The Week Behind Us and the Week(s) Ahead of Us – The biggest news this week: The governor, the lieutenant governor, and the speaker of the House held a joint news conference to announce the filing of SB 2 and HB 2, identical 2.5 percent rollback bills for taxing entities collecting more than $15 million in taxes. The Senate Finance and House Appropriations committees continued to hold hearings about the budget, including hearings on the lingering effects of a veto on clean air efforts and the limited state funding for indigent defense. There was also some news relating to voter registration.
Property Tax Reform – On Jan. 31, the Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House held a joint press conference to lay out SB 2 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) and HB 2 by Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock), their property tax reform legislation. The identical legislation includes a 2.5 percent revenue cap for taxing entities that collect more than $15 million in property and sales tax revenue and an automatic November election for exceeding the rollback tax rate. The Senate Committee on Property Tax will hear SB 2 on Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 8 a.m.
State Budget Hearings Underway – This week, House Appropriations and Senate Finance, the budget committees, met to discuss items in their respective budgets. The House filed HB 1 last week and held a series of hearings providing a high-level overview of what is included in the only must-pass bill of the session. Testimony was taken on important county issues such as public education, school safety, and disaster recovery. Senate Finance continued hearing both public and invited testimony by article, focusing this week on Articles IV, V, VI and VII.
Among the agency budgets considered in Senate Finance were the Department of Public Safety, the Texas Indigent Defense Commission, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Additional information about the budget hearings held this week is available in our State Budget Update in this edition of County Issues.
All budget-related documents are available on the Legislative Budget Board website.
Voter Registration and Citizenship Reviews – Over the past weekend, the Texas Secretary of State released to counties lists of Department of Public Safety (DPS) - matched names that were both registered to vote and had at some time applied for a state ID as a non-citizen. County voter registrars had known that this List Maintenance process was to occur since late November 2018 and were advised that they had discretion in researching and contacting these individuals to provide proof of citizenship to their offices.
Upon receipt and investigation of their respective lists of names, many counties discovered individuals listed therein who had become naturalized citizens after obtaining their state ID. On Tuesday, Jan. 29, the Secretary of State alerted several county voter registrar offices by phone, noting that individuals on the list with indicators that they had registered to vote at DPS offices were to be considered citizens and could be removed from the original list of names.
County voter registrars take seriously their charge to ensure accurate voter registration rolls and will continue to research the lists given to them by the Secretary of State. It’s also the responsibility of county voter registrars to protect the right to vote for every legally-registered voter in Texas.
The Week Ahead – Gov. Abbott is scheduled to deliver his State of the State address to the Legislature on Tuesday, Feb. 5 – the same day as our Counties at the Capitol Legislative Day. The governor is expected to identify his emergency items for the session during his speech, which are items that the Legislature can consider and vote on during the first 60 days of the session.
Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht is also scheduled to deliver his State of the Judiciary address to the Legislature on Wednesday, Feb. 6.
Helpful Tracking Links for Legislation
- County Bills by Office as tracked by the Texas Association of Counties.
- 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.