The first of several expected special sessions of the Texas Legislature has ended, with zero of the two bills requested by the governor ultimately making it to his desk.
Now lawmakers are being called back on Wednesday for round two.
Mere hours following the conclusion of the regular legislative session on Memorial Day, Abbott announced the start of a special legislative session on property tax relief and border security.
“Many critical items remain that must be passed. Several special sessions will be required. To ensure that each priority receives the time and attention it deserves to pass into law, only a few will be added each session,” said Abbott, indicating that multiple special sessions will be required.
Agenda items for the first special session included:
- PROPERTY TAXES: Legislation to cut property tax rates solely by reducing the school district maximum compressed tax rate in order to provide lasting property tax relief for Texas taxpayers.
- BORDER SECURITY: Legislation solely for the purpose of increasing or enhancing the penalties for certain criminal conduct involving the smuggling of persons or the operation of a stash house.
It was a deadlock on property taxes that largely led to the current stalemate. While the House had advocated for stronger appraisal caps during the regular session, the Senate has supported an increase to the homestead exemption.
Abbott, meanwhile, has endorsed using all of the budgeted funds from the state to help buy down—or “compress”—local school property taxes.
On the first day of the special session, the House passed a bill to do just that—providing around $12.4 billion in relief, significantly less than its final $16.3 billion proposal from the regular session. They then adjourned “Sine Die” that day, meaning they would not return for the remainder of the special session—a move meant to squeeze the Senate into accepting their proposal.
The Senate, meanwhile, passed their own $12.1 billion version with a smaller amount of compression and a $100,000 homestead exemption. That bill was not referred to a committee by Speaker Dade Phelan, as he ruled it non-germane to the governor’s call.
Since then, tensions have continued to escalate between the two chambers, with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick accusing House Speaker Dade Phelan of operating in bad faith. As recently as last week, the Senate unanimously passed a revised version of their plan that included lowering the limit of the annual growth of school district revenue from 2.5 percent to 1.75 percent.
In a move to appeal to business owners, the new Senate proposal also would have increased the exemption for the state’s business franchise tax from $1 million to $2.47 million, making an additional 67,000 businesses exempt from paying the tax.
Patrick referred to the bill as the “largest property tax cut in the history of the world.” On the same day, Phelan created a select committee to study long-term property tax relief but did not take action on the Senate’s bill.
An agreement could also not be reached on the minor border security bill to increase criminal penalties on human smugglers, with the Senate taking issue with a House provision that would implement lower penalties for those trafficking relatives.
As special sessions can only last up to 30 days and can only cover issues the governor places on the call, Abbott called the beginning of a second special session to begin Tuesday at 2pm. This time, the call is only limited to property tax relief.
“Unless and until the House and Senate agree on a different proposal to provide property tax cuts, I will continue to call for lasting property tax cuts through rate reductions and working toward eliminating the school property tax in Texas,” said Abbott.
Patrick, meanwhile, reaffirmed his support for the Senate’s homestead exemption approach and said the chamber would pass the exact same bill once again.
“We will pass the same bill that we passed to the House last week that cuts school property taxes for the average homeowner by nearly 43%, almost double the tax cut one would receive with only compression,” said Patrick.
Both chambers are slated to convene Wednesday at 11am.