a $9 billion supplemental budget to cover previous state expenses.  The vote was 149-0.  The House’s proposal now heads over to the Senate. A committee there is set to consider its budget legislation at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Other Legislative Happenings
HB 3, the school finance bill, is the next big bill the House will consider.  It is set for House floor debate April 3, and will likely take most of that day.
Open Government Bills
Several open government bills were debated this week. While most lawmakers support transparency, the bills will have to overcome legislators’ preference for quiet negotiations. Advocates say recent court decisions have made it harder for Texans to know what their government is doing. Legislators in both houses have filed measures that would attempt to close some of the loopholes created by a group of recent court decisions seen by some as challenges to open government.  Sen. Watson filed legislation that would make walking quorums a crime. This comes after the Texas Supreme Court declared state laws against unofficial meetings between lawmakers, “unconstitutionally vague” in February. Also debated was legislation about what can be kept secret when the government privatizes business in contracts with private firms.
  • Walking Quorum Bill: HB 2965 By Toth, Steve. Relating to changing the elements of an offense for certain open meetings requirements for a member of a governmental body. – Meeting set for 10:30 A.M. OR ADJ., E2.028 House State Affairs 04/01
Monday morning a frustrated Chairman Jeff Leach, implored Democratic members of the Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee to show up and register their attendance so that he could move forward with laying out the Born Alive Protection Act. Leach said he knows members have busy schedules and even said he’d be fine with it if they showed up, registered their attendance, then left to do other things.
And on the Senate side … A number of business leaders spoke out Tuesday afternoon against legislation that they claim would create a “bathroom bill 2.0.” Two of the main bills at issue are Senate Bill 15 and Senate Bill 17. The former was recently stripped of its protections for non-discrimination ordinances and the latter is a religious exemption bill.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a speech that the Legislature could be headed for a special session in Austin this summer if lawmakers don’t enact “substantial” property tax relief.  But Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen both said there’s time enough to finish their work before lawmakers are scheduled to gavel out on May 27.

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