Final Thoughts on the Impeachment Trial of AG Ken Paxton and Interview with Mark Davis

September 19, 2023

As you no doubt know, the impeachment trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton ended on Saturday with the acquittal on all sixteen Articles of Impeachment.

My work began months before the trial started and I took my role very seriously. I served on the Senate Special Committee for Rules and Procedures for the Court of Impeachment and as a judge and juror in this historic process. 

My commitment to you prior to the start of the trial was that I would hold my constitutional responsibility in the highest regard and make the best decision in recognition of my oath, to render a true verdict according to the laws, and the evidence, so help me God. And I did just that. 

For more insight into the process, please listen to my interview with Mark Davis yesterday.  I think it will answer a lot of your questions about the trial and final vote to acquit.  My interview was followed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.  This was the first impeachment trial of its kind since 1917.  Between the two interviews you’ll hear a lot that has not been widely reported. 

I will follow the law and the evidence in the upcoming impeachment trial

August 31, 2023

I have been receiving calls, emails and other messages concerning the role of the Senate during the Attorney General Ken Paxton impeachment trial which begins at 9:00 am on Tuesday, September 5th.  

First and foremost, communication from constituents is always needed and appreciated. However, in the unique instance of an impeachment trial, please understand that I am not permitted to comment or engage in any discussion as I am in the position of a judge and a juror.  I am also under a judicial gag order that prohibits discussion of the matter, which includes discussion on the merits of the case. This gag order also applies to my staff.

When the trial begins, I will publicly take the following oath:

 “I do solemnly swear or affirm that I will impartially try Warren Kenneth Paxton, Jr., Attorney General of Texas, upon the impeachment charges submitted to me by the House of Representatives and a true verdict render according to the law, and the evidence, so help me God.”

As your Senator, I hold my constitutional responsibility as a member of the Court of Impeachment in the highest regard. My commitment to you, and to all my constituents, is to do my very best to make a decision that is in recognition of my oath. Thank you for your understanding that I cannot directly respond to your calls and other communications.

My office has also received questions concerning information publicly available to citizens.  If you wish to stay informed throughout the process, here is information I can share:

  • The Clerk of the Court of Impeachment has a public website which provides access to the resolutions adopted by the legislature and other official documents related to the impeachment, including the rules and procedures. You can view these documents HERE
  • Official guidelines have been issued for in-person public access to the Senate Gallery during the impeachment trial and can be viewed HERE.
  • The trial will be live streamed each day and it will begin at 9:00 am on Tuesday, September 5th. The live stream can be viewed HERE.   

Thank you again for your understanding in this matter, and for the honor and privilege of representing you in the Texas Senate.

Stopping Illegal Street Racing, Saving Women’s Sports, District Visits, Protecting Kids

August 18, 2023

As we approach the end of August, I hope you have enjoyed time with family and friends this summer.  As for me, the cooler weather of the Fall months can’t get here soon enough!  In the meantime, here are some updates on recent events and some of my travels across Senate District 10.  
Gov. Abbott Signs Save Women’s Sports Act in North Texas
Last week Governor Greg Abbott ceremonially signed the Save Women’s Sports Act, which I co-authored and strongly advocated for during recent session. Joining the Governor was former NCAA athlete Riley Gaines and other female athletes to celebrate this law, which protects the integrity of fair competition and women’s sports in Texas.  Senate Bill 15 requires athletes in college sports to compete under their biological gender. This is a matter of fairness, safety, and frankly common sense. With obvious physiological differences that advantage biological men, it’s simply unfair for college women to be forced to compete against them.  With the passage of SB 15, Texas made it clear that our college athletes will be protected. 

Joining Gov. Abbott to Crack Down on Illegal Street Racing 

As a former Fort Worth police officer, I was honored to join Governor Greg Abbott recently as he signed legislation to address the growing and dangerous problem of organized illegal street racing. Sheriff Bill Waybourn, Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker, Fort Worth Police Chief Neil Noakes, and several of my legislative colleagues joined local law enforcement officials to highlight these new laws.   This crime wave is being driven in large part by recruitment of teenagers through social media. Vehicles involved in illegal street racing will now be impounded; also, reckless driving exhibition and racing on a highway are now considered organized criminal activity. Our families should be able to drive without risking serious bodily injury, or even death, from illegal organized racing. The legislature took these actions to help ensure safety and hold these criminals accountable.

ACLU and Others Sue to Block Bills to Protect Texas Children

The recent session also saw some key legislation passed to push back on growing and disturbing efforts at sexualizing our children.  I strongly supported the Restricting Explicit and Adult-Designated Educational Resources (READER) Act, passed overwhelmingly and signed by Governor Abbott.  Aimed at public primary and secondary schools, the READER act is meant to prevent the possession, acquisition, and purchase of harmful material, sexually explicit material, or library material that is pervasively vulgar.  Various groups opposed to this bill have filed suit to stop the bill from going into effect next month. 
We also passed Senate Bill 12, which is set to become law on September 1.  The bill would ban any sexually oriented performances in public places where underage children are present.  However, the ACLU filed a lawsuit last week to block the law from being implemented.  ACLU’s attorney claimed the bill was censorship, and I strongly disagree.  Minor children simply should not be exposed to drag shows.   
I’m proud of the legislature’s efforts to take a stand to protect our children from exposure to content that is not age appropriate.  I hope and pray that the lawsuits seeking to stop us from adopting these new standards will fail.

Property Tax Relief Explained

We have received very positive feedback on our most recent email which provided answers to a host of questions related to the property tax relief package passed by the Texas Legislature.   If you didn’t have a chance to review that information you can find it HERE.   As a reminder, this historic property tax relief must by approved by Texas voters.   That’s why it’s important to mark your calendar and VOTE YES FOR PROP 4.  Early voting runs from Monday, October 23rd, to Friday, November 3rd, and Election Day is Tuesday, November 7th.

Snapshots from Visits Across the District

Attending the Arlington Chamber of Commerce “Legends and Leaders” event hosted at Globe Life Field.

Pictured (L-R) Former Mayor Jeff Williams, Jared Sloane, Steve Montgomery, Anette Soto Landeros, Senator Phil King, Michelle Green-Ford, Michael Jacobson. 

At Globe Life Field, I provided an update on state grant funding for the National Medal of Honor Museum.

Speaking at the Weatherford Chamber of Commerce “Business Before Breakfast,” providing an update on legislative accomplishments.  It’s always good to be among friends in my hometown.

I had the opportunity to participate in a lunch meeting to discuss the ongoing efforts for the National Juneteenth Museum in Fort Worth.   Those present include the grandmother of Juneteenth herself, Ms. Opal Lee along with museum executive board members Dr. Gleniece Robinson, Dr. Angela Mitchell, Dione Sims and Museum CEO Jarred Howard.

Attending the Chisolm Trail 100 Annual Meeting in Johnson County.  

Pictured (L-R) Former Johnson County Sheriff Bob Alford, Grady & Janice Lewis, Phil & Terry King, Pastor Gloria Gillaspie, and Barry Gee, CFO Open Door Church-Burleson

I enjoyed being in Brownwood recently, where I shared an overview of the recent legislative session
with the Brown County Republican Women. 

What an honor to be able to give remarks at the grand opening for the Douglas MacArthur Academy of Freedom Building at Howard Payne University (HPU) in Brownwood. 

Pictured (L-R) Howard Payne University Board Chairman Ronnie Andrews, HPU President Dr. Cory Hines, Brownwood Mayor Stephen Haynes, Senator Phil King, and Representative David Spiller

Answering Your Questions on Property Tax Relief

August 10, 2023

Since the Legislature passed the historic $18 billion property tax relief package I’ve received a number of questions concerning the specific details and especially what part voters play in approving this tax relief in the November Constitutional elections.  
Here is a summary of some of the most common questions. Hopefully this will be helpful to you.
Q:  What does the overall package contain?
A:   The components of the $18 billion in tax relief are:
$ 12.5 billion in tax relief from “compression”
(that means the state is providing more funding to school districts, thus reducing the local school property tax rate.  Specifically, school district property tax rates will be compressed – or reduced – by an average of 18 cents per $100 valuation for all homeowners and business properties statewide).
$   5.3 billion from an increase in the Homestead Exemption
($100,000 of your home value will be exempt from taxation, up from $40,000)
$   0.2 billion for “circuit breaker” (or appraisal caps) for non-Homestead properties
(this includes residential or commercial properties valued at $5 million or less)
Q:  How much money will I save if the tax relief package is passed by the voters?
A:  Based on an average home value of $331,000, taxpayers will save an average of $1,300 a year.
Q:  I’ve also heard there is tax relief for small businesses.  Is that in addition to the $18 billion above?
A:  Correct.  In addition to the tax relief above, we doubled the amount of a taxable entity’s revenue that is exempted from the franchise tax from $1.235 million to $2.47 million. Because of this change, we estimate that approximately 67,000 small to medium sized businesses will no longer pay the franchise tax.
Also, if you don’t owe any tax, you will no longer be required to file a “no tax due” franchise tax return form.  This will reduce paperwork and reporting requirements that cost time and money.
Q:  What part of this tax relief package must be approved by the voters? 
A:  Proposition 4, which will implement the additional tax rate compression, the increase in the homestead exemption and the appraisal board reform (discussed below), must be approved by the voters in a statewide constitutional election. Early voting runs from Monday, October 23rd, to Friday, November 3rd, and Election Day is Tuesday, November 7th.
Q:  How does the homestead exemption work? 
A:  You will see significant property tax relief from a major increase in your homestead exemption, available to taxpayers who own and reside at a property as of Jan. 1 of the year.
For example, if your home is valued at $300,000, currently you can take a $40,000 homestead exemption, and you are taxed only on $260,000. However, because of legislation just passed, if approved by the voters you will be able to claim a $100,000 exemption, meaning you will be taxed on only $200,000 of the $300,000 appraised value. 

Q: How does this impact me if I’m over 65 or Disabled?
A:  If you are a homeowner over 65, or a disabled homeowner, you will continue to receive an additional $10,000 homestead exemption.  Therefore, if Prop 4 is approved, your homestead exemption will be $110,000 instead of $100,000.  
As you may know, school districts are not allowed to increase property taxes on an older or disabled adult; the amount owed is capped where it was for the first year they qualified.  If Prop 4 is approved, frozen tax bills will be recalculated to account for the increase in the homestead exemption and will refreeze at the new, lower calculated amount.
Q:  I keep hearing about this “circuit breaker” that will apply to other properties.  Can you explain how that works? 
A:  We passed a 3-year “pilot program” that will apply to other properties such as rental properties or others you may own that are not your primary residence. For those properties valued at $5 million or less, appraisals can’t go up more than 20% from the previous year. There is currently no such cap for those properties.

Q:  When will I see the relief? 
A:  It’s different for each component of the tax relief package.
Homestead exemption:  If approved in November, the tax cuts from the homestead exemption will be retroactive to January 1st of this year. This means you will see the tax relief reflected on your property tax bill for the 2023 year that’s due by January 31st, 2024.  

Compression: The tax relief from the compression portion will be effective for tax year 2023, for the bill that is due January 31st, 2024.
Circuit Breaker/Appraisal Cap:  If approved in November, this three-year pilot program will be effective for the 2024, 2025, and 2026 tax year.
Franchise Tax Relief:  The doubling of the franchise tax exemption will take effect January 1, 2024 and applies only to franchise tax reports originally due on or after that date.
Q:  Won’t the appraisal values just keep going up and wipe out any benefit of this increased homestead exemption?
A:  The Legislature has passed homeowner protections to prevent that from happening. In 2019, we passed a law which prohibits cities and counties from raising property tax revenue more than 3.5% without voter approval; for school districts, that number is 2.5%. 
Q:  What else do I need to know about the appraisal process?
A:  Well, we took some important steps to provide more direct citizen involvement in the appraisal process, but again, these changes must be approved by the voters in November.  
In counties with a population of 75,000 or more, local citizens will be given the opportunity to elect 3 new members to their local appraisal district board of directors (currently, all appraisal boards are appointed).  These new directors will first be elected in the May 2024 elections and initially serve 2.5 year terms.
Q: Let’s say I only owe $100,000 on my mortgage. If the $100,000 homestead exemption passes, does that mean I won’t pay any more school taxes?  
A:  Your property tax bill is based on your taxable value, not how much you owe on your mortgage.
Q:  I love the idea of tax savings, but I’m concerned that this is money that would have gone to fund our school systems.  
A:  The state of Texas is fully funding education, so school districts will receive the same amount of money they would have without this property tax cut.
Q:  My monthly mortgage payment is partially to pay down my home, and partially to pay for my property taxes through escrow.  So should my overall payment decrease next year?
A: Most mortgage companies re-calculate your property payment each year. So all else being equal, your overall mortgage payment should go down next year to reflect your lower property tax bill.
Q:  What happens next?  
A:  First, local school boards are adopting rates right now with all of the compression factored in (that is, the increased portion of local education funding that will be coming from the state).  As required by law, local tax assessors will calculate the bills and send them to you on the assumption that Prop 4 will be approved.  These new estimates of your property tax bill will arrive in October or November.   In the unlikely event that Prop 4 is not approved by voters, you would receive a supplemental property tax bill.
That’s why it’s important to VOTE YES FOR PROP 4.  Reminder:  Early voting runs from Monday, October 23rd, to Friday, November 3rd, and Election Day is Tuesday, November 7th.

Breaking News: Property Tax Relief Agreement

July 10, 2023

I’m pleased to report that today, after months of negotiation, the Texas House and Senate have reached an agreement that will provide for the largest property tax cut in Texas history. 

More details are forthcoming, but here are the broad parameters of the agreement:

  • Over $12 billion will be spent on reducing the school property tax rate for all homeowners and business properties.
  • Every homeowner who homesteads their residence (approximately 5.7 million homeowners) will receive a $100,000 homestead exemption.
  • Non-homesteaded properties, valued at $5 million and under, including residential and commercial properties, will receive a 20% “circuit breaker”. This 3-year pilot project will function to limit appraisal increases. 
  • Legislation will also include savings on the franchise tax for small businesses and create newly-elected positions on local appraisal boards.

I’m pleased that we will be providing this level of relief to Texans. Last year, as a candidate for Texas Senate, I made clear that property tax relief must be a top priority.  Hopefully this legislation will be voted out very soon and the impact will be felt in the coming months.

The Texas Legislature today reached an agreement that will provide the largest property tax cut in Texas history.

Home Stretch:  Solid Conservative Wins, End of Life Protections, Protecting Small Business, Free State Park Access for Veterans…and more!

May 21, 2023

We are approaching the last week of the 88th Legislative Session which ends on Memorial Day – one week from tomorrow.  
Senators, Representatives and their staff have been working long days; in fact, we are in session today on Sunday. Bills important to members are dying, so frustrations can be high and patience is in short supply. Tensions between the Senate and House rise to the surface, as good people have different approaches on how to address issues facing our great state. I’ve seen the end of sessions play out many times throughout my years as a legislator, and this is not uncommon. 

No doubt there is important work to be done, but legislation is getting passed. Here’s a look at some movement on some of those bills.  

Gender Modification Ban Passes – On to the Governor’s Desk

After initially passing the Texas Senate, on Monday the Texas House passed SB 14, our bill to ban gender modification procedures on minors. The bill came back to the Senate for a final vote on Wednesday, and the bill is now on its way to the Governor’s desk. The testimony I heard related to this issue from those impacted by these procedures was disturbing and sobering. I’m very pleased that we have drawn a line in the sand, making clear that Texas will not allow dangerous, unproven medical practices on vulnerable children. 

Save Women’s College Sports Legislation Passes, Also On to the Governor

After receiving final passage last week, SB 15 is ready for the Governor’s signature. I’ve kept you updated on the progress of this bill, which bans the practice of biological men seeking to unfairly compete against women in college athletics. Last session, as a House member I voted to ban this practice up to the high school level, but we have seen proliferation of this problem at the collegiate level.

If you haven’t followed this issue closely, please listen to testimony of Riley Gaines, a former collegiate swimmer who was a 12-time NCAA All-American and 5-time SEC Champion. I’ve provided this link before, but am doing so again as she provides powerful, compelling information on why this legislation was needed. Please go to 1:40:00 at the following link here.

Senate Passes Texas Regulatory Consistency Act

On Monday, we began the week by passing HB 2127, a key bill to bring fairness, predictability, and consistency to the regulatory process faced by businesses across Texas.
Even with Texas’ reputation as a pro-business haven, some businesses are facing increased costs related to navigating a patchwork of new regulations passed by different cities. In fact, would you be surprised to learn that some large municipalities are using subpoena power to harass local businesses? This is far outside the appropriate role of local government. 
Because of the costs incurred with this growing regulatory intrusion, some companies have even had to resort to laying off employees. Large companies have more of an ability to withstand these costs, but small businesses are significantly impacted. In fact, this bill was the top legislative priority of the Texas Chapter of NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business), which represents small “mom and pop” operations most severely impacted by this disturbing trend of government overreach. 
The Texas Regulatory Consistency Act ensures that municipalities “stay in their lane” and within the constraints prescribed and outlined by the constitution. The bill makes clear that cities can’t have an ordinance that is in conflict with our state constitution, giving local job creators greater confidence in the regulatory landscape. At the same time, local governments will retain clear authority to regulate traditionally local matters; just a few examples include zoning, public safety, employment and housing discrimination, emergency management, fireworks and fire suppression, flood control and drainage, drought and water restrictions.
I actually carried similar legislation in the Texas House last session; however, it died in the final days of the session when Democrats called a point of order to kill it, then fled the state. I look forward to this legislation taking effect later this fall after the governor’s signature.

Landmark Legislation to Ensure Protections and Life Sustaining Treatment for Hospitalized Patients

Sometimes, legislation that has significant impact doesn’t receive the headlines or attention warranted, and I believe this is the case with HB 3162 which has now passed both chambers.
Currently, if a doctor determines that a patient’s life-sustaining medical treatment is “medically inappropriate” and an ethics committee at the hospital agrees, the patient and their family are given 10 calendar days to find a new health care provider. If the family is not successful, the treatment keeping their relative alive can be stopped against their will. You will no doubt remember the 2019 case of Tinslee Lewis (“Baby Tinslee”), a nine-month-old baby with a rare heart condition given only 10 days to live. The courts intervened, her life was sparred, and she is still alive today.
This legislation amends the Texas Advance Directives Act to provide patients on life sustaining treatment – and their families advocating for them – with new rights.  Here are some of the key provisions:

  • Instead of only 10 days, families will now have 25 days to make a transfer for their loved one;
  • Hospitals must perform a procedure necessary to facilitate a transfer before the 25 day countdown may begin;
  • “Quality of life” may no longer be used as a criteria when making decisions about continuing treatment, as this tactic can be used to make arbitrary judgements concerning the elderly or disabled;
  • When hospital ethics committees are meeting, families must be provided at least 7 calendar days notice and be allowed to participate in the meeting;
  • Life sustaining treatment can’t be withheld from a patient capable of communication;
  • Hospitals now have reporting requirements on the dispute resolution process; this information will be made publicly available on the Texas Department of Health and Human Services website 

As a legislator, I’ve been faced with this issue for at least 20 years, and a solution has been elusive. I’m grateful that progress has finally been made to ensure that patients and their families will soon have greater protection during a very stressful and emotional time. 

Increasing Criminal Penalties for Fentanyl Abuse

In previous updates I’ve shared how the unchecked border is allowing a dramatic increase in the increased supply of fentanyl, a dangerous and potent synthetic opioid. In the 12-month period ending in November 2022, the CDC reports more than 75,000 Americans died from an overdose of synthetic opioids, mainly from fentanyl. The Texas Department of Public Safety has seized over 353 million lethal doses of fentanyl since the beginning of Operation Lone Star in March 2021. HB 6, passed last week, seeks to address this issue by increasing criminal penalties for the manufacturing or delivery of fentanyl, expanding the conduct constituting murder, and creating two criminal offenses involving the manufacture or delivery of certain opioids.

Honoring Veterans with Free Access to Texas State Parks

I voted last week to support a bill that would allow all honorably discharged veterans and active U.S. armed forces members free access to our state parks, along with free access to a surviving spouse, parent, child, or sibling of a person who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces.  This is a great way to honor our veterans and show our appreciation for the men and women who have proudly served our nation. Currently, only disabled veterans are eligible for free access, and with this action this courtesy will be extended to all veterans.

A few more items moving through the process:

  • Critical legislation to address Texas’ growing water needs, SB 28, received final passage and is on to the Governor’s desk. This bill establishes the Texas Water Fund and the New Water Supply Fund, which voters will need to approve in a November constitutional referendum.
  • Unfortunately, there has been a growing movement across multiple states to impose state taxes based on net worth or wealth. HJR 132, passed by the Senate, would allow the people of Texas to decide whether or not they want a direct say in the possibility of a net worth tax being imposed by the legislature. Obviously, I would strenuously oppose the creation of a net worth tax.
  • The Senate voted this week in support of expanding broadband availability to rural areas of the state. HB 9 creates the Texas Broadband Infrastructure Fund, administered by the office of the Texas Comptroller. HJR 125 would place a constitutional amendment before Texas voters, who would have to approve the proposed funding.

Mother’s Day, More Border Security, Stopping ESG, Honoring WWII Veterans, & More

May 14, 2023

I want to wish all of our Moms a wonderful Mother’s Day and acknowledge the very special role they have in our lives. I particularly want to share how blessed I am for my wife, Terry, and the amazing job she did in raising our six children and serving as a role model for our five daughters. I am blessed with a wonderful stepmother, Barbara, who helped fill the void after my mother passed. My mother, Joyce King, was very ill most of her adult life and passed away many years ago. As we think of the moms in our lives – whether living or their memory – this is a great day to say thank you! Happy Mother’s Day!

Senate Passes My Bill to Establish First in Nation Terrorist Registry

One of the bills that I authored and passed last week by the Senate establishes a first in the nation Terrorist Offender Registry.    

First, some background. Texas has not yet taken action to enact state criminal statutes directed at terrorism. This has resulted in law enforcement and prosecutors lacking the necessary tools to pursue investigations, obtain convictions, and impose proportionate punishments against terrorist actors. 

SB 1518 provides those tools by creating a new category for terroristic offenses. The new state terrorism offenses will carry appropriate penalties against terrorists who knowingly act or provide material support to terrorist organizations. Commission of an offense carries a mandatory enhancement of one penalty level and a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years for felonies and 180 days for misdemeanors.

Finally, SB 1518 identifies and tracks those who have proven to be threats to public and national safety. Currently, if someone is released from prison after serving time for a terrorist-related crime, we have no idea where those people are if they come to our state. Therefore, following completion of their prison sentence for the commission of a reportable offense, this bill requires convicted terrorists to register on the Terrorist Offender Registry if they reside in or plan to move to the State of Texas.  This would operate similarly to our existing state sex offender registration statute, but there are some differences; for example, information on this new registry is accessible only by law enforcement.  

Border Security Remains in Focus: Texas Senate Takes Action

Earlier this week I expressed my concern about the unfolding crisis at the border after Title 42 expired at midnight on Thursday. While the full consequences and effects are yet to be fully known, the ensuing border chaos in the first few days demonstrates that – once again – the federal government under President Joe Biden is unwilling and incapable of securing our southern border. These developments also underscore why it is critical for Texas to take the leadership in this mission and provide the resources to get it done. As the session nears an end, I thought this would be an appropriate time to recap bills passed so far by the Texas Senate that have an impact on border security. Some of these bills are still in process and passage is not assured, but these have been passed by the Senate:

HB 1 (our state budget): provides $4.6 billion to maintain current border security operations with a pay raise for border law enforcement
SB 22:  funding rural law enforcement
SB 423: authorizes Texas military forces to use drones for border security and other operations
SB 602: confers state felony arrest authority to US Border Patrol agents
SB 1248: strengthens smuggling laws to include state parks
SB 1403: creates the Border Security Compact
SB 1427: provides increased penalties for smuggling
SB 1484: a border operations training program
SB 1709:  my legislation strengthens organized crime and sedition laws
SB 1884: sanctioning foreign nationals
SB 1900: adds foreign terrorist organizations to organized crime under state law
SB 2424:  gives the state authority to enforce our border

Authoring Legislation to Target ESG Policies Impacting the Cost of Insurance

We’ve all seen the increasingly liberal, “woke” agenda of some corporations. Instead of focusing on what is best for customers and shareholders, many are intent on bowing to the small but vocal activists who are pushing the so-called ESG (Environment, Social, and Governance) model. 

This trend has even impacted the insurance industry. That’s why I authored SB 833, which prohibits any insurance company doing business in Texas from using environmental, social, or governance factors as a basis for determining insurance rates. SB 833 will ensure that only mathematically valid factors are considered when determining rates, not race, socioeconomic status, or political affiliation, and certainly not an ESG rating.

An example of this would be if a company had a truck fleet that’s all electric and another company had a truck fleet that is diesel, the EV fleet could not get a different, lower premium that has nothing to do with causality or risk factors. 

This Texas bill, and our aggressive efforts to rein in ESG, have received national notice. Recently TIME magazine wrote: “Over the past year, the backlash against so-called ESG investing has swept through red states as legislatures enacted laws punishing investment firms that use environmental, social, and governance metrics in their decision making. As the saying goes, it’s bigger in Texas.”

Senate Passes Additional Legislation to Ban COVID Mandates

This week the Senate passed SB 1024, which bans government entities from mandating masks, vaccines, and from adding COVID-19 vaccines to school immunization schedules. It also prohibits discrimination against unvaccinated people by labor organizations.

Honoring the TCCRI Student Scholars of the 2023 Legislative Session

As I’ve shared before, I serve as Chairman of the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute (TCCRI). Every legislative session since 2009, the TCCRI Clements Legislative Study Program provides conservative college students the opportunity to learn about public policy development up close and firsthand as interns at the Texas Capitol. The program is the largest of its kind in Texas for conservative college students.

Each Texas legislative session, TCCRI places scholars in the office of a state legislator who is a member of the Texas Conservative Coalition (TCC), the conservative caucus of the Texas Legislature; this provides a unique learning environment for students interested in public service and public policy. Through this program, TCCRI helps ensure that its founding principles – Limited Government, Individual Liberty, Free Enterprise, and Traditional Values – are instilled in the next generation of conservative leaders. 

Last week, we honored this year’s participants including our SD 10 intern, Jackie Pillow of Fort Worth.  A graduate from Aledo ISD, she is a second-year UT student majoring in Canfield Business Honors and Finance, with a minor in Law, Justice, and Society.

Last week we honored the students who participated in the TCCRI Clements Legislative Study Program, which provides conservative college students the opportunity to learn firsthand about the public policy process. 

Last Thursday, we were joined by 16 World War II veterans, ranging in age from 95 to 102. This was an amazing opportunity to see these living Texans from the “Greatest Generation”.  It was a particular honor for me to meet SD 10 constituent Arnold Pitchford from Millsap. Mr. Pitchford served in the United States Army from April 1945 through December 1946. He was born on Tin Top Road in Weatherford, resides on the family farm on Pitchford Lane and has multiple generations of family living in Parker County. Thank you for your service, Sir!

Honoring Texas WW II Veterans of the “Greatest Generation”

Last week, Thursday’s observance of World War II Veterans Capitol Day provided us an opportunity to honor brave members of the Greatest Generation for their selfless service. These patriots helped preserve the freedoms we enjoy today.

In December 1941, the United States was drawn into the most devastating and consequential conflict in human history. At that time, although Texas had only five percent of the nation’s population, we provided seven percent of armed forces personnel. By the end of the war, 750,000 Texans, including 12,000 women, had contributed to victory over enemy forces; the majority of these service members were in the U.S. Army and the Army Air Force, but nearly a quarter served in other branches; over 22,000 Texans made the ultimate sacrifice, a third of this number in the Navy, Marines, or Coast Guard. 

According to the National World War II Museum, as of 2022, 8,200 World War II veterans were living in Texas, the fifth-highest number of all states in the U.S. It was a privilege to meet some of these great men, shake their hand, and let them know how much we honor them.  

Border Surge, Tracking Dangerous Foreign Nationals, Honoring Israel’s 75th Birthday & TCU’s 150th

May 9, 2023

As of yesterday, there are only three weeks left in the 88th Texas Legislative session. This is the time in the session when various deadlines related to the process bring an increased sense of urgency to those trying to ensure important bills get passed.  We are still working to finalize the budget, and as we are required by the Constitution to pass a budget before adjourning we will do so. However, there is still important work to be done on major priorities concerning property tax relief, school choice, improving and securing the electric grid, and more. The final stretch will be very important in determining if we are here for special sessions this summer or not. In this report I’ve enclosed some highlights of both legislation and special events over the last couple of weeks.

Clarification on Property Tax Freeze for Seniors

First, though, last week in my email concerning property tax appraisals, I stated the following: “If you are over 65, your tax appraisal is frozen.” I received a question from a longtime friend who pointed out that my wording wasn’t completely accurate, and he is correct. When you qualify for an Over 65 or Disabled Person homestead exemption, your property taxes are actually frozen and can never go up; however, this applies only to the school districts, which constitute the overwhelming majority of your property tax bill. This is sometimes referred to as the “senior freeze” or “homestead tax ceiling”. However, for the other local government jurisdictions such as city and county, it is up to each local entity to decide whether or not to freeze your taxes. Check with your local appraisal district to see which of your local government entities have provided this freeze. In Weatherford where I live, for example, those over 65 have their homestead property taxes frozen for the school district, city, county and community college. But every community is different by local option.

Texas Prepares for Border Surge as Biden Ends Title 42 Policy

More broadly, I am watching the developments along the border with concern. You may have heard of “Title 42”, which were restrictions implemented under President Donald Trump in March 2020 as the COVID pandemic began. Implementation of Title 42 allowed border agents to prevent illegal entry from Mexico, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supported this measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in crowded detention settings.

Now, President Biden plans to lift the Title 42 policy this week when the COVID public health emergency officially ends, and we are already seeing the impact. In recent weeks we have seen a significant increase in apprehensions between ports of entry, with Texas DPS and U.S. Border Patrol predicting up to 8,000 attempted entries a day – double the recent number. As a member of the Senate Border Security, I am in regular contact with DPS Director Steve McCraw and will be monitoring developments as this situation unfolds. Texas is responding and preparing to deal with the expected surge. Gov. Abbott said yesterday, “We’re deploying today a new Texas tactical border force made up of elite National Guard who are specifically trained for one thing. And that is to identify areas illegal immigrants are trying to cross the border and to fill that gap and to repel them.”

Tracking and Sanctioning Corrupt and Dangerous Foreign Nationals

In 2020, Congress passed the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act, which requires the U.S. Department of State to provide an annual report, the Engel List, on corrupt and undemocratic actors in the so-called “Northern Triangle” countries. This federal report is used to hold corrupt actors accountable with sanctions such as asset freezing and denying visas. Now, Texas is taking similar action.

Early in the session I communicated with you about the sobering testimony of DPS Director Col. Steve McCraw before the Border Security Committee on which I serve. He outlined a significant vulnerability from the proliferation of bad actors along the Mexican border, including cartels trafficking in cash, people, weapons and drugs. 

With SB 1884, Texas will create its own version of the Engel List by tracking and monitoring corrupt and dangerous actors doing business in our state. The Texas Secretary of State’s Office will generate and post on its website a list of foreign nationals who have engaged in actions that undermine our security and sovereignty, or are engaged in significant corruption in their home country. Sanctions can then be imposed on these individuals or entities by denying an application for or revoking any business registration in this state, prohibiting contracts with state agencies, and prohibiting attendance in public institutions of higher education. Taking this action will provide us with another tool to fight corruption and dangerous individuals intent on undermining our state. 

Banning Public Funding for Gender Modification; Ensuring Fair Treatment of Detransitioning Procedures

Transgender healthcare facilities are exploding across the state, and with that of course comes a dramatic increase in gender modification treatments and procedures. Tragically, many of those who go through these procedures later regret the process and then consider detransition. The sad reality is that the use of hormone blockers, cross-sex hormone treatments, and gender modification surgeries are fraught with danger.   
The use of hormone blockers brings numerous risks and complications, including decreased bone density, disruption of normal bone development, and increased mental health problems. Those who choose to detransition often face numerous roadblocks, including learning that their health insurance (which often covered the initial gender modification procedures) does not cover these ongoing health issues. SB 1029, passed by the Senate on April 26, addresses these issues and bans taxpayer dollars from being spent on gender modification. The bill makes private health benefit plans strictly liable for the lifetime care of the patient for consequences of gender modification treatment or procedures covered by the plan; prohibits public funds from being used for gender modification procedure or treatment; and prohibits state funded insurance plans (TRS, ERS, Medicaid, CHIP) from covering transgender modification treatments or procedures.

Separately, last month I voted for SB 14, a bill which bans modification for minors in Texas. SB 14 would prohibit people under the age of 18 from receiving hormone therapy, puberty blockers, or surgery for the purposes of transitioning from one gender to another.

Honoring the 75th Birthday of the Nation of Israel

Governor Greg Abbott, Texas Secretary of State Jane Nelson, and colleagues from the Texas Senate as we recognize 75 years since the founding of the modern state of Israel.

On April 26th, it was my honor to lead the Senate as we recognized the 75th anniversary of the nation of Israel. There is a deep heritage that Texans share with Israel, whether that is spiritually, economically, or our love for freedom and independence. Israel is one of our leading trading partners and a close ally of both the United States and certainly to Texas. Economically, Israel is known as a “startup nation” for their entrepreneurship, which fits Texas so well.

We honored a number of guests on the Senate floor, including Kenny and Sherry Goldberg (Kenny is chair of the Texas Holocaust Genocide and Antisemitism Advisory Commission); Sandra Hagee Parker, board member of the Texas Holocaust Genocide and Antisemitism Advisory Commission; Fred Zeidman, Chairman Emeritus of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council; and Livia Link-Raviv, Counsel General of Israel to the Southwest.

 Honoring TCU’s 150th Anniversary

My Senate colleague Lois Kolkhorst (a TCU graduate) and I welcomed TCU President Daniel Pullin, Deputy Athletics Director Mike Sinquefield, Student Body President Brandon Fox and Burnett School of Medicine student Kavneet Kaur on the occasion of TCU’s 150th Anniversary.

As State Senator for District 10, I have the privilege of representing TCU, a university that has continued to grow in both academic offerings and national prominence. TCU, with approximately 12,000 students, 100,000 alumni, and a $2 billion endowment, now has a medical school that will graduate its first class in 2023. TCU was founded in 1873; Sen. Kolkhorst and I sponsored a Senate resolution in recognition of this milestone. 

“It is an honor to be recognized and celebrated by the state of Texas in this meaningful way,” President Pullin said. “For 150 years, TCU has been developing the next generation of ethical leaders and innovators for the advancement of our region and our state, sending talented Horned Frogs across the globe to impact the greater good. We proudly share our talented graduates with the state of Texas and boldly look forward to the next 150 years.”

TCU students and leaders, and even “SuperFrog”, made their presence known at the State Capitol last week. Congratulations on your 150th anniversary!

Students from Dallas Baptist University stopped by to see me recently. I earned both my undergraduate and MBA degrees from DBU and served there as an Adjunct Professor, teaching constitutional law, from 1992-1995. 

Dr. James Hurley, President and CEO at Tarleton State University, stopped by to see me recently. The main campus of Tarleton is in Stephenville, outside of SD 10, but Tarleton State University – Fort Worth has operated programs serving the needs of Tarrant, Johnson and Parker Counties for over 40 years. In 2019, Tarleton opened a multi-purpose academic facility on the Chisholm Trail Parkway in Southwest Fort Worth.

From time to time, I am asked to serve as presiding officer of the Texas Senate, overseeing the legislative process. 

Leading the Texas Senate in prayer to begin the session. 

My Appraisal Increased 30% – Do My Taxes Increase 30%? The Answer is No.

May 1, 2023

You are well aware that property tax appraisals are arriving across the eight counties of Senate District 10.   
It is important to remember:

  1. Because of laws passed by the legislature, without voter approval local governments and jurisdictions are prohibited from increasing their total tax revenue – over the previous year – by more than 2.5% for school districts and 3.5% for all other taxing entities.
  2. Only 10% of the increase in your homestead property value can be used in determining your actual tax. If you are over 65, your taxes are frozen at the school district level.   When you qualify for an Over 65 or Disabled Person homestead exemption, your property taxes are actually frozen and can never go up; however, this applies only to the school districts, which constitute the overwhelming majority of your property tax bill.   This is sometimes referred to as the “senior freeze” or “homestead tax ceiling”.  However, for the other jurisdictions such as city and county, it is up to each local entity to decide whether or not to freeze your taxes.  Check with your local appraisal district to see which of your local entities have provided this freeze.   

More explanation on this is included below.

In the final month of the current legislative session which ends on May 29th, you will be hearing a lot more about various proposals to reduce the property tax burden in Texas. Rest assured, I am committed to using a substantial portion of the current Texas budget surplus for that purpose.

Below, I’ve outlined some common questions I receive concerning the appraisal process, along with some information I hope will be helpful.

How does the appraisal process work, and how does it impact my
property tax bill?

  • First, know that Texas has no state property tax. Local governments are authorized by the Texas Constitution and statutory law to collect local property taxes. The state does not set tax rates, collect taxes or settle disputes between taxpayers and local governments.
  • An appraisal notice is NOT a bill; rather, receiving your appraisal is the first step in the process. The actual property tax you pay will be determined after the tax rate is set by your local government entities in the coming months.  

My homestead appraisal went up over 30%. So is my property tax bill going up 30%?

  • No. Even though an appraisal may have gone up substantially, taxing districts are limited to using no more than a 10% increase in your homestead property value. Here’s an example:

Previous Assessed Value:        $400,000
New Assessed Valued:             $520,000

In this example, you might think you will be taxed on the new assessment of $520,000 – a 30% increase. However, local taxing districts can use no more than $440,000 ($400,000 x 10% = $40,000) as the taxable value used in calculating the taxes on your homestead.

  • As a reminder, don’t forget to confirm that you have filed your personal homestead exemption on your primary residence. Because of changes made in the last legislative session and approved by voters in a statewide election last May, the homestead exemption was raised from $25,000 to $40,000. That means that $40,000 of your appraisal value is removed, thus lowering what your tax bill would have been. (Last month, the Texas Senate passed a plan to increase that the homestead exemption from $40,000 to an historic $70,000, plus an additional $30,000 for seniors.)
  • If you are over 65, make sure to file your exemption to freeze your taxes.
  • More specific questions concerning your homestead exemption can be found here:

How does the appraisal process work?  Who sets the tax rates that determine my property tax bill?

  • The appraisal value you received was determined by your local Appraisal District. State law requires that properties be appraised at fair market value, using standard methodology outlined by the Texas Comptroller.
  • Appraisal Districts are governed by a board of directors selected by the local taxing units outlined below.
  • In the coming months, a tax rate will be set by the various taxing jurisdictions in your particular county. These jurisdictions will always include your local school district and county government. Then, depending on where you live, this could also include a city (municipal) tax and potentially others such as a hospital district, water district, community college/junior college district or other special purpose districts. Your local school district taxes constitute the overwhelming portion of your local property tax bill. 

If I disagree with the appraised value of my home, what can I do?   

  • If you feel your appraised value is too high, you can appeal. Visit the web site of your county appraisal office, the entity responsible for determining the property value assessment you have received.Links to each county appraisal office are listed at the end of this email.Your appeal will be heard by an appraisal review board (ARB), a panel of your fellow citizens who will then decide if your appraisal should be reduced.
  • Important: if you plan an appeal, make sure you pay attention to the upcoming deadlines for appealing your assessment. Those deadlines will be listed on your county’s appraisal district web site.  

What Has the Legislature Done? 

As previously noted, there is no state property tax, but we have still taken aggressive measures over recent legislative sessions to impact the process with the goal of lowering the tax burden.

  • Major property tax reforms passed in 2019 forced local governments to seek and obtain voter approval before increasing revenue from the previous year above 2.5% (for school districts – HB 3) or 3.5% for most other taxing units (like cities – SB 2). These pro-taxpayer reforms give homeowners a needed voice during a time when values are growing; without those reforms, tax bills would grow unchecked.
  • In 2019, we were able to significantly reduce a huge penalty on landowners when they would change the use of their open space land from agricultural, for example, to another purpose such as building a home or opening a business. For decades, the rollback tax held back land development and penalized family property owners. For example, let’s say you bought or inherited land that had been out in the country. Years later you decided to convert it to a business purpose or maybe just build your new home. At that point, on whatever acreage you converted from “ag exempt” you’d pay five years back property taxes, at full market value, with interest compounded at 7%! In 2019, Texas passed legislation to reduce that five year “claw back” to three years and the interest from 7% to 5%. That was a good start but not enough. 
  • That’s why in the 2021 legislative session, I authored and passed HB 3833. By eliminating the interest on rollback property taxes, it was estimated that property taxes will be reduced by $472 million over the next five years.   
  • As referenced earlier, last legislative session I supported increasing the residential homestead exemption from $25,000 to $40,000. 

What is the Legislature Doing Right Now to Help Lower the Property Tax Burden?

The current legislative session ends on May 29th. We are working to use the budget surplus to provide more funding for public education in order to “buy down” the local school property tax rates.

Though approaches differ between the House and Senate, there is general agreement that at least $16 billion will be used to provide property tax relief.

I hope this background and information is helpful. If you intend on appealing your appraisal, see the links below.

An appraisal notice is NOT a bill; rather, receiving your appraisal is the first step in the process. The actual property tax you pay will be determined after the tax rate is set by your local government entities in the coming months.

If you feel your appraised value is too high, you can appeal. Visit the web site of your county appraisal office, the entity responsible for determining the property value assessment you have received. 


Here are direct links to your county appraisal office:
Brown County

Callahan County

Johnson County

Palo Pinto County

Parker County

Shackelford County

Stephens County

Tarrant County

Better Tools for Law Enforcement; Ending DEI & Tenure; Ten Commandments & More

April 23, 2023

SB 1852: Better Equipping Law Enforcement

Texas is home to the gold-standard Active Shooter Training in the country – The Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training – commonly referred to as ALERRT.

Since 2002, ALERRT has been awarded more than $126 million in state and federal grant funding and has trained more than 248,000 law enforcement, fire, EMS, and emergency management officials nationwide.

SB 1852 will make ALERRT part of the minimum curriculum requirements for peace officers.  Upon this bill becoming law, officers will be required by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement to complete a training program on responding to an active shooter as developed by the ALERRT Center.

SB 1403 – Interstate Border Security Compact: Another Tool in the Border Security Effort

The Texas Senate has passed SB 1403, an interstate border security compact that does not rely on congressional approval. An interstate compact for border enforcement would equip Texas and other participating states with the resources needed to address the shortcomings of existing federal border policy. Allowing states to share enforcement resources, intelligence, and assistance in creating and maintaining defensive border structures would strengthen states’ capabilities to address, manage, and overcome the continuing security crisis at our southern border.

Restoring Posting of Ten Commandments in Classrooms

SB 1515 is about restoring religious liberties that have been lost, liberties that were a bedrock of America’s founding until a 1971 court decision which rolled them back.  America regularly acknowledged the role that fundamental religious documents and principles had in American heritage and law. One of the most recognized set of foundational principles were the Ten Commandments, which were displayed in public buildings across the United States, including in schools, government buildings, and courthouses—including the U.S. Supreme Court building.

For the last several decades, however, expression of that heritage has been restricted, especially after a 1980 Supreme Court decision which struck down Kentucky’s law requiring the Ten Commandments to be displayed in public schools.  Now, after recent court decisions, the legal landscape has changed, and it is time to reassert the historical tradition of recognizing America’s heritage.  Through this legislation, Texas students will once again be reminded of a fundamental foundation of American and Texas law: the Ten Commandments.  This bill that I authored passed the Texas Senate this week.

SB 18 – Eliminating Faculty Tenure at Public Universities

Tenure provides a lifetime contract between a professor and an institution. Once granted, an educator can only be terminated for a justifiable cause or under extreme circumstances, such as program discontinuation or severe financial restraints.

Tenure was originally intended to protect academic freedom and recruit professors, however over the years, the practice has devolved into a costly perk that is detrimental to innovative research and quality instruction.  At a time when colleges and universities have unprecedented endowments, bloated administrative costs and ballooning tuition, we must reevaluate an outdated practice that guarantees lifetime employment at taxpayer expense.  Additionally, we have all heard the stories of indoctrination and liberal worldviews of professors who promote their agenda in the classroom.  With tenure, they are immune from fear of consequences.

SB 18 eliminates the costly, unnecessary and antiquated burden of tenure by eliminating tenure for faculty at public colleges and universities in Texas. This bill would apply to newly hired professors only.  It would then call for each institution to set up a system of tiered employment for faculty members and faculty would receive a yearly evaluation.  

SB 17 – Banning Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Programs in Public Universities

The push for the so-called “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” philosophy is a perfect example of the liberal “woke” agenda that has increasingly permeated government, corporations, schools and universities.  In Texas, we are fighting back to ensure that we implement systems based on merit and achievement, not ideological agendas which create division and intolerance. 

Last week, we passed SB 17, Senate Bill 17 will prohibit institutions of higher education in the state from promoting or creating DEI programs. The use of diversity statements on applications would be banned, and mandatory DEI training would be scrapped. Research shows these programs have not been successful in the goal of hiring more minority employees.

During testimony and debate on the senate floor, we heard examples such as one of our statewide universities using a job applicant’s commitment to DEI as a factor in hiring.  As Governor Abbott made clear in a February letter to all university systems, practices such as this violate state and federal law.

Reminder:  Vote in Your Local Elections

Across the eight counties of Senate District 10, elections for local school boards, community colleges, and city council and mayors are upon us.  Early voting in most of these elections begins on Monday, April 24. Election Day is Saturday, May 6.

There’s a saying regarding civic involvement: “Government belongs to those who show up.” Since so few people vote in these elections, those who do turn out have a significant impact in the outcome.  Make sure you research the candidates running and support those who represent your values and philosophy. 

Members of the Leadership Burleson Class of 2023 were in town last week. I enjoyed visiting with these current and future of leaders from one of the fastest growing areas in SD 10. This delegation also met with a Texas Supreme Court Justice and toured the Governor’s Mansion and the Texas State Cemetery.

I had the honor of meeting with students from Howard Payne University in Brownwood last week.

Parker County District Attorney Jeff Swain was in Austin last week.  We have been working together on proposed legislation, SB 1515. 

Last week on the Senate floor, preparing to lay out a bill to my fellow senators.