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Week in Review: A Digest of What Happened This Week at the Capitol

​TAC on the Lege — Weekly Video Series​

​​We've launched a new video podcast as another tool to help you navigate the twists and turns of this special legislative session.

​TAC on the Lege — They’re ba-ack…The not-so-special session of the Texas Legislature began July 18, and the Senate is off like greased lightning. The Senate quickly released its sunset hostages, unlocking the other items the governor placed on the call, including Senate priorities like regulating bathrooms and restricting local government revenue. Counties and local control will be under fire this weekend from those who want to concentrate power in Austin. In particular, three variations on a revenue cap and a bill that would cap spending are all up to be heard by the Senate Select Committee on Government Reform this Saturday.
Week in Review: A Digest of What Happened This Week at the Capitol​​

The Week Behind Us and the Week(s) Ahead of Us – The Legislature is back in town, thanks to a sunset bill killed by the Senate in the closing days of the regular session. The governor called them back to address the sunset bill (necessary to keep several state agencies alive and functioning) and then promised to open up the scope of the called session on a score of items once the Legislature has made what he deemed adequate progress on the sunset bill. Now that the Senate has passed the sunset legislation, the governor has opened the call.

As promised and expected, the Senate is acting extraordinarily quickly to move bills out of the east side of the building. Many of the items on the call are directed at limiting local governments’ ability to govern at the local level, with property taxes front and center.

In the call, only a small nod is given to the real pressure on property tax payers: school property taxes. Instead, counties and cities remain the favored political whipping boy for those who call for lowering property taxes. Not only has the Legislature failed to fully fund public education, it passed a state budget that explicitly depends on higher local school property taxes to fund the state’s share of public education.

These are interesting times, where far too many in state government want to increase state authority at the expense of local representative government and the voters who elect those local officials. 

County officials are encouraged to come to Austin this Saturday and oppose state micromanagement of local governments when the newly-formed Senate Select Committee on Government Reform takes up three revenue cap bills and one expenditure cap bill at its 11 a.m. hearing.  

Please make plans to attend and arrive early to register with the committee. Registration will open at 10 a.m. and close at 2 p.m. Free parking will be available in the TAC parking garage at 13th and San Antonio. If you can’t come to Austin please email or call your Senator and the members of the committee.

Senate committees are scheduled to consider several bills beginning today, Friday, July 21, on issues that are part of the governor’s call for the special session.

“When the Levee Breaks” – As mentioned, on Saturday, July 22, the recently named Senate Select Committee on Government Reform, chaired by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), will consider four bills aimed at restricting the ability of counties to raise revenue and fund services. The select committee is composed of the same Senate members that were on the Select Committee on Property Tax Reform and Relief that met across the state prior to the beginning of the regular session.

SB 1, SB 93 and SB 96, all authored by Sen. Bettencourt, are property tax reform measures with provisions lowering the current revenue cap from 8 percent to 4 or 5 percent. The fourth bill that will be considered, SB 18 by Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls), limits the growth of a county’s annual expenditures. Specifically, it provides that a local government’s total expenditures in a fiscal year may not exceed the greater of: the local government’s total expenditures in the preceding fiscal year or those same expenditures adjusted for statewide population growth and inflation as determined by the Comptroller; it makes certain exceptions — allowing the additional expenditures with voter approval or when there is a declared disaster.

“Too Many Rules” – The Senate Business and Commerce Committee will also meet on July 22 to consider numerous bills, including two that will place restrictions on county development regulations and the issuance of permits. SB 12 by Sen. Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway) prohibits the ability of a county to enforce certain orders or other regulations that prohibit or restrict the use or development of real property that has been platted if the regulations were not in effect on the date the owner of the property acquired title to the property, rather than current law where the regulations in place at the time application for a permit is made apply.

“Five O’Clock World” – Another bill Business and Commerce will consider, SB 13 by Sen. Konni Burton (R-Colleyville), dramatically tightens the current vested rights statute timelines and places additional burdens on local governments’ permitting processes.

“Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)” – Additionally, since mail-in ballot fraud is on the governor’s call, the Senate State Affairs Committee is scheduled to meet on Sunday, July 23, to consider SB 5 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills). The bill creates new offenses and enhances penalties relating to the prevention of fraud in elections.  

Please review the Senate committee postings for additional information about the upcoming hearings. House committee postings will also be updated as hearings are scheduled.

Any bills that are voted out of committees this weekend will likely be considered by the full Senate early next week. Stay tuned. TAC legislative staff will continue to update county officials as things progress.

Helpful Tracking Links for Legislation
  • Senate and House committee postings are available on Texas Legislature Online.
  • MyTLO​ section of Texas Legislature Online — ​use it to create customized alerts for specific committee meetings or to track specific bills. ​​​​​​​​​​  ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​