Heading into this legislative session, few Texans would have guessed that the first pro-taxpayer bill to be heard in the Texas House would have been in the Public Education Committee – or that the proposal would grant taxpayers significantly more control over their tax bills.
Authored by State Rep. Valoree Swanson (R–Spring), House Bill 134 is a simple piece of legislation adding only one sentence to Texas’ Education Code.
“The governing board or commissioners court may not include more than one project or category of expenditure in any proposition submitted to authorize the issuance of bonds.”
If passed, Swanson’s legislation would require school districts to break separate bond projects into separate line items on their ballot—a change that would allow taxpayers to express their approval for certain portions of the plan while still preserving the ability to oppose portions they don’t support.
“Today I presented the FIRST pro-taxpayer bill of the session in the Public Education Committee: my House Bill 134!” said Swanson on Facebook. “My bill “unbundles” school bond proposals on your ballot, so that you can choose to vote for the specific projects you support, rather than having to vote down entire packages because of one or two items being included that you don’t support.”
School districts across Texas constantly lump dissimilar issues together in an omnibus package to ensure passage. Again and again voters are faced with a mega proposal that would, for example, provide funding to construct additional classrooms, renovate an old gymnasium…and provide an updated AstroTurf field and video replay scoreboard to the school’s football stadium.
Swanson’s bill would require each item to be listed on the ballot as separate proposals.
Conservative activists from across the state including Mike Openshaw, Matt Long, and Jim and Robin Lennon testified in support of the commonsense legislation. The bill addresses a plank of the platform of the Republican Party of Texas, and even garnered the support and testimony of Texas GOP Chairman James Dickey.
Thank you Rep. Valoree Swanson for filing HB134 which addresses one of our Platform Planks! We oppose bundling of items on bond election ballots!
— Texas GOP (@TexasGOP) February 19, 2019
The hearing on Swanson’s legislation is a positive sign for taxpayers, especially considering how many reforms were killed by Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty (R–Kingwood) last session.
The legislation also underscores the fact of this session seeing a lot of good will for conservatives, but with little movement so far on the majority of conservative priorities.Hopefully lawmakers will move quickly on more pro-taxpayer legislation like Swanson’s HB 134, they have only a limited amount of time to get them across the finish line.