The 86th Legislative Session was a success for Republicans, passing landmark legislation on school finance reform and property tax relief all while keeping a conservative budget. While there were some key bills that were not enacted, I believe that Republicans accomplished quite a bit given the makeup of the House and Senate this session. They focused on issues that have been punted down field for far too many years and finally pushed them across the finish line. Just days ago Governor Abbott signed 927 bills into law, and I would like to share my thoughts on a few of the key issues from this session.
Property Tax Relief
Property tax reform was the top issue in the hearts and minds of many Texans. Lawmakers promised to deliver a bill that would provide much needed relief, and I am pleased that they followed through on this promise.
Senate Bill 2 was signed into law on June 12 and made a variety of changes to property tax and appraisal mechanics. The key provision in this bill requires that taxing authorities, such as cities and counties, must hold an election if they wish to raise property taxes more than 3.5% from the previous year. I am a firm believer in local control, and we know the voter is the ultimate local control. It is now up to these taxing authorities to convince local voters of the reasons for raising their property taxes. This not only empowers individual voters, but it increases transparency as well.
In addition, SB 2 works in tandem with the school finance reform bill that bought down the property tax rates by $5 billion. When you pair the large buy-down and the limiting of taxing authorities, it creates both short term and long term property tax relief. This reform package is a big win for all Texans.
School Finance Reform
Our school finance system received some much needed attention this session. HB 3 was signed into law on June 11 and is a complete overhaul of Texas public school finance. This bill increases per-student funding, expands Pre-Kindergarten, reduces the state’s reliance on the “Robin Hood” program, and includes teacher pay raises.
It is incredibly important we improve our education metrics in Texas, and this bill should lead us in the right direction. I still believe other changes are necessary to improve education in Texas, but more funding for public education was a crucial first step.
This session’s budget included financing for the key property tax and school financing reforms, which were absolutely necessary. While it is always a concern when we increase spending in the state (especially by a rate of 16% from two years ago), the most important thing is that Texas does not become an indebted state, spending money we don’t have. We have seen how that turned out in states like California, and it is part of the reason so many people are moving to our great state. However, this session there was more money to spend compared to previous years thanks to a positive economic forecast and revenue estimates from oil and natural gas. Thus, we can consider this budget a win for Texans.
There were several bills passed this session that work to address the shortage of skilled workers in our state. As many of you know, this is a passion of mine and I am working to help modernize our workforce in Texas by developing training programs to give workers the skills they need to find employment in the 21st century. I am encouraged by this momentum and I hope to continue breaking new ground in the workforce development field in Texas.
I was pleased to see the ‘Save Chick-Fil-A’ bill come back to life this session. We should not discriminate against businesses for religious reasons, and government entities in particular should not be allowed to hold an organization’s religion against them. SB 1978 was signed into law on June 10 and prevents government entities from taking adverse action against people or businesses based on their religion. This is another big win for Texans.
Right to Life
While I was disappointed we were not able to pass the heartbeat bill this cycle, I was very pleased the Governor signed into law the ‘Born Alive’ Act to protect infants who survive an attempted abortion. The right to life is one of our most sacred unalienable rights, and we must do everything we can to protect it.
In Conclusion, this session was a success for the Republican Party and Texans all across the state. The new laws passed spread common sense freedoms and liberties that every citizen deserves, including the banning of red light cameras and several new protections of Second Amendment rights. I am proud to see our state heading in the right direction, and it is paramount that we elect leaders who will fight for our conservative values. I look forward to seeing all of these bills take effect on September 1, and I hope all Texans see the positive effects of these conservative pieces of legislation.