The Back MicThe Back Mic: Phelan Returns Serve on Appraisal Cap, New Gender Modification Ban Signers Listed, House Abuzz over ‘Texas Honey’ Restriction

This week — Speaker Phelan counters Senate criticism of House priority, the members now backing a gender modification ban who didn’t last session are listed, and a bill to regulate “Texas Honey” labeling draws first House floor debate.
March 31, 2023

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Speaker Doubles Down on Appraisal Cap Reduction, Extension

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) took to the pages of the Houston Chronicle to mount a defense of his chamber’s priority appraisal reform strategy: reducing the appraisal cap from 10 to 5 percent, and extending it to all property.

“It is our job at the Texas Legislature to do what we can to maximize tax savings for Texas taxpayers,” Phelan wrote in an opinion editorial. Citing the state’s record surplus, the speaker touted the House’s $17 billion plan.

The Senate prefers its $16.5 billion plan that includes increasing the standard homestead exemption rather than the appraisal cap. It’s been a major disagreement on what is, relative to the compression, a minor portion of the plan.

Taking aim at the Senate — which has slung its fair share of arrows at the lower chamber — Phelan wrote, “There has been some talk at the Texas Legislature about raising the homestead exemption for a second legislative session in a row after we took action on this issue in 2021.”

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The Senate’s plan would raise the exemption by another $30,000 after raising it by $15,000 last session, and would also raise the business personal property tax exemption and create an inventory tax credit.

“But what would [the homestead exemption increase] do for your mom-and-pop shop down the street, or any other small- or medium-sized business? It would not do anything,” Phelan wrote.

“And for homeowners, any potential savings would be stagnant, with some potentially never even experiencing a lower tax bill, since a fixed-dollar amount cannot keep up with rapidly rising property values.”

New Signers on House Gender Modification Ban Listed

A ban on child gender modification procedures and treatments is back in the Texas Legislature and appears likely to pass where it failed last session. Rep. Tom Oliverson’s (R-Cypress) House Bill (HB) 1686 has 78 joint authors or coathors, all Republicans, and a majority in the lower chamber.

Last session, former Rep. Matt Krause’s (R-Fort Worth) HB 1399 had 51 other members sign on. It faltered at a House deadline after low placement on the May 12, 2021 calendar. Its Senate companion passed the upper chamber but wasn’t heard in the House Public Health Committee.

But now, momentum seems to be on the bill’s side with a majority of support in the House. Below are the list of cosigners on this year’s version that did not sign onto 2021’s, freshman members excluded:

  • Steve Allison (R-San Antonio)
  • Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock)
  • Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake)
  • Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches)
  • Gary Gates (R-Richmond)
  • Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth)
  • Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth)
  • Ryan Guillen (R-Rio Grande City)
  • Sam Harless (R-Spring)
  • Kyle Kacal (R-College Station)
  • Ken King (R-Canadian)
  • Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth)
  • John Kuempel (R-Seguin)
  • Stan Lambert (R-Abilene)
  • Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa)
  • J.M. Lozano (R-Kingsville)
  • Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas)
  • Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria)
  • Four Price (R-Amarillo)
  • John Raney (R-Bryan)
  • John Smithee (R-Amarillo)
‘Texas Honey’ Bill Gets First Bitter Reception on House Floor

The Texas House held its first floor votes on legislation Tuesday with three of the first four receiving no opposition, each passing on voice vote.

But the fourth bill did face some debate. HB 590 by Rep. Ernest Bailes (R-Shepherd) would prohibit the marketing of honey as “Texas Honey” unless the product is “exclusively … produced from apiaries in Texas.”

“This is about fairness and honesty for the Texas consumer,” Bailes said of his bill.

From the back microphone, Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) pressed Bailes. “You’re aware that your bill would make it a Class B Misdemeanor, a crime, if somebody mislabels honey?”

“So you’re making a criminal offense for honey,” Canales said.

A Class B Misdemeanor can come with up to 180 days in jail.

Bailes countered that the offense for mislabeling a consumer product is already in code and that his bill would merely extend that penalty to honey. “It simply says there’s a negative consequence for being untruthful in the labeling of honey,” he said.

Rep. Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia) tried to amend the bill by swapping “exclusively” for “predominantly” — a change he said would prevent businesses who blend in a small amount of outside honey from being punished. Rep. Brian Harrison (R-Midlothian) defended Bell’s amendment from the back microphone.

“Producers will sometimes blend Texas honey with other honeys, which helps to better preserve the product,” the House Research Organization report on HB 590 reads. “Due to increasingly unpredictable weather in Texas, other honeys are sometimes unavailable within the state and have to be sourced elsewhere.”

The amendment failed with only 30 votes in support — 20 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

HB 590 passed on third reading on Wednesday with only 16 members voting against.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and 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.