FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 24, 2011
Monday was day 70 of the 140-day Legislative session. Getting to the half-way mark reminds me we have done a lot of work but still more lies ahead. This week was filled with lots of action in both the House and Senate.
Five things that happened this week at your Texas Capitol are:
1. Appraisal cap hearing
On Monday, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on several property tax bills including my bill that would limit the maximum increase in a home's taxable value to five percent. Currently, the taxable value can increase 10 percent a year on a home. That means a home owners' tax bill can double in eight years, even if the tax rate stays exactly the same. This high rate can literally tax people out of house and home. Even those who own their home outright may find escalating property taxes a significant burden to continued home ownership. By cutting the maximum increase in half, to five percent, it will help make home property taxes manageable and keep homeownership affordable.
2. Voter ID passed in the House
After many hours of debate Wednesday, the House passed voter ID legislation requiring citizens to show official photo identification when voting. The measure was approved 101 to 48. The Senate passed this legislation earlier in the year, and a version of the bill will now head to Gov. Rick Perry for final approval. The bill's passage is a good sign for the rest of session. A previous voter ID bill caused a filibuster in the House and created a backlog of legislation that died in the chamber late last session. By resolving this significant issue early, the Legislature will be able to focus on other pressing issues such as balancing the state budget and redistricting.
3. Opposition to federal healthcare mandates
On the one-year anniversary of the passage of the federal healthcare overhaul bill, the Texas House Select Committee on State Sovereignty approved legislation opposing those federal regulations. House Bill 32 would protect Texas residents who do not comply with the federal mandate to buy individual health insurance. A second bill, House Bill 335 requires state agencies to estimate and report the cost of implement federal healthcare legislation. Finally, a resolution was passed by the committee expressing the opposition of the 82nd Legislature of Texas to the federal legislation. These measures were approved by the committee and will now go to the full House for further consideration.
4. Finance subcommittee looking for funding solutions
On the Senate side, a sub-committee is working to find additional budget solutions. The Fiscal Matters Subcommittee has a goal to identify $5 billion in non-tax revenue and budget efficiencies. Areas of focus include investigating state account fund balances, identifying state assets outside of the general fund, and finding tax collection and enforcement efficiency.
5. Texas Forestry Day
Wednesday was Texas Forestry Day at the Capitol. The members of the Texas Forestry Association represent an industry important to East Texas and the whole state. Employing more than 78,000 Texans, the industry has a $19.4 billion impact on the state. Representatives were in Austin to advocate for the industry and the importance service it provides to the state both economically and ecologically. Each year, the industry plants 100 million tree seedlings, about four trees per Texan.