87th LegislatureProperty Tax Relief and Bail Reform Constitutional Amendment Added to the Third Special Session Agenda

The governor controls what the Texas legislature may consider during special sessions and Abbott has added two new items to the call.
September 22, 2021
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The light docket for the legislature’s third special session got some new additions Wednesday when Governor Greg Abbott added property tax relief and a bail reform constitutional amendment to the items that may be considered.

These two additional agenda items are crucial to improving the quality of life for all Texans,” said Abbott in a release. “I look forward to working with my partners in the Legislature to pass these additional items that will lower property taxes and keep Texans safe.”

Already on the list were five items:

  • Redistricting
  • Disbursement of $16 billion in federal coronavirus aid
  • Requirements that youth athletes compete within their biological sex
  • Curtailment of vaccine mandates by state and local government entities
  • Establishment of a criminal penalty for the unlawful restraint of a dog

Mounting pressure from both outside and within the legislature had built to include some sort of action on property taxes. Both Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) threw their weight behind a $2 billion to $4 billion proposal by state Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) to compress school district tax rates.

Its current version is estimated to supply a $300,000-valued homeowner with a $200 cut in their tax bill. That proposal is similar in function to the legislature’s 2019 tax compression.

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Multiple other property tax proposals have been filed in the Texas House including an elimination of school district Maintenance & Operations rates — the largest portion of the most significant driver of property taxes in the state.

There had been discussion about using a portion of the $16 billion in federal coronavirus aid for property tax reform in violation of Congress’s prohibition on using the funds for tax cuts. But that stipulation is currently being challenged in court and already received one blow against it by an Ohio district court.

But now, the legislature’s ability to pass property tax reform is neither tied to the federal aid nor the litigation challenging its guidelines.

Texas has among the most burdensome property tax climates and with rising appraisals paired with many local officials all too happy to increase rates along with them, the weight on taxpayers becomes heavier every year.

The other item added to the call is a constitutional amendment to cement the legislature’s bail reforms made this year. During the second special session, the legislature passed a restriction on Texas judges’ ability to issue personal recognizance bonds to violent or repeat offenders.

A direct response to bail practices in population centers like Austin and Houston that have led to offenders committing other, sometimes deadly, offenses while out on bond, Abbott and Republicans aimed to solidify that reform in the state constitution.

But while the House bill passed, the parallel constitutional amendment failed as it did not receive two-thirds support in the House — or 100 votes.

It fell 13 votes shy of that mark.

The current special session began on Monday and expires on October 19.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.