The 88th Legislative General Session begins January 10, 2023.
Legislators began filing bills on November 14, 2022. I have attached the bills which have been filed to date.
An extremely helpful website is Texas Legislature Online. The site instructs you on how bills are passed and how to track bills.
You can login and create your myTLO account which allows you to set categories of bills that you want to track and set alerts as to their progress through the legislative process.
You can also watch live videos of the Committee meetings.
We still maintain a Republican majority in the Governor’s Office, Lt. Governor Office, Attorney General Office, House of Representatives, and the Texas Senate, but we cannot take support of our Legislative Priorities for granted. We must stay involved with the process, especially regarding Election Integrity, and inform our legislators of our support or opposition to bills being considered for legislation.
Unfortunately, Republicans are under-represented in SD 13. We still need to contact our Democratic Representatives and Senators and give them our opinions regarding the legislation that they are supporting, and we can also reach out to surrounding Republican Representatives and Senators to show them our support and encouragement.
List of all the Bills filed so far.
by Michael Quinn Sullivan
Reflections Texas Minute
The great military philosopher Sun Tzu warned his students not to let their enemies pick the time and location of battles. Sun Tzu wrote, “The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.”
When you fight on your enemies’ terms, it rarely works out well.
You would think this would be self-evident, but time and again conservatives let liberals define the fights. It is no wonder the war for our culture and republic is in shambles!
Words matter; they shape how we view the world. For example, the Himba tribe from Namibia has no word for the color blue. When researchers showed them diagrams of 12 squares – 11 green and one blue – the tribesmen didn’t recognize the difference. As a jungle people, though, they saw huge differences in various shades of green that weren’t completely obvious to the researchers.
Language, and how we use it, not only defines our world but shapes our actions.
Conservatives have allowed themselves to be backed into a corner, often revealing themselves to be intellectually and morally insecure. That is what we proclaim when using the language of the left in the battles determined by the left.
Conservative politicians will say they adopt the other side’s language as a reasonable concession to civic dialogue. In fact, they do it often because they are insecure or lazy… Or maybe they are revealing their true beliefs.
On issue after issue, time after time, conservatives cede the selection of the rhetorical battleground to the left.
We do not insist on using the language of life; instead, we capitulate by calling the infanticide brigade “pro-choice.” When you define your opponents’ position as “pro-choice,” you set yourself up a heartbeat away from losing.
I cringe when I hear Republicans talk about government budgets “paying for” tax cuts. When one starts, as leftists do, with the presumption that government owns everything, then – perhaps – government decides how much you keep of what they say is their money in your bank account.
But as free-market conservatives, allegedly, we believe wealth is created by individuals. Governments have only what has been taken from citizens in the form of taxation.
People who enter a country without permission have long been known legally as illegal aliens; they do not belong where they are and have broken laws to enter. But the term “illegal aliens” became “illegal immigrants,” and now that is morphed into “undocumented migrants,” just plain migrants, This was a purposeful transition of language.
Listen to speeches on the border crisis from your favorite conservative politicians and notice how often they talk about the issue using words of the left. Then, think about why those politicians are having so little success in solving the issue.
They have allowed the opposition to define the issue, which determines the scope of actions available and even how to establish success. How you approach the problem of “undocumented migrants” is vastly different than how you deal with “illegal aliens” or “invaders.”
Language defines our world and shapes our actions.
If conservatives want to be competitive in the war for culture and government, they must stop letting liberals pick the battlefields and define the terms. Conservatives cannot afford any longer to be bullied into using the left’s manipulated language.
If conservatives are to be dominant in the war for our culture and government, they must be more disciplined in their language. More importantly, conservatives must impose on the national conversation the issues that matter most to them and define success as nothing less than saving our republic.
“A careful definition of words would destroy half the agenda of the political left and scrutinizing evidence would destroy the other half.”
Bills Lay Groundwork for Upcoming School Choice Fight
“Fund students, not systems.”
Darrell Frost | December 2, 2022
As the debate over school choice in Texas heats up ahead of the upcoming legislative session, lawmakers have filed the first bills addressing the issue.
So far, three bills have been filed to expand the education options available to K-12 students and their families.
State Reps. Matt Shaheen (R–Frisco) and Mayes Middleton (R–Wallisville), who was elected to the Texas Senate last month, have each filed bills that would create a special fund administered by a nonprofit organization to provide scholarships and financial assistance for certain students. The amount of aid would be equivalent to a percentage of the average annual expense per student in Texas public schools (about $10,000), and the program would be funded primarily by contributions from insurance companies subject to the state premium tax, whose liabilities would be reduced by commensurate tax credits.
Shaheen’s bill limits program participants to students who are economically disadvantaged, disabled, or have a parent on active military duty, but Middleton’s version would provide aid to any student enrolled in a public or charter school, with priority given to children with disabilities if there is insufficient funding.
Shaheen’s version also caps scholarships at 75 percent of the average annual expense per Texas public school student, whereas Middleton’s would provide the full amount of this expense.
Middleton’s bill would create an individual account for each participating student, and upon graduation from high school, any remaining balance could be used for college. If a participating student became ineligible for the program, the funds in their account would be forfeited and returned to the state.
Finally, the program created by Middleton’s bill could receive donations from individuals and appropriations from the Legislature in addition to tax credits from insurance companies.
Middleton’s bill was recently highlighted on Twitter by school choice advocate and American Federation for Children senior fellow Corey DeAngelis. He has repeatedly urged lawmakers to “fund students, not systems.”
Meanwhile, House Bill 557 by State Rep. Cody Vasut (R–Angleton) would reimburse parents for all educational expenses up to the amount they pay in state and local sales taxes during a year, provided they claim a deduction for such taxes on their federal income tax return.
According to the latest figures from the Texas comptroller and U.S. Census Bureau, the average household in Texas pays about $5,500 in state and local sales taxes every year, about half the average cost of tuition at Texas private schools. This sum is also much less than the standard deduction most people claim on their federal income tax return. For 2022, the standard deduction is $12,950 for individuals and $25,900 for couples who file jointly.
For these reasons, the effect of Vasut’s bill would likely be limited.
This past summer, more than 5,000 delegates at the Republican Party of Texas Convention designated as a legislative priority “the choice of schooling where the money follows the child without strings attached.”
Texas’ next legislative session begins January 10, 2023.
Legislation Filed to Protect Unborn Lives in Texas
“Now that states once again have the authority to protect all human life in the womb, it is critical that we seize the moment and move forward with the strongest protections for these vulnerable lives.”
With last month marking the beginning of pre-filing for legislation in the Texas State legislature, representatives are filing pro-life measures to fight for the unborn.
State Rep. Cody Vasut (R–Lake Jackson) filed House Bill 60 with State Rep.-elect Terri Leo-Wilson following suit, filing House Bill 574.
These duplicate measures require that public schools must include “instruction that human life begins at conception and has inherent dignity and immeasurable worth from the moment of conception.”
These measures would allow the reinforcement of the fact that life begins at conception to be taught to students.
“The Supreme Court officially reversed Roe v. Wade in a landmark opinion,” said Leo-Wilson. “State [legislators] are now within their rightful jurisdiction to enact laws protecting unborn Texans. HB 574 follows this by allowing Texas educators to affirm that human life begins at the time of conception as part of the health curriculum in our public schools.”
Meanwhile, one of the biggest pro-life issues in Texas currently is that government entities and businesses are paying to send their employees out of state for abortions.
House Bill 61 by State Rep. Candy Noble (R–Noble) would prohibit government entities from “enter[ing] into a taxpayer resource transaction or appropriate or spend money” to support an employee attempting to get an abortion.
With a similar goal to mitigate that issue, State Rep. Jared Patterson (R–Frisco) filed House Bill 787, which would make a business entity “ineligible to receive a tax incentive if the entity assists an employee to obtain an abortion, including by paying all or part of any charges associated with the procedure or costs associated with traveling to a location for the procedure.”
“Texans believe in celebrating & protecting innocent life,” Patterson tweeted. “I have filed HB 787 to force businesses to give up any tax incentives granted to them if they pay for any portion of travel to obtain an abortion or any of the procedure itself. Our taxes should not fund abortions.”
Pro-life advocates say businesses have discovered that it is cheaper to send pregnant female employees over state lines to get abortions than it is to pay for maternity leave and add the new dependent onto health insurance plans.
“Abortion remains a human rights crisis today. City governments and businesses are paying for employee abortion travel to other states; activists are committed against teaching that life begins at conception,” Human Coalition’s Texas State Director and National Legislative Advisor Chelsey Youman told Texas Scorecard.
“Now that states once again have the authority to protect all human life in the womb,” Youman continued, “it is critical that we seize the moment and move forward with the strongest protections for these vulnerable lives. Now is the time to ramp up efforts to stop the killing, and each of these bills meets the needs of the moment.”
For years, Texas voters have been calling upon the state’s Legislature to fight for the unborn and protect their lives.
Earlier this year, during the Texas Republican Party Convention, thousands of Republicans voted on a list of legislative priorities for the Legislature to focus on in the upcoming session. “Abolish Abortion in Texas” was one of eight priorities that made it to the list.
“After Texas led the nation with its pioneering Heartbeat Act in 2021,” Youman explained, “Texans gave their pro-life leaders a resounding show of support in this past election cycle. Not only do our legislators have a moral duty to protect innocent children in the state, but also, they have a mandate from voters to support life. Pro-life bills absolutely must remain a priority in this upcoming session.”
Youman voiced her organization’s support of the legislation currently filed, saying, “We welcome these commonsense proposals that protect innocent life and support the truth about when life begins.”
Texas Right to Life has also been supportive of the newly filed pro-life legislation.
Texas Right to Life Senior Legislative Associate Rebecca Parma told Texas Scorecard that they are “excited to see and supportive of Pro-Life legislators’ policies to disincentive businesses from promoting abortion, disconnect governmental entities from supporting abortion logistical services like the City of Austin currently does, and emphasize the humanity and inherent worth of the preborn child from the moment of fertilization.”
Parma added, “One of Texas Right to Life’s priorities this session is to build a fully Pro-Life Texas, where we have not only prohibited abortions but are promoting life and flourishing for preborn and born children, their mothers, and families.”
The 88th Legislative Session will begin on January 10, 2023.
Concerned citizens may contact their elected representatives to ask how they will vote on such legislation.
Speaker Phelan Endorsed by House GOP Caucus in 78 to 6 Vote
GOP members of the 2023 Texas House voted by secret ballot (if you want Phelan why take a secret Ballot) for their preference to lead the chamber as speaker during the 88th legislative session. Election is set for January 10th
BRAD JOHNSONDECEMBER 5, 2022
Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), seeking his second term with the gavel, received the backing of the Texas House Republican Caucus after a vote this past weekend.
On Saturday, the caucus voted 78 to 6 to back Phelan for the speakership. Phelan’s intra-party opposition, state Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington), launched his challenge last month.
“I am deeply grateful to my Republican colleagues for selecting me to serve as their Texas House speaker nominee for a second term,” Phelan said in a statement.
“The 88th Texas Legislature will include important debates on issues ranging from property taxes to foster care, and I am confident that our chamber and our caucus will lead the charge on policy proposals that better the lives of all Texans. Every member will play a role in our legislative process, and I look forward to earning the votes of all of my colleagues when the Legislature convenes on January 10.”
Caucus chairman, Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress), added, “With today’s selection process complete, members of the Texas House Republican Caucus are unified in our choice of Representative Dade Phelan as the highest officer in the House Chamber.”
“Under Speaker Phelan’s leadership in the 87th Session, the Texas House accomplished one of the most conservative sessions in our legislature’s history and we are confident this momentum will continue in the next session.”
It is unclear who the six legislators that supported Tinderholt were, but they presumably include Tinderholt himself as well as state Rep. Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City), who both nominated the challenger at the meeting and previously endorsed him against Phelan. The caucus vote is a secret ballot, so the votes are not disclosed publicly unless members do so themselves.
While a long way off from supplanting Phelan’s hold on the speakership, those opposed tripled the number of GOP opposition from last year, when only Slaton and retiring state Rep. Jeff Cason (R-Bedford) voted against him.
After the vote, Tinderholt said, “Today’s vote, while unsurprising, is disappointing. Because Dade Phelan has all the support of Democrats, Republicans fear the bully tactics of his team if they oppose him.”
“That being said, I am undeterred in my fight to ensure we have strong conservative leadership this session and look forward to the floor vote on the first day of session.”
State Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) nominated Phelan for the endorsement, stating, “As I said in my speech, Dade Phelan is the most conservative speaker in Texas history.”
“Anyone suggesting otherwise is not simply being disingenuous or misleading. To be clear: they are flat out lying to the people of Texas. Today we voted overwhelmingly to set the record straight.”
At the center of Tinderholt’s challenge to Phelan are two topics, one retrospective and the other forward-looking. Since the gavel struck the conclusion of the 87th Legislative Session, GOP legislators and figures began a robust argument over whether it was the “most conservative session in history.”
Under Phelan’s oversight, permitless carry passed and was signed into law, an issue that had barely moved in the years prior. The Legislature also passed both the Texas Heartbeat Act and then the Human Life Protection Act — colloquially known as the “trigger” ban — which became operational this summer when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
But some notable GOP-circle bills also died during the last session, such as a ban on gender modification of children; a ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying; and a prohibition against biological males competing in women’s sports, which eventually passed in the second special session last year. There was also a lack of movement in school choice legislation.
Those occurrences, along with the House Democrats’ two quorum breaks, jumpstarted the existing intra-GOP debate over whether the other party should be given committee chairmanships.
According to the Republican Party of Texas, 18 total House members have come out against appointing Democrats to chair committees — three times the number of those who voted for Tinderholt.
Phelan appointed 13 Democrats as committee chairs last session, 10 of which were on his original list of 84 supporters. Therefore, issues like school choice do not pass. Democrats in charge of those committees’ control what gets heard and what does not get heard. For the life of me why Republicans stab themselves in the back giving committee seats to Democrats instead of to Republicans when in control is bizarre. The Republicans have an opportunity to get the Peoples agenda passed and they say they want to play nice. Therefore, we never truly win. We do not play the same game they play we tie our hands behind our backs and say punch me. Securing the speakership requires 76 votes, and Republicans will enter the 88th session with 85 members.
Last year, two of Slaton’s efforts failed, first to change the House rules to prohibit committee chairs from the minority party, and second to narrow the list of committees to which the minority party could be appointed. The wholesale ban received five votes while the more tailored approach received 17.
It is likely that another such fight will occur next year — this time with the quorum breaks as relevant background — and Tinderholt has said frequently that he will be taking the speaker vote to the House floor.
That sets the table for one explicit vote on Phelan’s speakership — and what some will view as an implicit one concerning the issue on which the speaker has shown little interest in budging. With 78 backers, Phelan is likely to secure a second term, but the number of members who vote to oppose Democratic committee chairs may grow larger than it was two years ago.
Action Item: Call your Representative and ask him to vote for no Democrat Chairs in Committee when the vote comes up. Let us get the people’s agenda accomplished.
House Versus Senate, Record Surplus, Classroom Clashes: 2023 Texas Legislative Session Themes to Watch
Here’s a review of things to watch as the 88th legislative session runs its course in 2023.
BRAD JOHNSON, MATT STRINGER, KIM ROBERTS AND HOLLY HANSENJANUARY 2, 2023
(The Texan/Daniel Friend)
🔊 LISTEN TO THIS
The New Year brings new battlegrounds for Texas politics, and lawmakers are taking the field for the 88th Legislative Session that begins on January 10.
Last year focused heavily on campaigns and issues outside of the Texas Legislature. This year, the body is the main course.
Here’s a list of top themes to watch for as the 181-member body convenes for its biennial 140-day sprint toward sine die.
Abbott’s Emergency Items
Due to constitutional restrictions, the Texas Legislature cannot fully act on legislation until 60 days into the session — unless the governor includes the issue on his list of emergency items. That list includes issues that the governor feels especially pertinent to the session, allowing the Legislature to bypass the date restrictions for those items only.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced his last emergency item list during the annual State of the State address on February 1, 2021; it included five items, four of which were fully passed while the other, bail reform, failed to meet the voting threshold required to amend the constitution. He added more to that list after the power grid blackouts that occurred two weeks later.
Abbott is likely to announce his 2023 list in similar time and fashion, but what he’ll put on it is unclear. A return of bail reform is a good bet, and restoration of the felony penalty for illegal voting could find itself on the list as well.
One potential candidate is more funding or direction on border security. The issue was a big part of Abbott’s campaign rhetoric and continues to linger as the Biden administration tries to pare back Trump-era border policies. Encounters by border officials soared to record highs in Fiscal Year 2022.
School safety funding along with a pay raise for teachers are strong candidates as well, given how much the governor discussed them on the campaign trail.
Abbott also talked a lot about property tax reform — calling for “the largest property tax cut in the history of the State of Texas” — which signals the desire to revisit an issue the last two Legislatures have both acted on. He’s also called for stronger restraints against politically charged instruction on race and gender in public school classrooms.
A giant question mark hovers over Abbott’s desire to rehash the power grid issue. He’s said previously that “everything that needed to be done, was done to fix the power grid” in the context of the state’s physical and bureaucratic reforms. But now, the Legislature is hellbent on taking a swing at tweaking the electricity market, a complicated endeavor focused on price signals.
The emergency item list will provide a roadmap of the governor’s priorities during the session, and being the only official who can convene the Legislature in special sessions, its direction is often heeded.
It’s no secret that the Texas House and Senate — and by extension, the lieutenant governor and House speaker — have a rocky relationship.
They often have different priorities and function wildly differently. The Senate is regimented and directed by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick while the House often resembles herding cats, especially with Speaker Dade Phelan’s (R-Beaumont) stated preference to let members direct much of the policy course.
Phelan currently faces a challenge from state Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington), but after receiving 78 votes to Tinderholt’s six in the House GOP Caucus vote, the incumbent appears likely to reprise his role next year. But there is a second prong of this challenge: the custom of appointing some members of the minority party to chair committees.
Whereas Phelan curries support from Democratic members to secure his speakership — avoiding the outcome of a dozen or so Republicans aligning with every Democrat as with former Speaker Joe Straus — Patrick has the ability to change the Senate’s supermajority threshold at will due to the votes he has in his chamber.
The Senate has set aside the first 30 bill numbers for the chamber’s priority legislation, while the House has set aside 20.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has already unveiled his broad list of priority items for next session and Phelan has hinted at certain priority topics while keeping the full list close to his chest for now. A potential point of contention between the two exists in the illegal voting felony restoration, a part of the 2021 election reform bill that was reduced to a misdemeanor by an amendment in the House during the second special session.
Phelan pumped the brakes on Patrick’s calls to revisit the question, which now arises for the 2023 Legislature.
Patrick’s career is at least in its latter stage after he secured a third term last November — starting a shot clock on his last chance or chances to cement a legislative legacy — while Phelan’s only entering his second term at the helm. The dealings between Patrick and Phelan will go a long way toward deciding what passes legislative muster next year, what doesn’t, and whether the pair must return to Austin for one or more special sessions.
Lingering Border Crisis
After Vice President Kamala Harris claimed in a September interview that the southern border was secure, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott dropped several busloads of illegal immigrants near her home on Christmas Eve.
The move highlighted not only the political gamesmanship and deadlock border security faces in Washington, D.C., but the bitter partisan feud that continues to boil over while hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants cross the southern border every month and deadly narcotics like fentanyl continue to be seized.
In November, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported there were 134,546 arrests for illegal entry on Texas’ portion of the southern border. Across the whole border, that number was 233,740, up nearly 60,000 from November 2021.
Narcotics smuggling and human trafficking have also increased dramatically, prompting Gov. Abbott to issue a proclamation designating cartels and gang members as “terrorists.”
While the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed a Trump-era public health order under Title 42, which allows border protection agents to rapidly deport illegal immigrants, to remain in place against the wishes of the Biden administration, two things can be certain going into 2023: the crisis is not subsiding, and neither is political deadlock on the issue.
Budget and How to Spend the Surplus
The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts estimates at least $27 billion in budget surplus for the 2024-25 biennium. How much of that sum to spend and for what purposes will draw much of the Legislature’s focus next year as it completes its sole constitutional mandate — to pass a budget.
Abbott planted his flag at using “at least half” of that sum to buy down local property tax rates. Patrick pointed out in December that would itself exceed the constitutional spending cap for the budget, but proposed an unconventional way around that limit: passing certain appropriations as amendments to the constitution.
Both officials have indicated their desire to provide public school teachers a pay raise, and Patrick has suggested another thirteenth pension check to retired teachers or passing a “cost of living adjustment” for their benefits.
Meanwhile, Phelan stated a large focus should be placed on using the money for infrastructure development.
Given the sum and the typical budgetary process, there will be many different interests vying for a slice of the financial pie. Last session, the Legislature passed a $248.5 billion budget for the 2022-23 biennium. That means just increasing spending up to the cap would place the next budget at roughly $261 billion.
School Choice Rumble
Gov. Greg Abbott voiced his support for school choice legislation this session while campaigning for re-election. “Empowering the parent means giving them the ability to send their child to any public, charter, or private school with state funding following the student,” he said in May 2022 to a crowd in San Antonio.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also expressed support in his legislative priorities for “empower[ing] parents by giving them a voice in their children’s education.”
House Speaker Dade Phelan was more reticent. In a radio interview in May, he told host Chris Salcedo that a test vote during the budget proceedings showed there were only about 40 to 45 votes in the 150-member House in favor of vouchers.
However, a House Public Education committee hearing in July drew over a hundred citizens to testify on the issue. Invited testimony included school choice advocate Corey DeAngelis.
Nearly every session, legislation for some form of school choice is proposed, but with Abbott and Patrick suggesting it will be an important issue this time around, there may be enough momentum to move it forward.
Rep. Mayes Middleton (R-Galveston) filed House Bill (HB) 176 laying out a tax credit plan for school choice.
Opposition to school choice will no doubt arise from outside the Capitol building, on top of from some legislators within. The Ector County School District revealed in its legislative agenda that it plans to oppose school choice measures.
Controversial Content in Public Schools
One of the reasons interest in school choice has increased is parents’ growing awareness of controversial material being taught to their children. When the pandemic moved many schools online, parents began to discover content they found objectionable.
“Many families cite concern over controversial topics being taught in the schools like critical race theory and modern gender theory,” the Texas Home School Coalition said of the significant growth in homeschooling across the state in the last couple of years.
There have been battles at the local district level around the state, especially related to library materials containing graphic depictions of sexual acts. Parents and legislators alike have been involved in the fight.
Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco), who was involved in challenging explicit library books, filed HB 976 to punish those who expose children to obscene materials. In amending the Texas Penal Code, it would remove “scientific and educational” purposes as an affirmative defense to prosecution.
Rep. Steve Toth (R-Spring) submitted a similar bill, HB 111, along with HB 631, the provisions of which are designed to ensure that parents have access to information about any health care services offered to students. It also prohibits instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity from kindergarten through fifth grade.
Legislation proposed by Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Houston) would require that publishers provide a content rating for books and other written materials.
On the other hand, Rep. Harold Dutton (R-Houston) authored HB 917 prohibiting public schools from removing any books from their libraries, instead placing them on a restricted list for which parental authorization is required before a student may access them.
Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) filed Senate Bill (SB) 165 requiring a parent’s written permission before a school may instruct a student with visual or written materials containing sexual or violent content.
Rep. Christina Morales (D-Houston) has introduced a bill, HB 45, which would add to a school’s required curriculum at least one credit in “ethnic studies, including Mexican American studies or African American studies.” Sen. Carol Alvarado filed a similar bill, SB 248.
Child Gender Modification
A rising social issue bound to see battle in 2023 as partisan forces face off in the upcoming legislative session is the issue of allowing minors to undergo gender modification, hotly opposed by social conservatives and staunchly defended by some Democrats.
Efforts last session to ban the practice failed, but later legal opinions by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton determined the procedures constitute child abuse under existing law. That caused some hospitals to stop the practice, but hasn’t ended the issue.
State Rep. Brian Harrison (R-Midlothian) has filed a bill that would prohibit the use of taxpayer funds from being used to fund any sex change operations.
Furthermore, legislation has also been filed to codify Paxton’s ruling by expanding the definition of child abuse to specifically include gender modification-related operations, adding material for the legislative quarrel.
Property Tax Tweak or Overhaul?
The budget surplus has left many with dollar signs in their eyes and no issue has gotten more attention than property taxes. But due to the nature of the property tax and the school finance systems, any reduction in local rates must be continued in perpetuity — otherwise the reductions are temporary.
Without a cumbersome and difficult overhaul of the entire system, the state will have to replace the school funding lost to lowered local rates.
But some plans go beyond a simple compression of rates. State Reps. Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress) and Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) filed similar bills that would eliminate the school district Maintenance & Operations (M&) rate — the single largest component of property tax bills. $0.90 of every surplus state dollar would go toward filling the gap of the current M&O rate.
State Rep. Andrew Murr (R-Junction) re-filed his 2021 proposal to eliminate the M&O rate, but didn’t set forth a replacement and instead tasks a committee with the decision.
Patrick has his sights set on raising the homestead appraisal again after it was increased to $40,000 last year.
Tangentially, Abbott has called for raising the exemption for business personal property to $100,000 if not higher — which Patrick’s priority list also includes.
From a non-dollars and cents perspective, appraisal reform is another segment of the property tax issue.
The state has spent $6.2 billion compressing local rates since 2019 and set aside another $3 billion in federal coronavirus aid for further compression next year.
Second Try on Bail Reform
In the 2021 session, state lawmakers successfully passed bail bond reform legislation that prohibited the release of certain violent or repeat suspects on personal recognizance (PR) bonds, but fell short of the two-thirds needed to place on the ballot a constitutional amendment that would allow judges to deny bail to some suspects accused of violent and sexual offenses.
State Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) announced earlier this year that she would reintroduce the proposed amendment and also add convictions of unlawful possession of a firearm and family protective order violations to the list of offenses ineligible for PR bond.
According to testimony from victims advocate Andy Kahan of Crime Stoppers of Houston, Harris County criminal court judges release 30 to 40 defendants charged with Felon in Possession of a Weapon on PR bond each month. Kahan cited cases in which the suspect allegedly committed additional crimes, including murder, after release on bond.
Following revelations that some bail bond companies charge suspects down payments of as little as one percent of court-ordered cash bail, Rep. Ann Johnson (D-Houston) introduced House Bill 227 that would mandate a minimum 10 percent payment for defendants.
Earlier this year, the Harris County Bail Bond Board approved a 10 percent rule for defendants charged with violent crimes, but similar practices in California have drawn a federal antitrust class action lawsuit alleging price-fixing.
Power Grid Redux
Addressing the state’s main power grid was the unforeseen item dropped in the lap of the 87th Legislature after the February blackouts. Legislators passed broad reform of the grid’s regulator and operator and set forth weatherization requirements for its physical infrastructure. However, it punted to the Public Utility Commission on altering the wholesale electricity market.
After a year of fielding input and kicking around changes, PUC officials were notified by legislators that the latter now wants a say on the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ (ERCOT) redesign. The redesign’s purpose is to tweak price and market signals to incentivize the development of new thermal, called “dispatchable,” electricity generation. Currently, a large amount of wind and solar generation development is in the state’s queue, while natural gas and coal generation is facing a net loss with retiring plants.
Among Patrick’s priorities is ensuring the development of more natural gas plants in ERCOT; he didn’t know just how that’d be done but said subsidization was a possibility.
The main reason for the influx of renewable energy, and by extension the growing reliance on wind and solar power, is the collection of federal tax credits allotted to those developers. It creates a competitive financial advantage over thermal generation, which receives tax breaks but not nearly as much. Those federal credits for renewables were just extended for 10 years by the Inflation Reduction Act.
It’s unclear how much Texas can counteract the federal incentive or its effects, but that is ultimately the state’s endeavor. And the complicated nature of it means that the power grid will reappear next session for a second round and a second stab.
Chapter 313 Revival
A statutory tax incentive program known as “Chapter 313,” which allowed school districts to grant tax abatements to companies upon the promise of moving into their jurisdiction and creating jobs, is expiring at the end of 2022.
The demise of the program was due to the Legislature’s inability to pass legislation renewing it, leaving the program to run out its remaining time and “sunset.”
Numerous opponents to the program claimed it was a failure, pointing to a study that found a high percentage of businesses brought to the state would have gone there anyway, and described it as a “corporate welfare program.”
Lawmakers like Sens. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) and Louis Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) have found themselves alongside think tanks on both sides of the aisle, like the conservative Texan Public Policy Foundation and progressive Every Texan, in fighting not only to kill the program but ensure it remains dead.
Those seeking to resurrect Chapter 313 include House Speaker Dade Phelan as well as school districts like the Ector County Independent School District in Odessa that adopted a plan to redesign and resurrect Chapter 313 in its legislative priorities.
Bills That have been filed and should be watched
JOIN US ON A CHARTERED BUS TO AUSTIN TO MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD!
We are calling for House Republicans to end the practice of appointing Democrats to chair House Committees.
DEPARTURE: January 12, 6:00 AM
LEAVE AUSTIN: January, 12, 5:00 PM
COST: $25.00 includes meal on the return trip
ORDER T-SHIRT: Order your Ban Democrat Chairs T-Shirts with the provided link below. Our goal is to fill the chambers with 500 wearing the message #NoDemChairs
PLEASE RSVP WITH LINK BELOW:
|JOIN US FOR A CALL TO ACTION
LEGISLATIVE ZOOM SERIES
|Starting Friday, January 6th|
|The 88th Legislative session begins NEXT WEEK so of course our Call to Action Zoom Series is back! Want to be an effective citizen lobbyist? How about just being more informed about what your representatives are doing in Austin? Once again we will be assembling elected officials and experts to provide the latest inside information on what’s happening in the legislature and how YOU can affect it.|
|Join us for our Call to Action Legislative Zoom Series starting THIS Friday, January 6th, and every 1st and 3rd Friday after that. This Friday, we will start by laying out our plans for this legislative session. We will be joined by:|
|· Senator Bryan Hughes – Sen. Hughes will provide a Senate update and the latest on the lawsuit relating to the comprehensive election reform bill (SB 1) signed last session.|
|· Representative Jacey Jetton – Rep. Jetton will educate us on the Texas Legislator Online (TLO) system and how you can use it to track bills.|
|· Representative Stephanie Klick –Rep. Klick will discuss what happens in the legislature during the first few weeks of session.|
|· Alan Vera – Vera will provide an update on Election Integrity efforts and the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC).|
|Let’s help make this legislative session one of the most productive and conservative sessions yet. Register below!|
|Call To Action
88th Texas Legislature Zoom Series
Friday, January 6th
7:00 a.m. Central
TFRW Legislative Day
9434 Katy Freeway #360
Houston, Tx 77047
Office 713-703-3030 x701
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