State HouseStatewide NewsThe Back MicThe Back Mic: Legislators Ask for CARES Act Funds to Lower Appraisal Values, Alamo Protection, Environmental Regulatory Transparency

This week — lawmakers ask for coronavirus aid to lower appraisals, the governor to intervene in Alamo drama, and an agency to name which businesses were granted regulatory waivers.
June 5, 2020
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Legislators harnessed their voices this week, asking for new federal coronavirus aid be spent on lowering property tax appraisals, for the governor to intervene in the potential relocation of the Cenotaph, and a state agency to release which businesses have asked for regulatory waivers in light of coronavirus. Here’s a look at the action.

Lawmaker Asks for Coronavirus Funds to Help Lower Appraisal Values

This week, Rep. Phil Stephenson (R-Wharton) released a letter he’d sent to Governor Abbott on May 21. The letter asked the governor to direct any future federal COVID-19 aid dollars, specifically allocated through the CARES Act, to lower 2020 property tax appraisal values. 

“Something is left out of this equation, and that is simply, the people,” writes Stephenson. “In the future, should more funds be made available to the states, I am both requesting and putting forth a proposition: All future monies allocated to the State of Texas from the federal government be used to pay down school property taxes on residential homesteads at least, at most, some commercial properties.”

Stephenson goes on to add a request that “going forward counties and cities not be eligible for any further funding from the federal government, until property taxes on schools are fully paid down.”

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“I am fully aware that the devil is in the details. However, with the egregiously high property tax estimates for 2020, I believe we have found ourselves in a potentially disastrous predicament.”

Stephenson has represented Texas House District 85 since 2013. 

Abbott Petitioned to Protect Cenotaph

In light of approaching Texas Historical Commission hearings slated for mid-June being closed to public attendance, Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg) sent a strongly worded letter to Governor Abbott addressing his concerns about plans to make changes to the Alamo complex and Cenotaph.

“I have sent multiple letters to your office about the Alamo Plan and have not received a reply from you or your staff,” wrote Biedermann. “In the past few months, you have acted with excessive executive powers under the guise of COVID-19. With that said, on the Alamo, your leadership has been nonexistent.”

“Governor, put an end to the relocation of the Cenotaph and insist it be repaired where it stands. Don’t let your name go down in history as the one who let the most iconic event of Texas history take a backseat at the hands of historical revisionists.”

Biedermann, elected to represent House District 73 in 2016, has been on the forefront of the battle to keep the Cenotaph from moving positions, placing him squarely at odds with many San Antonio city leaders and General Land Commissioner George P. Bush.

Lawmaker Asks Agency to Name Businesses Granted Regulatory Exemptions

Yesterday, Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) issued a press release with the House Democratic Caucus Committee on Clean Air, Water, and Climate Change calling for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to release the names and locations of the facilities that have been granted environmental compliance exemptions in light of COVID-19 industry disruptions.

“We know that exposure to air pollution can weaken a person’s lung function and potentially increase the severity of a COVID-19 infection,” said Zwiener. “The public has a right to know what entities are receiving exemptions, where they are located, and if those exemptions affect public health.”

“COVID-19 has exacerbated pre-existing racial disparities, such as those resulting from industry clustering in close proximity to communities of color. We can’t take days off when it comes to regulating polluters.”

The House Democratic Caucus Committee on Clean Air, Water, and Climate Change is chaired by Zwiener, and includes Reps. Alma Allen (D-Houston), Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas), Terry Canales (D-Edinburg), Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont), Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D-San Antonio), Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin), Jon Rosenthal (D-Houston), and Gene Wu (D-Houston).

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McKenzie Taylor

McKenzie Taylor

McKenzie Taylor serves as Interim Editor and resident plate-spinner for The Texan. Previously, she worked as State Representative Kyle Biedermann’s Capitol Director during the 85th legislative session before moving to Fort Worth to manage Senator Konni Burton’s campaign. In her free time, you might find her enjoying dog memes, staring at mountains, or proctoring personality tests.