One of the 86th Texas Legislature’s landmark pieces of legislation, House Bill 2, was finally brought before the House Committee on Ways and Means Wednesday.
Chairman Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) noted during his opening remarks on HB 2 that over one hundred people had registered to testify on the bill.
Burrows brought the bill “as authored” and without any amendments, “so it can be changed in either direction.” The Senate version of the bill had what State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) referred to as “technical corrections” in the form of 14 amendments. One amendment, offered by State Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), included an opt-in for citizens living inside the jurisdiction of a taxing entity excluded from the bill for not having exceeded the threshold of $15 million in revenue annually to be included statutorily.
Before public testimony, taxpayer-funded lobbyists, advised elected officials to offer their testimony “on” the bill, rather than against it. In addition to changing their position on the legislation, officials also consistently made it very clear that they were here to work with the committee on the legislation, and not in opposition to the members or the bill.
“We will work with the committee to provide property tax relief for the citizens of our city,” one official told Burrows.
The testimony of the local elected officials and their representatives was demonstrably politer and more courteous than that of their colleagues and counterparts a few short weeks ago before the Senate Property Tax Committee. It constituted a rounding out of their overall approach to the legislative process over the course of the legislature.
Again, though, the real highlights of the public testimony Wednesday were the citizen-taxpayers making the trip to Austin from across the state to continue to press lawmakers for needed relief.
Rich and Yvette DeOtte made the trip down from Tarrant County to have their voices heard. “There’s a massive disconnect here,” said Rich DeOtte, referring to the testimonies of the tax raisers from the tax payers.
Rich and his wife arrived at 7:00 am in order to register to testify for the bill. It was nearly 8:00 pm before they finally made their way to the microphone before the committee. The overwhelming majority of the citizen taxpayers were just beginning to give their perspectives on the bill late into the evening.
“I’m gonna go a little over my time here,” DeOtte said when the two-minute timer went off. Some testimony earlier in the day stretched on for the better part of an hour.
Taxpayers again were patient and polite in waiting for their time and delivering their message long into the night with testimony wrapping up after 9pm.
According to lawmakers in both chambers, property tax reform legislation will be heard on the floor of each respective chamber in the coming weeks.