The Back MicThe Back Mic: Procedural Misstep Jeopardizes Priority Bills, Activists Gather at Capitol, House Member Opposes Chamber’s Appraisal Plan

This week — an improper committee recess requires a procedural fix, protests and rallies descend upon the Capitol, and a House Democrat criticizes the chamber's property tax plan.
March 24, 2023

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House Priority Bills Nearly Falter After Improper Recess

Parliamentary procedure is delicate and obscure; even minor errors can cause significant problems for legislation. That happened on Monday this week in the House Higher Education Committee when Chairman John Kuempel (R-Seguin) recessed without setting a time to reconvene.

“Members, the chair moves that we stand in recess until final adjournment of the House or during bill referral if permission is granted,” Kuempel said, recessing the committee for members to head to the House floor.

The committee reconvened later to hear more testimony and take up committee substitutes for two House priority priority bills: House Bills (HB) 8 and 15.

But because he did not set a time to reconvene, it was not a proper recess and thus the body could not properly reconvene — essentially an adjournment of that called meeting. A similar but much higher-profile instance occurred last session when then-Elections Committee Chairman Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) recessed without setting a time to reconvene during testimony on the body’s marquee election reform bill.

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Despite voting to report the two priority bills favorably as substituted, both were left pending in committee on Monday according to Texas Legislature Online.

On Tuesday, the Higher Education Committee convened a makeshift meeting to redo the votes from the previous day. Both were reported favorably as substituted and are now on track toward the House floor for their final two votes before moving to the Senate.

In the end, the issue was quickly remedied, but it highlights just how finicky parliamentary procedure can be.

Protests and Rallies Sweep the Capitol

With the Texas Legislature now in full swing — bills may now be voted on in the chambers, and already are in the Senate — legislation is beginning to move forward. The Texas Senate State Affairs Committee considered Senate Bill (SB) 14, a proposed ban on gender modification procedures for minors.

The bill drew hundreds in a protest against it, criticizing Republicans’ efforts to prohibit physicians from performing mastectomies, vaginoplasties, phalloplasties, and other procedures on children diagnosed with “gender dysphoria.” It’d also prohibit the prescription of puberty blocking drugs to minors.

Attendees also protested proposals that would designate entities that host drag performances, specifically scantily-clad ones, as “sexually oriented businesses” and prohibit their performance in front of children.

Another gathering occurred on the south steps of the Capitol at a pro-school choice rally, with Gov. Greg Abbott as a speaker. The governor has been traversing the state, pushing the school choice issue more than any other.

SB 8, the Senate’s school choice bill, would create Education Savings Accounts (ESA) of up to $8,000 per year that current public school students may use to pay for various expenses, including tuition for a private school. It’d also pay $10,000 to “rural districts,” classified as districts with fewer than 20,000 students, for each student that leaves through the ESA program.

As high-priority bills continue to progress, it’s all but assured these will not be the last of the Capitol’s public gatherings.

Texas House Democrat Criticizes Appraisal Cap Reduction Plan

The lone “no” vote on HB 2, the lower chamber’s priority property tax compression and appraisal reform bill, explained why he opposed the bill this week.

Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie), a member of the House Ways & Means Committee and former chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said on Twitter, “Today … I voted no on HB 2 [and] HJR1, which would implement a 5 [percent] appraisal cap on ALL real property. I support property tax relief for my constituents, but I don’t believe this proposal will deliver it.”

In addition to the $17.3 billion in rate compression, HB 2 would cut in half the appraisal cap and expand it to all properties; the cap currently only applies to homesteads.

“I’ve always been opposed to new appraisal caps; they can distort the real estate market [and] shift the tax burden to [first] time homebuyers. Owners of higher value homes will benefit the most, as their homes appreciate more quickly,” Turner added.

Under the bill, the appraisal cap would apply until a new owner purchases the property, at which point the taxable appraisal value resets to the market value — notwithstanding any other exemptions already on the books.

The argument goes that lower-value properties also grow at a slower rate and are more likely to see a year-to-year increase below the cap anyway — while higher-value, faster-growth properties will see larger differences between their market value and taxable value as years go by, which is the very purpose of the bill.

“There are more effective ways to achieve property tax relief for homeowners. I am hopeful we can continue to work on ways to find substantial and equitable tax relief for all Texans, including those who do not own property.”


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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.