Senator Brandon Creighton Appointed Chairman of Senate Education
We will all work together to expand access, opportunity and value for the millions of students in Texas schools.
Austin, Texas–Today, Senator Brandon Creighton (R- Conroe) was appointed to serve as Chairman of the Senate Education Committee for the 88th Legislative Session, creating a powerful committee to oversee education policies from early childhood to the workforce. Senator Creighton will serve as Chairman of Senate Education, as well as the Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Higher Education. He was also appointed to the Senate Committees on Finance, Business and Commerce, Jurisprudence and the Special Committee on Redistricting.
“The future of Texas begins in the classroom, and as Chairman of Senate Education I am committed to advancing policies that will ensure the 6 million students in Texas schools have the foundations for academic success, safe and secure campuses, educators that feel valued, and parents that are empowered to be part of their children’s education,” said Senator Creighton.
Over the last year, Senator Creighton has traveled the entire state and met with hundreds of teachers, administrators, law enforcement officers, parents and students about their goals for Texas schools.
“I want to thank Lt. Governor Patrick for his confidence, and for the committee members for their willingness to tackle these critical issues. We will all work together to expand access, opportunity and value for the millions of students in Texas schools.”
The joining of these two committees builds on Senator Creighton’s work as Chair of Senate Higher Education in the 86th and 87th legislatures when prodigious changes were made for workforce training and cooperation between K-12, community colleges and 4 year institutions. Together, public and higher education make up 53% of general revenue in the state budget.
To send an email or call Senator Creighton you can Contact: Erin Wilson
Representative Charles Cunningham
We all remember the tragic news when Deputy Constable Omar Ursin was tragically murdered in the Atascocita area while picking up dinner for his family. The two men charged in his killing were already out on bond for other murder charges.
I am currently working on a package of bond reform legislation in an effort to prevent senseless tragedies such as this. While that work continues however, I am proud to have filed legislation this week to dedicate a portion of FM 1960 to the memory of Deputy Ursin.
Law Enforcement, such as Constable Ursin, work tirelessly everyday to protect our community and keep our families safe and it is important that we honor their memory when they make the ultimate sacrifice.
You can keep track of this legislation online.
I will send additional information about bond reform legislation and other public safety bills as they are finalized and filed.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Talks School Choice, Property Taxes, and Trump vs. DeSantis
The lieutenant governor discussed a range of legislative issues and future election dynamics in a live interview.
CAMERON ABRAMS AND BRAD JOHNSONJANUARY 25, 2023
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaking at The Texan’s 88th Session Kickoff. (The Texan/Daniel Friend)
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick dished on his legislative priorities this session, the inter-chamber relationship, and future election dynamics in a one-on-one interview Tuesday with The Texan.
2024 and 2026
The biggest news Patrick made this week was that despite previous comments, he will seek re-election in 2026 for a fourth term in the state’s second-highest elected position. The other election-focused comment Patrick made concerned the vaunted matchup between former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
When asked about the upcoming GOP decision in 2024, Patrick made clear his thoughts about Donald Trump: “He’s the best president we’ve ever had … he’s had the most conservative policies ever passed.”
Patrick has received endorsements from Trump in the past and supported him in 2020.
In his discussion with The Texan, Patrick mentioned his public support for Trump, saying, “I tweeted out last week we are all in.”
Patrick, who previously was the chairman of Trump’s campaign in Texas, is hoping to work with the Trump team again. “I got a call today from the Trump team to talk about some policy issues,” he noted.
Asked about his thoughts on DeSantis and his potential for 2024, Patrick said, “I just don’t know Ron Desantis … I think he’s done a terrific job in Florida, but I am a Trump guy.”
When it came to making a prediction for the upcoming presidential general, Patrick said, “The most recent poll I saw today is that Trump is ahead of Biden in 2024.” Regarding the upcoming GOP primary, Patrick restated his support. “I think Trump wins the primary, as of today.”
Concerning this legislative session, Patrick pointed to reinforcing the state’s main power grid. “We do not have enough thermal power,” he said. “What’s happened is that … today, renewables are a large part of our grid and with the plans that were made years ago now coming online, we’ll see it [make up] more than 50 percent [of the grid’s generation].”
“Renewables are fine. They keep our prices low — I was just told at the Capitol today that we have the fourth-lowest electricity costs in the country. But if it doesn’t turn on, that doesn’t mean a lot. You have to be able to have dependable, dispatchable power.”
This matches what Patrick said in his November press conference, where he even suggested that subsidizing the development of natural gas plants might be necessary and will be considered.
Another top priority of Patrick’s is property tax relief, something for which his chamber’s draft budget has itemized $15 billion. Patrick confirmed in the interview that a Property Tax Relief Fund — a pot of dollars that exists outside of the General Revenue fund so as not to affect the spending cap limitation — is indeed a potential option.
On the topic of school choice, Patrick was direct, saying, “We have to have school choice … we just have to have it.” Patrick has mentioned in previous statements that he and Gov. Greg Abbott are “all in” on school choice.
School choice is the next big battleground for the Legislature, which has passed a variety of prominent laws relating to education in recent sessions.
In the 86th Legislative Session, lawmakers passed House Bill (HB) 3, which provided reforms to the public education finance system. The 87th session saw HB 1525, which corrected issues with the financing problems and added transparency to many public schools; Senate Bill (SB) 3, which banned the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 classrooms; and HB 25, which prevented biological males from competing in women’s sports.
Patrick gave insight into his thoughts on how rural districts would be handled this session. “I don’t know what the bill will look like … There’s been pushback from rural Republicans that this would take money from districts. But the economies of scale show.”
The lieutenant governor clarified his previous idea of “bracketing out” rural districts as an option that would be considered to address the money concerns voiced by other Republicans. Patrick mentioned how his previous statements were not as clear as he would have liked as “it was a 15 hour day and I wasn’t as clear before.” He asserted that “We do not want to bracket out the parents … we want all parents in rural Texas to have school choice available to them.”
Patrick was firm in his stance on school choice, reiterating, “If you don’t have a chance at a quality education, you don’t have a chance at the American dream.”
With the recent filing of SB 176 by Sen. Mayes Middleton (R-Galveston), which would create the Texas Parental Empowerment Program, these comments by the lieutenant governor give an idea to the direction of the Senate in regards to school choice for the 88th Legislative Session.
Patrick also addressed the issue of university tenure, making clear what success on that front would look like: “Getting all these professors who don’t like America, who don’t like Texas, who don’t like capitalism, who are trying to pollute the minds of young people going to college.
“I would like to see them go to another state; that would be a success.”
Patrick said he would continue to “counter-punch” the moves of the progressive movement in higher education. He mentioned his Twitter interaction with the University of Texas at Austin, and responded to the complaint that phasing out tenure could lead to fewer professors being interested in teaching in Texas, “[I]f they are the type of professors we are going to attract, I don’t want to attract them. There will be plenty of conservative professors who want to come here.”
The plan to remove or reform tenure will have to go through the Senate Committee on Education. Patrick recently made his chair appointments and stated his confidence in Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), who Patrick said “is going to do a great job as chair and subcommittee chair of Higher Education.” He also asserted that he intends “to get a bill out.”
The lieutenant governor gave interesting insight when he mentioned his talks with university presidents. “I’ll tell you a secret. Most of the presidents of the universities, they tell me, ‘Dan, you got to get rid of tenure but I can’t say anything about it’ because they would get criticized by their faculty.”
When asked to comment on Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan’s (R-Beaumont) recent comments about not being able to attract conservative professors if this measure was to pass, Patrick said, “No one has a guaranteed contract for life. I believe professors will come here knowing that their campuses aren’t controlled by the woke liberal left.”
He also made a point to mention that he had a conversation with a chairman of the board of regency of an unnamed university, who told him that when it comes to recruiting conservative professors, “We will pay them more, it’s simple. We can pay them more money.”
Patrick said that what he wants from university faculty is “a professor from the old days, who taught students to think, not what to think.”
Patrick was also asked about the dynamic between the House and Senate this session compared with previous sessions.
He said that he expects an easier time than usual to pass “conservative legislation” this session due to the influx of new GOP senators.
But with the other chamber, Patrick said, “I look forward to working with the speaker, but I make no apologies for passing a conservative agenda to the House. That’s my job.”
The House and Senate are not always in agreement and are often in conflict over big items passing through the Legislature.
“Being the speaker is a very difficult job,” Patrick said, “and I would never want to be [in a situation] where I have to depend on 150 members and try to keep everyone happy so they don’t try and throw me out of the chair.”
“It’s very difficult and I respect that, but it’s not an excuse.”
The biggest fight so far in the Texas House centered on the appointment of Democrats as committee chairs, a bargaining chip often used to shore up a speakership majority and prevent a small subset of Republicans from uniting with Democrats to name a speaker. When the body adopted rules this month, leadership killed two amendments that banned or restricted those appointments.
Patrick, who released his committee assignments this week, named only one Democratic committee chair: state Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston). Whitmire, who is running for Houston mayor this year, will chair the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, on which Republicans outnumber Democrats.
Asked if that would be the last Democratic chair appointment of his tenure or just the last this session, Patrick said, “When John leaves, as of now, there will be no Democratic chairs.”
Whitmire got the appointment, the lieutenant governor stated, in part because he is the “Dean of the Senate” and is the most knowledgeable on Texas’ prison system. “So when John leaves, as of now we’ll have no more Democrats [as chairs].”
“If a Democrat is controlling a major committee anywhere and we can’t get a bill out, that’s a problem,” Patrick said, without going into specifics on House committee appointments. Lt. Governor is exactly right Speaker of the House has set up the House with Democrat Chairmen to keep Conservative Bills from ever seeing the light of day.
A potential point of contention between the House and Senate this session is a renewal of Chapter 313 property tax abatements, a tax
.break program that died in the upper chamber last session and expired at the end of 2022.
Patrick, who hadn’t thus far taken credit for killing Chapter 313 renewal in 2021, said, “One of the reasons that I got rid of 313s last session — by the way, I just killed the bill — is that it had been misused.”
“About 60 percent of all 313 projects were renewable windmills. Again, they’re fine to have, keep energy prices low and helps the environment, but you have to have enough dispatchable to meet the needs.”
House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) has made the revival of the program a top priority, but a blueprint has yet to be released; some representatives have made it clear that revival of the program without excluding renewables is a “non-starter.”
Despite killing Chapter 313 renewal last session, the Senate didn’t appear opposed to the idea of such a program, just how it had developed and been deployed.
“The most important thing that I’ve ever passed [as lieutenant governor] was changing the blocker bill,” Patrick added. The “blocker bill” is a mechanism by which the chamber may bring up any legislation on the calendar provided that a supermajority of the senators will permit suspending the rules. While Patrick was a senator, the supermajority sat at 21 votes, a level that Republicans did not have even with the majority.
But when he assumed the gavel, the supermajority was reduced to 19 and then again to 18 last session. Now, the GOP majority may bring up anything it chooses at any time.
“The reason we’ve been able to send conservative bill after conservative bill out is because the Democrats cannot stop us,” Patrick said. “The only people who can stop Republican, conservative legislation from passing are Republicans.”
Patrick used this to juxtapose his chamber with the House, within which “the other party can kind of control the flow of what comes to the floor.”
“I would like to see the House to be able to control that a little bit more, so that if there’s an important bill, that it at least comes to the floor,” he added. “I’m not being critical. I’m just saying that that’s the difference: Democrats can’t block us in the Senate but they can block in the House, and are very effective at doing that.” Thanks to Speaker Phelan appointing Democrats to Chair Committees.
With the committee assignments made, onlookers now wait for Patrick and the Senate to unveil its slate of 30 priority bills for this session.
$289 Billion Draft 2024-25 Budget Released in Texas Legislature, $15 Billion Set Aside for Property Tax Relief
This biennial budget must navigate something previous ones haven’t: a historic pot of surplus dollars that far exceeds the spending cap.
BRAD JOHNSONJANUARY 18, 2023
The one constitutional requirement of the Texas Legislature every two years is to pass a budget for the next biennium, and the first draft of the 2024-25 budget shows a 16 percent spending increase.
House Bill (HB) 1 by state Rep. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood) proposes $288.7 billion in all funds spending — a $23.9 billion increase from the current biennium. In general fund spending, the proposal features a near-$11 billion increase from 2022-23, below the $12.5 billion spending cap established by the Legislative Budget Board back in November.
At that point, there was $5.1 billion in funds left unspent in the current biennium. If that was spent this time around, it would increase the next cycle’s cap to $13.1 billion.
The draft budget estimates nearly $94 billion in federal funds and prefaces a forthcoming supplemental appropriations bill to distribute $6 billion in various expenditures for hospital construction, a salary increase and bonuses for employees of a state pension system, school safety facilitation dollars, and more.
The Senate’s version was also filed Wednesday by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston).
A subsequent release by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick details provisions of the upper chamber’s version, such as:
- $15 billion for property tax relief
- $4.6 billion for border security operations, including a pay raise
- $3 billion to build and expand hospitals
- $2.5 billion for a higher education fund that benefits universities that aren’t the University of Texas or Texas A&M University
- $900 million to pay off unfunded law enforcement pension liability
- $650 million for a performance-based boost to community colleges
- $600 million for school safety enhancements
- $500 million for Gulf Coast Protection District projects
- $400 million to complete the Alamo Restoration Project
- $350 million for a rural law enforcement fund and pay bump for sheriffs
Patrick’s list also includes “fully fund[ing]” the “Robinhood” school recapture program, along with a teacher pay raise and a 13th check or cost-of-living adjustment for retired teachers.
“As of today, our state’s economy has become the envy of the world,” Huffman said in a statement. “It is important to note that Senate Bill 1 is the starting point, but I am confident that the final product will make historic advances for the people of Texas, while also keeping an eye on the future, for generations to come.”
The Legislature has an estimated $32.7 billion treasury surplus to spend along with $27.1 billion expected in the Economic Stabilization Fund, also called the “state savings account.” The proposal leaves roughly $50 billion of those pots untouched.
State officials have said they will not spend all of the surplus dollars, but a large chunk of it is likely to be spent on infrastructure, property tax cuts, and more.
In his release, Patrick said, “We must prioritize spending that will keep Texas the nation’s economic powerhouse. It is also imperative that we save a sizable portion of the money for the future. Our conservative policy is to never spend all the money because you never know what challenges or opportunities lie ahead.”
It appears likely that the Legislature will evaluate the establishment of a property tax fund outside general revenue spending so that a large tranche of the surplus can be used to compress local tax rates without busting the spending cap. The Legislature already has $3 billion of leftover federal COVID-19 aid earmarked for compression this year.
Gov. Greg Abbott has called for using “at least half” of the surplus to provide the “largest tax cut in Texas history” this cycle, though the proclamation was made when the surplus estimate was just $27 billion. The $15 billion is not quite half of the new total, and accounting for inflation, the largest cut in history to date occurred in the mid-aughts with $14 billion. This proposal would eclipse that in strict dollar terms, but adjusted for inflation, it would take about $20 billion to break the record.
The property tax item of the Senate’s version includes $3 billion for increasing the standard homestead exemption to $70,000, something identified specifically in Patrick’s inauguration speech Tuesday.
Because the Senate led on the budget last cycle, it’s the House’s turn, and the upper chamber will lead on the supplemental appropriations bill. Next for the budget and supplemental appropriations is to move through committees in their respective chambers, which have not yet been named.
Abbott Backs Proposal to Create ‘Texas Title 42’ Expulsion Policy for Illegal Immigrants
Rep. Brian Harrison’s bill would require the removal of illegal immigrants during a “federally declared public health emergency.”
HAYDEN SPARKS2 HOURS AGO
Gov. Greg Abbott expressed support for a bill that would create a law in Texas like the federal Title 42 public health order first implemented by the Trump administration.
Rep. Brian Harrison (R-Midlothian) filed House Bill (HB) 1491, which would mandate screening for anyone entering Texas during a “federally declared public health emergency.”
HB 1491 would require anyone who entered Texas illegally under those circumstances to be “removed to the country from which they entered the United States, or their country of origin, or another location as practicable, as rapidly as possible, with as little time spent in congregate settings as practicable under the circumstances.”
In comments on Chad Hasty’s radio show, Abbott expressed his support for the plan.
“There is a proposal that I support where Texas would adopt its own Title 42 policy to either prevent people from coming into the country illegally into the State of Texas or to return them back because we have a public health declaration in the State of Texas that would authorize us to turn them back,” Abbott said.
In a news release, Harrison called COVID-19 executive orders an “unjustified public health emergency” that makes the State of Texas “completely justified” in implementing its own Title 42 expulsions.
“Governor Abbott is exactly right to call for the Texas Legislature to pass a Texas Title 42 Act. Texas must use every tool available to save America from the crisis that is ravaging the border and threatening our national security with over 250,000 illegal crossings last month alone,” Harrison said.
Abbott has been hesitant to say that Texas should expel illegal immigrants on its own due to case law that makes border enforcement a federal responsibility.
Harrison, former chief of staff to the Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Trump administration, said he was “proud to file the Texas Title 42 Act to authorize Governor Abbott to lead Texas in doing what the federal government won’t: immediately deport illegal migrants and secure the border.”
The federal Title 42 public health order is still being enforced due to a stay by the U.S. Supreme Court on the decision of a judge in Washington, D.C. to terminate the order. The nation’s high court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case in March.
In its monthly operational update, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 251,487 enforcement encounters with illegal immigrants along the southern U.S. border in December. 14 percent of those were with people who had already been encountered in the preceding 12 months.
Exclusive: Records Reveal Texans Are Fed up With Property Taxes
Citizens slam high property tax bills in correspondence with Gov. Greg Abbott’s office.
Darrell Frost | January 26, 2023
Documents recently received from Gov. Greg Abbott’s office reveal Texans are fed up with property taxes.
In December, Texas Scorecard sought citizens’ opinions on property taxes by filing an open records request with the governor’s office for the last six months of constituent correspondence on the subject. In response, Abbott’s office provided 979 pages of relevant emails, staff notes, and voicemail transcripts.
The following comments are a small sample of those reviewed.
“I’m about to lose my property.”
Countless Texans, especially retirees living on a fixed income, expressed fear of losing their homes due to high property taxes.
“Please eliminate property taxes so our retirees and others don’t lose their homes,” Terry from Justin told Abbott’s office.
Renwick in Niederwald said, “How about some relief for those of us on a fixed income and stop making Texas another California!”
“We are being taxed out of our homes,” said Linda from Houston.
Laura from Grand Prairie agreed. “My taxes are pushing me out of my home!”
“I’m about to lose my property,” said Melanie from Kerens.
“Form of slavery”
Others remarked that having to pay property taxes means they never actually own their homes and are just renting them from the government.
“It really is exasperating when basically a fourth of my total income goes toward property and school taxes and home insurance, just for the privilege [of] staying in my home after retirement!” said Johnny from Waco.
Leland from Poolville asked Abbott to “find a way to fund Texas schools without making property owners pay rent on their own property every year,” arguing that “we need to eliminate property taxes in Texas!”
Fred in Arlington stated bluntly, “Property taxes amount to a form of slavery, as they must be paid no matter what.”
“I still owe property taxes until my death or I sell my home. If I die and my wife survives, she must continue to pay until her death or sale of the home. If I stop paying my property taxes, the government seizes my home and sells it to pay the taxes. Texans do not own their homes, but merely lease them from the state,” he elaborated.
“Words on paper”
Many complained they had grown tired of empty promises from politicians.
“Texas taxpayers are a little cynical about property tax relief because the last legislature promised relief, and we have higher bills than ever,” said Wally from Eddy.
Cheryl from Orange told Abbott’s office, “I’m tired of the promises to fix the taxes, and year after year, mine go up.”
Frank in Dallas said that previous attempts at property tax reform were “so minor that it felt like a drop in the bucket instead of true reform.”
Again, Fred in Arlington did not hold back in his criticism.
“Republicans have a plan, but so far it is just words on paper with no action to really eliminate property taxes. … Considering the Republican Party controls the state House, Senate, and governorship, then why has the repeal of property taxes not already taken place per the party platform? … I implore you to repeal and eliminate property taxes and give Texans true freedom and the right to own our homes without fear of government seizure.”
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar reported the state is projected to have a $32.7 billion budget surplus, and interest groups of all stripes are clamoring for a piece of the pie.
While politicians have spouted off all kinds of promises about what they intend to do with this money, it’s almost certain a portion will be dedicated to property tax relief, and there’s intense debate about the specific amount.
Abbott has said that up to half of the surplus should go to property tax relief, adding that he wants to put the state on a path to eliminating school property taxes.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has tried to stake out a similar position, but a major component of his plan is increasing the homestead exemption, which would merely slow the growth of property taxes, as the past two years since the last increase have demonstrated. Patrick has not indicated where he stands on an effort to eliminate school property taxes, and he seems reluctant to put more than $12 billion toward property tax relief, as doing so would exceed the newly implemented spending limit.
House Speaker Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont) has expressed support for appraisal reform but has not explicitly endorsed any specific proposals for long-term property tax relief.
Although it’s important to know what politicians think about the issue, citizens wield real power in our republic, and their opinions are what truly matter when it comes to policy.
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