We are more than half way through the 86th Legislative session, and things are moving much more quickly than in previous sessions. After more than 12 hours of debate and more than 300 proposed amendments, the Texas House unanimously passed House Bill 1 this week, the state’s 2020-21 budget. The budget includes a $9 billion boost in state funding for public education, with $6 billion of that going to school districts and the remaining $3 billion to pay for property tax relief, contingent on lawmakers passing a school finance reform package. The spending plan would take $2 billion from the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund, also known as the Rainy Day fund, which currently holds more than $11 billion. The House’s $251 billion budget also includes $50 million for the Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant (DEAAG) program, one of the Chamber’s top legislative priorities.
The House also passed a $9 billion supplemental budget that same day to pay for leftover expenses that aren’t covered in the state’s current two-year budget, mostly for Hurricane Harvey recovery and health and human services programs – $4.3 billion of which would also come from the state’s Rainy Day fund.
The following day, the Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved adding billions more dollars to their budget for public education and property tax reform, bringing the total to $9 billion – the same amount the House approved spending on those items. The Senate’s spending plan now includes $4 billion to increase teacher and librarian pay, $2.3 billion for a school finance overhaul, and $2.7 billion for property tax relief. Even though both the House and Senate are now on the same page about the amount to put toward public education and property tax reform, we can expect heated negotiations over the details, especially teacher pay raises which have become a major point of contention between both Chambers.
Members of the House Ways and Means Committee then headed to a hearing well after midnight to vote on House Bill 2, the Governor’s priority property tax legislation. The bill, which included a committee substitute passed with an 8-3 vote, requires cities, counties and other taxing units to receive voter approval before levying 2.5 percent more property tax revenue than the previous year. The substitute added a carry-over provision that lets taxing units carry over unused revenue growth for five years, allowing them to exceed the trigger point for an election if they had less than 2.5 percent growth in preceding years. The bill exempts community colleges, emergency service districts and hospital districts. The substitute also added new certificates of obligation and other non-voter approved debt be counted toward the 2.5 percent growth tally. The bill, as passed, is bad news for San Antonio, as it would hinder the City’s ability to fund critical services for residents, such as police and fire protection and street and sidewalk maintenance.
Your Chamber took action on other important legislation this week. Chamber Vice President of Military Affairs, Lori Stinson testified before the Senate Business and Commerce Committee in support of SB 1200, a bill that provides a broad-spectrum approach to supporting military spouses who seek meaningful careers in Texas, specifically in relation to careers which require licensure and certification. Lori emphasized how military spouses are a vital part of San Antonio’s very talented workforce, and how eliminating barriers in securing positions in their chosen career fields, expediting licensing and certifications, and getting them to work more quickly benefits not only the military family, but also employers, clients, and patients. Click here to see the written testimony submitted. Other actions taken this week include:
- Card in Support of HB 722 (Brackish water)
- Card in Support of HB 2535 (Scoring Criteria for DEAAG Grants)
- Card in Opposition to SB 17 (Discrimination against occupational licensing)
- Card in Support of HB 2861 (TxDOT Authority on Military Bases)
- Letter in Support of SB 2247 (Tuition Revenue Bonds)
- Card in Support of SB 822 (Mental health program for veterans & their families)
House Bill 3, the House’s public school finance bill is scheduled for the floor next Wednesday. Count on your Chamber to keep you updated.
For more information regarding the Chamber’s legislative priorities, contact Stephanie Reyes, Vice President of Public Policy at firstname.lastname@example.org.