Legislative Session Nearing the End

May 22, 2017

Tomorrow is the final day for the House to pass Senate bills. After that, the remainder of the session is focused on rectifying differences on bills that did not pass in identical form in each chamber. This last week has been crunch time with very long hours and we have passed some of the most important legislation of session.

Property Tax Empowerment Act of 2017

On Saturday, we passed legislation that would empower voters to have a say on local property tax increases by strengthening the oversight and visibility on how tax local property tax rates are adopted.

It would also strengthen the right of those taxpayers who take part in the appraisal protest by:

  • Ensuring taxpayer value will not be increased because the taxpayer files a protest.
  • Ensuring taxpayers receive any evidence the appraisal district will use at a hearing.
  • Requiring more training for Appraisal Review Board members on the protest process.
  • Making it easier for taxpayers to provide feedback on their protest experience to the Comptroller.

Creates a “real-time” tax notice for property owners that tells them:

  • Current appraised and taxable value of their property.
  • The tax due on that property at each jurisdiction’s “no new revenue” tax rate.
  • The tax due on their property at the rate each jurisdiction proposes to adopt.
  • How their tax bill at the proposed rates for each jurisdiction compares to their tax bill at the “no new revenue” rates.
  • The date and location of the public meeting at which each jurisdiction proposes to adopt its tax rate.

Additionally it will:

  • Requires taxing units to maintain Internet websites that provide basic information about their budgets, tax rates, and public hearings so that property owners can be involved in the policy decisions that impact their communities and their taxes.
  • Creates special Appraisal Review Board panels of experienced individuals to hear appeals of certain types of complex properties valued at more than $50 million. This will save property owners and appraisal districts money by more readily resolving cases that might otherwise go to district court.
  • The “effective tax rate” is renamed to what it is—the “no new revenue” rate. Any tax rate above that is one that raises new revenue for the jurisdiction, excluding any property that has not been taxed before. Jurisdictions will have to use Comptroller-prescribed forms to calculate their baseline tax rates. The numbers and calculations on those forms will be subject to verification and those forms will be made public.

This legislation will empower taxpayers in two very important ways. First, it brings transparency to the tax rate setting process, giving taxpayers the tools and information they need so they can engage local officials who set tax rates. Second, for those taxpayers who take part in the protest process, the bill strengthens their rights by making the process fair, accountable and transparent.

I would like to see this legislation go even further to provide meaningful tax relief to my constituents in Parker and Wise counties. Because this legislation passed in different form in each chamber, it is possible that additional improvements could still be made. I will support any additional measures that provide tax relief and reform to our current system.

SB 8 – Partial-Birth and Dismemberment Abortion Ban

SB 8 bans partial-birth abortions and prohibits the sale of fetal tissue and organs. This will provide a necessary enforcement mechanism for Texas to prosecute those who perform partial-birth abortions. This legislation also prohibits abortion by method of dismemberment and provides for proper disposition of fetal remains.

SB 12 – Protective Vests of Law Enforcement

SB 12 that I authored creates a grant program to assist law enforcement agencies with the purchase of bulletproof vests and body armor. During National Police Week, we passed this legislation that would grant funds to provide for 50,000 bulletproof vests, ballistic plates, and plate carriers for our law enforcement.

SB 11 – Community Based Foster Care
(This is another bill is a series of several CPS/Foster Care System reform bills passed by the legislature this session)

  • Expands the community-based foster care system- in which a single source continuum contractor (SSCC) manages foster care for a particular region of the state – to two additional regions and adds ability to transfer foster care case management from the Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) to the SSCC.
  • Establishes a “readiness review” of contractors and adds a process to evaluate contractor performance.
  • Creates a quality assurance division within DFPS to monitor contract compliance and quality.
  • Creates a legislative oversight committee for DFPS similar to TLOC.
  • Includes provisions to improve delivery of medical services to foster children through new requirements for timely medical examinations.
  • Creates additional requirements on prevention services and increases tracking and evaluation of child fatality data.
  • Requires DFPS to conduct assessment of state foster care needs and develop recommendations on increasing foster care capacity throughout the state.
  • Updates statutes to ensure that foster parents who work less than 40-hours a week can access day care services. Also directs streamlining of foster home licensing regulations.