Central Texas residents have reason to be wary in the upcoming local and state elections, particularly in the House District 55 primary.
Texans are facing increasing burdens from their local governments: property tax hikes, forced city annexation, and uncontrolled government spending are just a few of the problems directly affecting the taxpayers’ wallets. Yet, with the March primaries now open for voting, citizens have a powerful opportunity to shift this increasingly onerous and expensive trend, and elect representatives that will vote for the people’s interest.
Hugh Shine is the incumbent representative for HD 55, and is campaigning as a conservative. Shine is being challenged by two other Republicans, CJ Grisham and Brandon Hall. Since Shine is the only one who has held political office, voters have the benefit of simply looking at his voting record to determine if he is the best candidate to protect their interests and their hard-earned dollars.
During Gov. Greg Abbott’s first called session last summer, Senate Bill 1 was introduced to reform property taxes. During floor debate, an amendment was offered by State Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) that would have cut the rollback rate from 6 to 4 percent, meaning that local governments could not raise taxes more than 4 percent without voter approval. Current law allows for an up to 8 percent hike without any voter consent. Shine voted against cutting the rate, alongside nearly all House Democrats. Additionally, Shine voted with Democrats to end discussion on the entire bill, effectively killing more taxpayer-friendly amendments that would have been introduced.
Arguments in favor of keeping the rollback rate higher often rely on the claim that taxpayers already consent to it by electing their representatives, or that local entities need the increase because of operations costs. Yet those are not the issues at hand—this is simply about providing more accountability to the taxpayer and allowing voters to approve higher taxes in real-time, not waiting for an election after their money has already been taken from them.
House Bill 208, authored by State Rep. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound), was intended to limit annual state spending to the increases in population and inflation. However, through a parliamentary tactic, Democrats and liberal House leadership were able to defeat the bill. Shine voted with them to kill the legislation.
Senate Bill 6 was offered to reform forced city annexation. Shine voted in favor of the final bill, yet voted against amendments 2, 3, and 23 which would have extended annexation protections to all Texans, not just the largest few counties, and allowed smaller counties to vote on opting-in to new safeguards rather than having to gather a petition first.
As a result of those amendments failing, there is currently a petition circulating Shine’s own Bell County calling for an election to opt-in to the SB 6 protections. Both of the other HD 55 candidates signed it, while Shine said he had been too busy to do so. He also noted that the petition’s required number of signatures is unreasonable and too high. “There was an attempt to lower the number of required signatures when the Legislature was in session,” Shine explained, “but lawmakers thwarted it.”
Yet Shine voted against the amendments that would have included his own county in the annexation protections, or at the least given them easier access so that they would not need to go through a difficult petition process in order to have a vote on what happens to their own property. The forced annexation issue is not about prohibiting city expansion, but simply getting approval from private land owners first.
Overall, Shine’s most recent legislative record earned him a failing 49/100 on Young Conservatives of Texas, and a 37/100 on Empower Texans’ Fiscal Responsibility Index.
Though often misconstrued as an attack on character, examining a representative’s voting record is the best way for voters to make an informed decision on a candidate.
Early voting runs through election day on March 6.

Jacob Asmussen

Jacob Asmussen is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard. He attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and in 2017 earned a double major in public relations and piano performance.