The Texas Senate capped off an extremely busy week in which lawmakers passed a large number of conservative priorities.
Here are some major items you might have missed:
Phasing out the Franchise Tax
The franchise tax is Texas’ onerous business tax that imposes a heavy burden on the state’s economy.
While the tax was sold as a way to lower property taxes, it only brings in a small fraction of Texas’ revenue. Meanwhile, property taxes have continued to climb—becoming one of the most cumbersome burdens Texans face.
To address the issue, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 17 by Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson (R–Flower Mound) which would require the Comptroller to automatically reduce the rate of the tax when the state has a budget surplus.
The measure passed by a vote of 23-7.
Ending Government Collection of Union Dues
“Paycheck Protection” or ending the automatic collection of labor union dues has been a major goal this session for conservatives. The argument for the reform is simple: Governments in Texas shouldn’t be in the business of banking for labor unions. Public employee unions, as politically active organizations, should collect their own members’ dues without the help of government employers. However, there’s an added benefit to limiting government in such a way.
According to some estimates, ending the practice could prevent a substantial amount of cash (around $10 million) from flowing into Democrat campaign accounts.
Though attempts to pass the legislation failed last session, Republicans are pushing the measure again with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick making it one of his legislative priorities and tapping State Sen. Joan Huffman (R–Southside Place) to carry the legislation.
Huffman authored Senate Bill 13 and quickly moved it through the Texas Senate, passing it with a party-line vote of 20-11.
Fixing Voter ID
First approved in 2011, Texas’ Voter ID law has had a tough time in court after Democrat legal organizations successfully challenged it as discriminatory.
In order to keep the law in place, State Sen. Joan Huffman (R–Southside Place) authored a “clean up bill” that implements a few tweaks. Huffman’s legislation largely mirrors the court-implemented requirements that the state has been operating under for the past two years.
Under those requirements, Texas must offer an affidavit for potential voters to sign if they lack an ID. Senate Bill 5 would establish a severe penalty—up to 10 years in prison—for lying on such an affidavit.
The measure passed by a party-line vote of 20-11.
Giving Taxpayers a Voice on Pension Obligation Bonds
In 2003, the legislature passed SB 1696, this allowed local governments to take on debt in the form of pension obligation bonds without voter approval up to the amount of their unfunded pension liabilities. Since the law went into effect, Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio have collectively issued roughly $1.3 billion in these bonds.
With the issuance of $1 billion in these bonds being at the core of Houston’s pension overhaul, State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston) took charge of the issue and filed Senate Bill 151 to require voter approval on all pension obligation bonds.
The bill passed the Senate by 21-10, mostly along partisan lines, however, Sen. John Whitmire (D–Houston) broke from his party line to support the bill.
Reducing the LTC-Fee
Though the Texas Senate has so far passed on constitutional carry legislation, Second Amendment advocates scored a win last week when lawmakers approved Senate Bill 16.
Authored by State Sen. Robert Nichols (R–Jacksonville), SB 16 would substantially reduce the cost of obtaining (and renewing) the state’s License to Carry.
The legislation passed by a vote of 26-5 with six Democrats uniting with Republicans in support of the measure.