On Saturday, Texas House leadership moved to pass a pretend “property tax reform bill” to the Texas Senate.
Why the quotes?
Because rather than pass serious, structural reforms like the Texas Senate passed, the Texas House is moving a homeopathic half measure instead.
What lawmakers should have passed, but didn’t, was Senate Bill 2 by State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston), a major property tax reform bill that would force taxing entities to secure voter approval in order to increase property tax burdens by more than 5%. Should that election fail the rate would be “rolled back.”
Knowing that it will serve as a shield against property tax increases, SB 2 has been hailed by homeowners across the Lone Star State and has been many conservatives’ primary goal this legislative session.
Though the bill passed by a party-line vote of 20-11 in the Texas Senate, the measure was stopped in the Texas House after Speaker Joe Straus removed it from consideration by sustaining Democrats’ point of order on the bill and preventing conservatives from moving to overrule it.
While SB 2 has yet to be re-scheduled for a vote on the House floor, Ways and Means Chairman Dennis Bonnen (R–Angleton) decided to take a small portion of the language he added to SB 2 and attach it on another bill aimed at property tax appraisals.
By maneuvering in such a way, Bonnen was able to add his toothless, albeit positive, property tax disclosure requirement to the bill, but conservative amendments to add genuine reform would be ruled not germane. And the debate played out just as planned.
Bonnen laid out his amendment and even farcically claimed that his proposal was more conservative than the measures provided in SB 2. Meanwhile, Straus refused to recognize an amendment by State Rep. Matt Shaheen (R–Plano) to attach the serious, property tax reform elements into SB 699.
“This is a farce,” Stickland said during the debate on the bill. “This is part of a victory, part of a victory.”
In the end, every lawmaker voted for the watered-down measure, including liberal Democrats. State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R–Bedford) used that vote to criticize the measure as obviously less robust than SB 2.