Legislative Line – July 30, 2017 – Special Session
The Texas Legislature is at the midpoint of the 30-day special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott that started July 18. Abbott has asked the Legislature to pass 20 pieces of legislation. A summary of where the session stands, as of Sunday, July 30, is below.
The Texas Senate recessed Wednesday, July 26, having passed 18 of the 20 items included in the governor’s special session proclamation.
Bills passed by the Senate, and sent to the Texas House, include:
SB 1 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt – makes several property tax reforms
SB 3 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst – requires multi-occupancy restrooms, showers, and changing facilities of a political subdivision to be designated for and used only by persons of the same sex as stated on the person’s birth certificate
SB 6 by Sen. Donna Campbell – prescribes procedures to be followed by a municipality before annexing property based on the size of the municipality
SB 9 by Sen. Kelly Hancock – bases the constitutional spending limit on population growth and inflation
SB 10 by Campbell – requires health care facilities and physicians to report abortion complications
SB 11 by Sen. Charles Perry – limits the circumstances under which a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order is valid. It was not amended
SB 14 by Sen. Bob Hall – prohibits municipalities from restricting the ability of a property owner to remove a tree or vegetation form the owner’s private property
SB 15 by Sen. Don Huffines – prohibits local governments from maintaining or enforcing local ordinances regarding the use of wireless communication devices
SB 73 by Sen. Bryan Hughes – requires physicians who perform an abortion on a woman younger than 18 years old to report information, and would require a physician who performs an abortion based on a severe and irreversible fetal abnormality to report the type of fetal abnormality
The House was in session Monday through Friday last week. During the week, the House passed and sent to the Senate:
HB 1 by Rep. Larry Gonzales – extends the sunset dates for the Texas Medical Board, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors, and the Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners from Sept. 1, 2017 to Sept. 1, 2019.
HB 2 by Gonzales – repeals appropriations contingency riders that made funding for the Texas Medical Board and the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists contingent on passage of their sunset bills during the regular session in order to provide continued funding for those agencies
HB 7 by Rep. Dade Phelan – requires a municipality that imposes a fee for tree removal to allow the person to apply for a credit for tree planting to offset the amount of the fee
HB 13 by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione – requires health care facilities and physicians to report abortion complications to the Health and Human Services Commission.
House committees also met last week.
On Monday, the House International Trade and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee took up:
HCR 19 by Rep. Rafael Anchia – establishes a joint interim committee to study the impact on Texas of any proposed modifications to NAFTA. It was voted out favorably.
On Tuesday, the House Urban Affairs Committee took up:
HB 7 by Phelan, which the House later passed (see above)
HB 70 by Rep. Paul Workman – prohibits municipalities from restricting the ability of a property owner to remove a tree or vegetation form the owner’s private property. It was left pending. Note: the companion, SB 14, has passed the Senate.
Also on Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee took up:
HB 4 by Rep. Dennis Bonnen – reduces the rollback rate from 8 percent to 5 percent except for school districts and small taxing units (those with tax rates of 2 cents or less or imposing taxes of $25 million or less). It was initially left pending, but on Friday, it was voted out favorably as substituted. The substitute has a 6 percent rollback, automatic elections and exempts community colleges.
HJR 35 by Rep. Dennis Bonnen – proposes a constitutional amendment capping annual appraisals on commercial and industrial real property at 20 percent. It was left pending.
On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee met to consider numerous bills, including many that were passed in the regular session and then vetoed by Abbott. All the bills below were passed by the committee.
HB 26 by Rep. Lyle Larson – requires groundwater conservation districts to use the district rules in effect on the date of a permit application for the district’s decision to deny or grant an application; and would allow a district to adopt a moratorium on the issuance of a permit or permit amendment unless the district posts a notice, holds a hearing, and makes written findings supporting the moratorium. The moratorium would expire 90 days after issuance and could not be extended.
HB 27 by Rep. Lyle Larson – authorizes a groundwater conservation district located over any part of a designated brackish groundwater production zone to adopt rules to permit the withdrawal of brackish groundwater in a designated brackish groundwater production zone. It would require the Texas Water Development Board to review and comment on permit applications and report on the impact of brackish groundwater production in a designated zone upon request of the groundwater conservation district.
HB 226 by Larson – requires the Texas Water Development Board to appoint a planning council that includes a member from each regional water planning group prior to the adoption of a new state water plan. It would require regional water plans to be developed after consideration of variations in drought response strategies; conducting an assessment of the potential for aquifer storage and recovery projects; and development of goals of per capita water use for municipal water groups.
HB 228 by Larson – clarifies that aquifer storage and recovery projects could consist of multiple sources of water; and would allow the sources of water for aquifer storage and recovery projects to be from water that is not continuously available or be a diversion from a watercourse that would otherwise flow into the Gulf of Mexico, and would prohibit projects that would negatively affect existing water rights in the same river basin or applicable environmental flow standards. It would require the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to consider any international treaties concerning applications and prohibit TCEQ from approving applications that would violate such treaties.
HB 229 by Larson – allows money in the Texas State Water Investment Fund to be used for the development of desalination facilities and aquifer storage and recovery facilities.
HB 230 by Larson – requires the Texas Water Development Board to develop a program to promote the acquisition of conservation easements.
HB 275 by Rep. Trent Ashby – requires extensions of an expired permit for the transfer of groundwater from a groundwater conservation district to a term that is not shorter than the term of an operating permit for the production of water to be transferred that is in effect at the time of the extension.
HB 277 by Larson – requires the Texas Water Development Board to conduct studies of aquifer storage and recovery projects identified in the state water plan in cooperation with groundwater conservation districts, regional water planning groups, and potential sponsors of aquifer storage and recovery projects.
On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee took up:
HB 208 by Rep. Tan Parker – bases the constitutional spending limit on population growth and inflation. It was left pending. Note: the companion, SB 9, has passed the Senate.
HJR 1 by Rep. Greg Bonnen – proposes a constitutional amendment basing the constitutional spending limit on population growth and inflation. It was left pending.
On Thursday, the House Transportation Committee took up:
HB 117 by Rep. Tomas Uresti – prohibits the use of a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle. It was left pending.
HB 171 by Rep. Craig Goldman – prohibits local governments from maintaining or enforcing local ordinances regarding the use of wireless communication devices. It was left pending. Note: the companion, SB 15, has passed the Senate.
On Friday, the House Ways and Means Committee took up and passed HB 32 by Dennis Bonnen, the Property Tax Payer Empowerment Act of 2017. It would:
- Allow the appraisal review board (ARB) to deliver information to a property owner in an electronic format if agreed to by the property owner;
- Require the comptroller to appoint a property tax administration advisory board to advise the comptroller regarding state administration of property taxes and state oversight of appraisal districts and local tax offices;
- Require training and continuing education for appraisal review board members and arbitrators;
- Change the “effective maintenance and operations rate” to the “no-new-revenue maintenance and operations rate” and change the “effective tax rate” to the “no-new-revenue tax rate;”
- Require the comptroller to prescribe tax rate calculation forms to be used by taxing units to calculate the no-new-revenue tax rate, the rollback tax rate, and the rate to maintain the same amount of state and local revenue per weighted student that the district received in the school year beginning in the preceding tax year;
- Require to comptroller to maintain a list of tax rates for each taxing unit and require each appraisal district to report that information on a form prescribed by the comptroller;
- Require the comptroller to prepare an appraisal review board survey form that allows for taxpayer input and prepare an annual report that summarizes the information received;
- Require appraisal districts in counties with a population of one million or more to increase the size of the district’s ARB as appropriate to manage the duties of the ARB;
- Institute anti-nepotism requirements for ARB members;
- Establish special three-member ARB panels for commercial, industrial, manufacturing, utility or multifamily residential property appraised at $50 million or more in counties with a population of one million or more;
- Require appraisal districts to maintain a searchable, continuously updated and publicly accessible property tax database that includes property values, property taxes, tax rates, hearing and meeting dates and other related information;
- Prohibit a taxing unit from contesting the appraisal of a category of property;
- Prohibit an appraisal district from charging a property owner for copies of information related to an appraisal review board hearing;
- Prohibit an ARB from determining the appraised value of a property subject to a protest to be a greater amount than the original appraised value of the property;
- Require the ARB to make a determination within 20 business days of the conclusion of the protest hearing;
- Allow the ARB to schedule all protests filed by a property owner to be held consecutively; and
- Prohibit ARB hearings on Sundays.