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June Legislative Update Vol I

Texas House Adjourns Sine Die After Passing Property Tax, Border Bills in One-Day Special Session

The Senate adjourned earlier until Friday after passing its property tax and border bills.

BRAD JOHNSON 21 HOURS AGO

Speaker Dade Phelan (The Texan/Daniel Friend)

The first special session of the 88th Texas Legislature lasted one day for the House as it adjourned sine die after expediting filing and passage of its property tax and border-related bill.

Gov. Greg Abbott called a special session immediately after the regular session ended Monday evening without a property tax bill having passed. He placed two items on the call: provide property tax relief solely through compression of school district Maintenance & Operations rates, and pass an criminal penalty increase for human smuggling and operating a stash house.

Both chambers expedited their priority bills on the two issues, passing them to their opposite chamber. But whereas the Senate adjourned until Friday after passing its pair, the House adjourned sine die, ending its first special session this year after one day.

“When Governor Abbott declared a special session yesterday evening, we had every intention of gaveling in this morning, fulfilling the Governor’s call, and gaveling out,” Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) said in a statement. “I am proud to say that’s exactly what happened in the Texas House today.”

Phelan added, “I want to thank Governor Abbott for his leadership and willingness to work with the House as we negotiated on these issues. His special session call gave us clear-cut direction to buy down property taxes using tax compression, and the passage of today’s legislation fulfills that call. The House adjourns sine die having done its part to strengthen our state’s border and provide Texans with the largest state property tax cut in American history.”

The governor swiftly released a statement applauding the House.

“The Texas House is the only chamber that passed a property tax cut bill that is germane to the special session that I called to provide Texans with property tax relief,” Abbott wrote. “It provides more cuts to property tax rates than any other proposal at this time. It is supported by the most respected tax think tank in the state, as well as more than 30 homeowners, consumer, and business groups across the state. I look forward to signing it when it reaches my desk.”

The two chambers’ plans differed in substance when filed this morning.

The House’s plan outlined 16.2 cents in rate compression, on top of the continued 10-cent compression in the 2024-2025 budget, worth about $12.3 billion.

Across the rotunda, the Senate passed a plan with 10 cents of compression and increasing the homestead exemption to $100,000, with a fiscal note of just over $12 billion.

On Tuesday afternoon, after the Senate’s bills passed, Phelan stated on the dais that neither of the Senate’s property tax proposals — the constitutional amendment nor its enabling bill — would be referred to a committee because the homestead exemption provision was not germane to the governor’s special session call.

Because the House adjourned sine die, the Senate would have to pass the House’s versions of the bills in order for them to make the governor’s desk at all this session. If not, a new special session would have to be called for a redo.

Delayed one day from when they thought they’d be leaving, members of the Texas House high-tailed it out of the Capitol and the capital after adjourning sine die in what’s got to be the most drama-filled one-day special session in state history.

Update: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued a response on Tuesday evening. He said:

“Governor Abbott released a statement this evening where he said, ‘The Texas House is the only chamber that passed a property tax cut bill that is germane to the special session that I called to provide Texans with property tax relief.’

He seems misinformed about the roles of the executive and legislative branches of government. While the Governor has the sole authority to call the Legislature into Session, the Legislature writes the bills — the courts have been crystal clear on this.

Governor Abbott has finally shown his cards. He chooses to give homeowners 50 percent less of a tax cut, nearly $700 a year, to give corporations more. This is not what homeowners expected when they voted for him.

Both the House and Senate spend $17.6 billion for property tax relief. After giving lower tax rates to everyone through compression the Senate plan dedicates nearly $6 billion for homestead exemptions. That gives homeowners nearly $700 more than the Abbott plan. I’m shocked Governor Abbott is advocating for taking that additional $700 savings from homeowners and giving it to businesses.

I stand by our bill. It is germane to the call — legal precedent is clear on this point. Something Governor Abbott and Speaker Phelan should remember — for any bill to pass, it must go through both the House AND the Senate.

While the House may have thrown in the towel, the Senate continues to work. The Governor should feel free to expand the call to include other critical issues for our State.”

Glossary:

 Sine Die:  No more to come session over.

Compression: Compression occurs when tax rates exceed tax limitations and assessed values and real market values inch closer together

Maximum M&O tax rate for TY 2022 and SY 2022–2023

The maximum M&O tax rate: for any district in TY 2022 will be $1.0641 ($0.8941 + $0.17). Districts with local compression that exceeds state compression will have a lower maximum M&O tax rate.

What is the property tax compression in Texas?

Texas Property Taxes

Property taxes in Texas are the seventh highest in the U.S., as the average effective property tax rate in the Lone Star State is 1.60%. Compare that to the national average, which currently stands at 0.99%. The typical Texas homeowner pays $3,797 annually in property taxes.

Here is an Explanation of HB1

House Bill 1 and a related resolution, both of which sailed through the chamber Tuesday with no floor debate, would lower school district property tax rates across the board, essentially spreading out the collective $12.3 billion in savings to all property owners, including businesses who own commercial property.

Former Secretary of State John Scott Appointed Interim Attorney General

After much speculation, former secretary of state John Scott has been named interim attorney general as Ken Paxton awaits trial in the Texas Senate.

CAMERON ABRAMS2 HOURS AGO

The controversial saga surrounding the position of Texas attorney general took a new twist after Gov. Greg Abbott proclaimed former secretary of state John Scott as interim attorney general.

Scott will be replacing the first interim Attorney General Brent Webster, who was formerly second-in-command in the Office of the Attorney General. Webster ascended to the role according to Government Code Chapter 402 after now-suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton was impeached in the Texas House of Representatives last weekend.

In his announcement, the governor remarked on Scott’s decades of experience and previous tenure working under him during Abbott’s time as attorney general.

“Scott was the Deputy Attorney General for Civil Litigation and has handled cases at all levels of the justice system. His decades of experience and expertise in litigation will help guide him while serving as the state’s top law enforcement officer,” Abbott’s statement reads.

Scott was appointed as secretary of state in 2019, but the Legislature could not confirm him until it convened again in 2021. Then-Secretary of State Ruth Hughes continued to hold the position until the Legislature met and confirmed Scott’s appointment.

Scott stepped down from the position in 2022.

Abbott noted in his statement that Scott has overseen over 22,000 lawsuits involving Texas and that “he aided then-Attorney General Abbott’s efforts to hold the Obama Administration accountable and sue President Obama more than any other state Attorney General.”

The appointment comes while Paxton is awaiting trial in the Senate.

Paxton and Scott have experience in the Capitol together, as both served under Abbott with Paxton being first elected to office in 2015.

The 20 charges against him, including disregard of official duty, constitutional bribery, and obstruction of justice, have led Abbott to institute a placeholder of his own in the attorney general position.

Paxton was re-elected in 2022 by Texas voters and has continued to proclaim his innocence, claiming the impeachment was due to “liberal” and “corrupt” House members.

No date has been set for the start of the Senate trial, but Texans now have an answer as to who will be holding the attorney general position in the interim.

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