Around the Texas Capitol
Dairy farmers prepare for the Capitol, committee hearings, more new members and property tax reform debate

By Shayne Woodard, J Pete Laney and Lauren Spreen
TAD Governmental Affairs

After a President’s Day break, it’s full speed ahead for the Texas Legislature, with committees now meeting to consider bills. It won’t be long until we see our first votes on the House and Senate floors. So far more than 2,700 bills have been filed, with a filing deadline of March 8.

Groups representing different associations and industries are starting to bring their members to the Capitol to host rallies, hold press conferences, visit with legislative members and staffs, and basically work to deliver their message on their issues.

TAD’s Board will be in Austin on Feb. 26 for their turn to have their voices heard at the Texas Capitol on issues of importance to the Texas dairy industry. It’s always valuable for dairy farmers to visit with members of the Legislature who are not familiar with dairy or agriculture issues. One area of focus will be TAD’s opposition to bills to expand the sale of unpasteurized (or raw) milk in Texas (House Bill 503 by Rep. Dan Flynn and Senate Bill 80 by Sen. Bob Hall).

If you can’t make a trip to Austin, you can make your views heard by emailing, writing or calling your state representative or senator on issues of concern to you. Click here if you need contact information, need to find who represents you, or want information on specific legislation.

Even though the legislative session is well underway, some representation is still being determined thanks to a domino effect from shifts in membership that occurred after the November general election.

State Rep. Justin Rodriguez (D-San Antonio) was appointed to the Bexar County Commissioners Court, leading to a special election for his District 125 House seat. Republican Fred Rangel and Democrat Ray Lopez led a field of five candidates. Gov. Greg Abbott will set a run-off date after the votes are canvassed.

In House District 145, Democrats Christina Morales and former State Rep. Melissa Noriega are the candidates for a March 5 special election runoff to replace Carol Alvarado (D-Houston), who moved to the Texas Senate after former Sen. Sylvia Garcia won her election to U.S. Congress.

Newly elected members will need to quickly get up to speed on one of the biggest issues of the legislative session, property tax relief.

The Senate Property Tax Committee has already passed Senate Bill 2, the Property Tax Reform & Relief Act of 2019. The committee discussed the bill and adopted 12 amendments before voting the SB 2 out of committee. One of the amendments gaining a lot of attention is to allow “small taxing units,” as defined in the bill, to require voter approval for tax revenue increases of more than 2.5 percent, a reduction of the current 8 percent threshold.

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen), the only Democrat on the committee, voted “present-not-voting” on the motion to report SB 2 out of the committee favorably. Senator Hinojosa explained his vote saying, “While I support 97.5 percent of this bill, I cannot support the 2.5 percent ‘voter-approved rate’ currently in SB 2. While the existing 8 percent rate is too high, the 2.5 percent rate is too low and would jeopardize the ability of local governments to provide crucial services to their communities. There is no doubt that property tax appraisals are increasing faster than our paychecks. Property taxpayers need relief. However, we should find a balanced approach that does not tie the hands of our local elected officials and hinder their ability to provide basic services and public safety.”

While SB 2 would slow the growth of property – but not cut current rates, a new proposal by Rep. Drew Springer’s (R-Muenster) would. But it could cost you in other areas. Springer’s idea (he has not yet filed a bill as of press time) would raise $6.4 billion for local school property taxes relief by getting rid of some popular sales tax exemptions and rules. For example, motor fuel would be taxed, in addition to existing gasoline taxes, along with auto maintenance and repair services, non-prescription drugs and other items.

As always, your TAD team will be working on your behalf to monitor those bills and other legislation that could impact you.