86th Legislative Session Update #14

“You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.”   Mark Twain

SENATE:

The Senate was in session last Monday through Friday.

Last Monday, the Senate gave preliminary approval to three bills and passed 37 bills.

Last Tuesday, the Senate gave preliminary approval to two bills and passed 18 bills including SB 11 by Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), the School Safety Act. Senator Taylor said, “We know that we cannot prevent every tragedy, and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for strengthening school security, but SB 11 provides the framework to empower school districts to do what’s best for them and their students.” SB 11 would:

  • Require the Texas Education Agency to ensure that building standards provide a safe and secure environment.
  • Offer loan repayment assistance to those who serve as school counselors and licensed specialists on school psychology.
  • Offer a grant program for one time facility hardening for schools.
  • Require that teachers, including substitute teachers, receive safety training and have access to a phone or electronic device to allow for quick connection to first respondents in the event of an emergency.
  • Require that mental health authorities employ a non-physician mental health professional to serve as a resource and provide training to school district personnel.
  • Require that schools adopt a multi-hazard emergency operations plan and appoint a school safety committee.
  • Require that schools establish Safe and Supportive Care teams comprised of school personnel.
  • Train educators on methods of interacting with students coping with past trauma.

Last Wednesday, the Senate passed 27 bills including SB 1190 by Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), which would clarify residency for voter registration purposes. Senator Bettencourt said, “This bill prohibits a voter from establishing residence for the purpose of influencing the outcome of an election and prohibits voters from using a commercial post office box as their residence. In 2018, several real world examples of this behavior were uncovered at UPS stores throughout Houston.

One UPS store had 84 people registered to vote and 100 additional stores were reported to have 10+ people registered to vote at commercial addresses. Under Texas law you are required to vote where you physically live and having people registered in bulk where they do not live opens up the opportunity for a candidate or party to pack a targeted area. This is a major threat to the integrity of the voter roll and is also detrimental to public trust in validity of elections.”

Last Friday, the Senate passed 34 bills on the Local & Uncontested calendar. They also passed 13 bills from the Intent calendar.

Total number of bills reported out of Senate Committees this week:    151

Total number of bills passed by the Senate this week:                                 176

Total number of bills passed on the Local & Uncontested Calendar       51

Total number of bills passed by the Senate this session:                            763

Next Week: The Senate will reconvene at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, May 6, 2019.

HOUSE:
The House was in session last Monday through Friday.

On Monday, the House gave preliminary approval to 34 bills and passed three bills. Preliminary approval was given to HB 63 by Joe Moody (D-El Paso), which would reduce the penalty for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana from a Class B misdemeanor to a non-arrestable Class C misdemeanor ticket. Representative Moody said, “HB 63 has been a five-year-long journey. It’s one that I began as a prosecutor when I saw firsthand how taxpayer dollars were being wasted on an ineffective enforcement system that ruined lives over such a petty offense. Each year, Texas spends more than 730 million dollars on over 75,000 arrests, almost all of which are for small, personal-use amounts of marijuana.

I first adopted a decriminalization approach at the urging of a constituent. I have since worked with stakeholders and advocates to reshape how legislators approach the issue but ultimately came to the current compromise in an effort to further meaningful reform. Whatever we might do in the House, this bill still has to pass the Senate and earn the governor’s signature. While decriminalization is my preferred approach, I’m not willing to sacrifice a desperately needed policy shift for absolutism. Texans facing these charges and taxpayers footing the bill for it need relief now. Decriminalization in favor of a civil penalty has bipartisan support and is actually a plank in the Texas Republican Party’s platform.

Twenty-two states have passed similar measures. When I started this fight there was a clear disconnect between legislators and constituents, but today, overwhelming support that transcended party lines showed that we’re bridging that gap. Today was a good day for smarter, fairer policy.”

Last Tuesday, the House gave preliminary approval to 13 bills and passed 35 bills. After several hours of debate and 25 amendments added, the House passed SB 2 by Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) and Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock), the property tax reform bill, to Third Reading.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dustin Burrows, House sponsor of the bill said, “This legislation ensures governments spend responsibly and prioritize the needs of their communities without burdening their taxpayers. The provisions of the ‘Texas Taxpayer Transparency Act’ empower taxpayers by bringing transparency to the tax rate setting process and giving taxpayers the tools and information they need to understand how a proposed tax rate will affect their property tax bill, enabling taxpayers to participate in the rate change process and allowing them to vote on property tax increases, and making the appraisal review board process fair, accountable and transparent. Texas taxpayers are frustrated by rising property taxes.

They are often confused about the process and many are scared of losing their homes. SB 2 sheds light on who is raising their taxes and by how much, it encourages Texas voters to get involved and engaged, and it gives our taxpayers more control over the process.”

Governor Greg Abbott said, “For too long, Texans have watched their property taxes skyrocket while being reduced to tenants of their own property. That is not the Texas way. Thanks to the leadership of Chairman Burrows and Chairman Bettencourt, SB 2 has passed both chambers and we are one step closer to reining in skyrocketing property taxes.

In the final days of the legislative session, I am confident this historic legislation, combined with additional reforms working their way through the system, will reach my desk where I will sign them into law. I look forward to working with Lt. Governor Patrick, Speaker Bonnen and the entire Legislature to deliver lasting property tax relief to every Texan.”

Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy said, “The Texas AFL-CIO believes the tax cap in SB 2 cripples the ability of local governments to pay for vital public services like First Responders, trash collection and sanitation, pools, parks, and libraries. The House and Senate versions of SB 2 will lead to pay cuts, layoffs, and damage to services that local voters strongly support. Fortunately, this is not the end of the line for SB 2. With more than 25 days remaining in the legislative session, ample time remains for Democrats and Republicans to address the burden of property taxes on working Texans and fully fund public education without breaking services that make our communities work. So far, SB 2 does not achieve those goals.”

Center for Public Policy Priorities CEO Ann Beeson said, “Today a majority of state lawmakers voted to limit the ability of local elected leaders to make the best decisions for their communities. Texans need strong, safe and healthy communities – and cities and counties play a critical role in funding libraries, parks, roads, and other critical services that families and businesses depend on every day. If SB 2 ultimately becomes law, then state leaders will have unnecessarily tied the hands of local elected officials. This kind of law would make it harder for communities to respond to the unique needs of each town, city and county. A better way to address property taxes is to increase the state’s share of public school funding, like the school finance package now moving through the Legislature.”

Also, last Tuesday, the House passed HB 2100 by Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park), which would protect freedom of expression on college campuses. Representative Cain said, “College campuses should be bastions of free speech where reflective thought and constructive debate hone young minds in the marketplace of ideas. Though the U.S. and Texas Constitutions both expressly affirm the right to speak freely, institutions of higher education have increasingly worked to limit the fundamental liberty of expression. I’m proud that the Texas House of Representatives has taken a strong stand towards safeguarding free speech rights for all students, student organizations, and invited guest speakers. Specifically, HB 2100 requires public Texas universities to establish a policy supporting expressive activities on their campus and ensures that students will be informed of their official policy on free expression. The bill also guarantees that the common outdoor areas of the institution’s campus are deemed traditional public forums and permits any person lawfully present to engage in expressive activities in those areas freely. Throughout the country, college campuses are threatening expressive activities and inhibiting students when they are exercising their First Amendment rights.”

Last Wednesday, the House passed 73 bills to third reading and gave final approval to 13 bills.

Last Thursday, the House gave preliminary approval to 55 bills and passed 73 bills. Including HB 2730 by Jeff Leach (R-Plano), the “Texas Citizens Participation Act” also known as anti-SLAPP. Representative Leach said, “While well-intended and significant for First Amendment protections, the ‘Texas Citizens Participation Act’ as written has been abused, misapplied and misinterpreted – resulting in unintended consequences for Texas citizens.

The final version of HB 2730 is the result of a collaborative team effort, with a multitude of stakeholders working together over the past several months to perfect the legislation and ensure the strongest free-speech protections in the nation. I am proud of the broad coalition that stands behind this bill and I am excited to have the overwhelming support of my colleagues in the Texas House.” HB 2730 would:

  • Eliminate abuses in current statute by creating specific exemptions to clearly address each area of law for which the TCPA was intended;
  • Adopt protections for the media that meet the strongest anti-SLAPP laws in the United States;
  • Provide protections far beyond constitutional rights of free speech by ensuring that participation in government and statements about public officials, public figures, and the famous or notorious are protected;
  • Protect victims and alleged victims of family violence and sexual assault by adding civil protections for victims who share their stories either publicly or privately;
  • Prevent anti-SLAPP motions from being used against procedural motions; and
  • Ensure that communications about topics of public interest are protected.

Last Friday, the House gave final passage to 55 bills and passed 271 bills on the Local & Consent calendar. One of those bills is HB 2227 by Gene Wu (D-Houston), which allows retired teachers to go back to work without affecting their retirement. Representative Wu said, “Our retired teachers have dedicated their careers to the children of Texas. Often after retirement, many teachers are forced to return to work-part time to supplement their pensions. The Teacher Retirement System has strict rules and penalties regarding retired teachers’ ability to return to work during the first 12 months of retirement. Unfortunately, most teachers are unaware of these strict rules, and are also unaware when they are in violation. The passage of HB 2227 ensures that our retired teachers are given proper notice and time to correct their actions before a harsh penalty is handed down, often the loss of months of their pension.”

Other bills that passed the House this week are in the issue categories below.

Total number of bills reported out of House Committees this week:  400    

Total number of bills passed by the House this week:                               450

Total number of bills passed on the Local & Consent Calendar             271

Total number of bills passed by the House this session:                          1171

State Budget – HB 1, the general appropriations bill, is in a conference committee composed of Representatives John Zerwas (R-Fulshear), Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood), Sarah Davis (R-Houston), Oscar Longoria (D-Mission), and Armando Lucio Walle (D-Houston); and Senators Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), Joan Huffman (R-Houston), Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), and Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville).

In general, the appropriations bills are not very far apart.

Total Appropriations All Funds:

  • House – $251.1 billion, a 6.5 percent increase over 2018-2019
  • Senate – $247.7 billion, an increase of 5.1 percent

Total General Revenue Appropriations:

  • House – $116.5 billion, an increase of 7.9 billion (7.3 percent)
  • Senate – $116.8 billion, an increase of 8.3 billion (7.6 percent)

SB 500 by Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) and John Zerwas (R-Fulshear), the supplemental appropriations bill, is in a conference committee composed of Senators Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), Joan Huffman (R-Houston), Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), and Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen) and Representatives John Zerwas (R-Fulshear), Giovanni Capriglione (R-Keller), Mary Gonzalez (D-El Paso), Rick Miller (R-Sugar Land), and Toni Rose (D-Dallas).

Property Tax Reform – Both House and Senate versions of the appropriations bills set aside $2.3 billion for property tax reform.

SB 2 by Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) is the Senate version of the property tax reform bill. It:

  • applies a 3.5 percent rollback rate (voter-approved tax rate) to all local taxing jurisdictions except school districts, which would be at 2.5 percent;
  • Includes an exemption for taxing units with combined property and sales tax levies of $15 million or less, which would still be subject to the 8 percent rollback rate; and
  • includes truth-in-taxation requirements including real-time tax notices.

House-passed Version of SB 2 by Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) includes:

  • a 3.5 percent rollback rate and some property tax reform provisions concerning real-time tax notices;
  • a 2.0 percent rollback rate for school districts;
  • removes junior college districts and hospital districts;
  • allows local taxing jurisdictions to increase the homestead exemption; and
  • makes passage of SB 2 contingent on passage of HB 3, the public school finance bill.

Property Tax Reduction – The school finance reform bill provides a property tax reduction through HB 3.

  • HB 3 (as passed by the House) provides property tax relief through tax compression – tax rates go down as property values rise with the state picking up the increased cost of public education.
  • The $2.3 billion set aside in both appropriations bills would reduce school property taxes by four cents per $100 valuation.

Sales Tax/Property Tax Swap Proposal – The Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker have endorsed a sales tax/property tax swap. HB 4621 and HJR 3 by Dan Huberty (R-Humble) is on the House’s Major State Calendar on May 7, 2019.

  • The state sales tax would be increased by one cent – from 6.25 to 7.25 percent.
  • That would generate an additional $5 billion, enough to buy down property taxes by 20 cents per $100 valuation.

Public Education Reform – The House has passed HB 3 by Dan Huberty (R-Humble), the public school finance reform bill. Key provisions of the House-passed version would:

  • Increase the basic allotment from $4,140 to $6,030, an increase of $890 per student (17 percent);
  • Use prior year values in formula calculations;
  • Expand CTE allotment to 6th, 7th, and 8th grade;
  • Create a new dyslexia allotment with a weight of 0.10;
  • Create a new school safety allotment;
  • Require school districts to use 25 percent of the revenue from the increase in the basic allotment to provide salary increases for school district employees other than administrators;
  • Send an educator effectiveness allotment to school districts for st the most disadvantaged campuses to be used by the district to provide pay increases to effective teachers who teach at high needs campuses, rural campuses, or in areas experiencing a critical shortage of teachers;
  • Provide a tax compression rate of $0.04 (96 percent); and
  • Maintain the $25,000 homestead exemption.

The Senate Education Committee reported out a committee substitute for HB 3. It will be up for debate in the Senate on Monday, May 6, 2019. The Senate committee substitute for HB 3 would:

  • Increase the basic allotment from $5,140 to $5,880, an increase of $750 per student (15 percent):;
  • Use current year values in formula calculations;
  • Maintains CTE allotment at grades 9-12, but creates a set-aside for the P-Tech program;
  • Create a new dyslexia allotment of 0.12;
  • Add full-day Pre-K for children of educators;
  • Create a new 3rd grade reading outcomes allotment;
  • Create a new college, career, and military readiness allotment of $5,000 for economically disadvantaged students and $3,000 for non-economically disadvantaged students in districts in the top 25th percentile of performance on the SAT and ACT and other indicators established by the Commissioner of Education;
  • Create a new fast growth allotment of 0.042;
  • Create a new accelerated campus excellence turnaround plan allotment of 0.10;
  • Create a new dropout recovery school allotment of $275 per student;
  • Provide a $5,000 across-the-board salary increase for classroom teachers and librarians;
  • Create a new teacher incentive allotment to send to districts for teachers rated in the top quartile on criteria established by the Commissioner of Education; teachers who teach at campuses with the greatest need can receive a bonus of up to $44,000;
  • Require the Texas Education Agency to develop a transition plan to administer all STAAR tests electronically by the 2022-23 school year; with the tests being administered over multiple days, but not on Monday;
  • Provide a tax compression rate of 0.08 in the first year (92 percent) and $0.15 in the 2nd year (85 percent), contingent on the passage of a constitutional amendment;
  • Increase the mandatory state homestead exemption for school districts from $25,000 to $40,000, contingent on the passage of a constitutional amendment.

Passed the Senate:

HB 81 by Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) and Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen) would make public funds expended by a governmental body for a parade, concert, or other entertainment event open to the general public subject to disclosure under the open records laws. It passed the Senate unanimously.

SB 132 by Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen) would establish the Texas Leverage Fund consisting of proceeds from the issuance of bonds, investment earnings and fees to be used to make loans to economic development corporations for eligible projects of Type A or Type B corporations. Loan repayments would be secured by a pledge of local economic development sales and use tax revenue. The committee substitute was adopted and it passed the Senate by a vote of 26 to 5. The companion, HB 31, was heard and left pending in the House International Relations & Economic Development Committee this week.

HIGHER EDUCATION:

Passed the House:                

HB 103 by Armando “Mando” Martinez (D-Weslaco) would authorize establishment of a law school in the Valley in Cameron or Hidalgo County. It passed the House by a vote of 107 to 36.

HB 1749 by John Wray (R-Waxahachie) would allow a public junior college to offer a baccalaureate degree program if it receives approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. It would take out the bracket that currently limits that authority to a community college district with a taxable property valuation of at least $6 billion. The committee substitute was adopted and it passed the House on the Local & Consent calendar.

End-Of Session Slow-Down Rules – Rules that institute deadlines prior to the end of the legislative session begin to kick in Monday, May 6, 2019:

May 6, 2019 – Last day for House committees to report House Bills and House Joint Resolutions (119th day).

May 7, 2019 – Last House Daily Calendar with House Bills and House Joint Resolutions must be distributed by 10:00 p.m. due to the 36-hour layout rule for calendars (120th day).

May 8, 2019 – Last House Local and Consent Calendar with Consent House Bills must be distributed by 9:00 a.m. due to the 48-hour layout rule for Local and Consent calendars (121st day).

May 9, 2019 – Last day (midnight deadline) for the House to consider Second Reading House Bills and House Joint Resolutions on the regular calendar (122nd Day).

May 10, 2019 – Last day (midnight deadline) for House to consider consent House Bills on Second and Third Reading and all Third reading House Bills and House Joint Resolutions on the regular calendar (123rd Day).

May 15, 2019 – Last House Local and Consent Calendar with local House Bills must be distributed by 9:00 a.m. due to the 48-hour layout for Local and Consent calendars (128th day).

May 17, 2019 – Last day for the House to consider local House Bills on Second and Third Reading. First day the Senate can consider bills and resolutions the first day they are posted on the Intent Calendar (130th Day).

May 18, 2019 – Last day for House Committees to report Senate Bills and Senate Joint Resolutions (131st Day).

May 19, 2019 – Last House Daily Calendar with Senate Bills and Senate Joint Resolutions must be printed and distributed (10:00 p.m. deadline) due to the 36-hour layout rule for regular calendars (132nd Day).

May 20, 2019 – Last House Local and Consent Calendar with Senate Bills must be distributed by 9:00 a.m. due to the 48-hour layout rule for Local and Consent calendars (133rd Day).

May 21, 2019 – Last day for the House to consider Second Reading Senate Bills and Senate Joint Resolutions on the regular calendar (134th Day).

May 22, 2019 – Last day for the House to consider local and consent Senate bills on Second and Third Reading and to consider all Third Reading Senate bills and Senate Joint Resolutions on the regular calendars. Last day for the Senate to consider all bills and joint resolutions on Second or Third Reading (135th Day).

May 23, 2019 – All Senate amendments must be distributed in the House before midnight due to the 24-hour layout rule (136th Day).

May 24, 2019 – Last day for the House to act on Senate amendments. Senate copies of conference committee reports on tax, general appropriations, and reapportionment bills must be printed and distributed before midnight due to the 48-hour layout rule (137th Day).

May 25, 2019 – In the House, all-conference Committee reports must be printed and distributed by midnight due to the 24-hour layout rule. In the Senate, all conference committee reports must be printed and distributed (other than those required to be printed the 137th day) before midnight due to the 24-hour layout rule (138th Day).

May 26, 2019 – Last day for the House to adopt conference committee reports and to discharge conference committees and adopt Senate amendments. Last day for the Senate to adopt conference committee reports or concur in House amendments (139th Day).

May 27, 2019 – Corrections only in the House and Senate. Last day of the session with a midnight deadline to adjourn Sine Die (140th Day).