Texas Legislature Ends Special Session Without Passing Property Tax Measure

The House's abrupt adjournment came after days of difficult negotiations with the Senate on school finance and property tax bills.

Texas Legislature Ends Special Session Without Passing Property Tax Measure

We Say: It’s pretty simple when you strip away all the political posturing. House Speaker Joe Straus dawdled away the regular session of the Texas Legislature, forcing Governor Abbott to call a Special Session, a 30-day period wherein the elected House and Senate Legislatures returned to Austin to finish what should have been done in the regular session.

Governor Abbott listed his priorities for the Special Session; the Texas Senate diligently went to work on the list of priority bills, passed and sent them to the House with weeks to spare. Straus again dawdled away the early weeks of the Special Session, then last evening, Tuesday, August 15, 2017, declared his House adjourned. A day early. Killing Governor Abbot’s key issues of property tax reform, spending limits, privacy protections, paycheck protection and more.

A political slap to the face of Governor Greg Abbott and the voters of Texas. It’s pretty simple.Speaker Straus does not deserve to be Speaker of the Texas House. Period.

Republished from TexasTribune.org, by Morgan Smith and Patrick Svitek. Image credit: Bob Daemmrich. Contributor: Donald Krebs

Hours earlier, the House abruptly adjourned sine die – the formal designation meaning the end of a session – after advancing a school finance compromise to Abbott’s desk but declining to further negotiate on a key property tax proposal. When the Senate returned later in the night, it rejected the only remaining option to get the bill across the finish line, which was to accept the House’s version. 

“We are not going to accept the take-it-or-leave it proposal from the House, and we are going to fight another day,” said state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, the Houston Republican who had authored the property tax bill. “I hope the governor calls us back as soon as possible.” 

It was a disappointing end for Abbott’s No. 1 issue, but the governor appeared pleased with the results of the special session. There was no immediate indication of whether he was open to calling another special session to keep trying on property tax reform.

“Our office believes this special session has produced a far better Texas than before,” Abbott spokesman John Wittman said in a statement.

Abbott called lawmakers back for the special session on July 18. Special sessions can last for up to 30 days, which gave both chambers until Wednesday to work.

Abbott ended up getting half his ambitious 20-item agenda to the finish line. The list of achievements included the must-pass “sunset” bills that will keep some state agencies from closing as well as proposals to crack down on mail-in ballot fraud, extend the life of maternal mortality task force, reform the municipal annexation process, limit local ordinance regulating trees and impose new restrictions on abortion.

At a news conference after the Senate adjourned, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also said he was proud of the Legislature’s accomplishments during the special session.

But Patrick’s tone quickly darkened when he turned to what was left undone.

He placed the blame for almost all of Abbott’s failed special session priorities on Speaker of the House Joe Straus.

“Thank goodness Travis didn’t have the speaker at the Alamo,” Patrick said. “He would’ve been the first one over the wall.”

Patrick said the San Antonio Republican had treated the governor’s agenda “like horse manure,” blocking votes on measures like the “bathroom bill,” private school vouchers and defunding Planned Parenthood.

“We missed some major opportunities, but what I’m most upset about is the House quit tonight,” he said. “With 27 hours to go, they walked off the job.”

Straus came out with a statement of his own on Tuesday night, saying, “I’m proud of our House Members who worked diligently in the special session, passing legislation that was in the best interest of all Texans. The House was thoughtful, respectful and decisive in its solution-oriented approach.”

The House’s abrupt adjournment came after days of difficult negotiations with the Senate on school finance and property tax bills.

House Ways and Means Chairman Dennis Bonnen had been expected to appoint members to a conference committee Tuesday so the two chambers could reconcile their versions of the bill.

But instead, shortly before the surprise motion to sine die, the Angleton Republican made an announcement.

“I have been working with members of the Senate for several days on SB 1, we have made our efforts, so I don’t want there to be in any way a suggestion that we have not, will not, would not work with the Senate on such an important issue,” he said.

Then he said he had not appointed a conference committee because he was “trying to keep the bill alive.”

“If we appointed conferees now, it would kill the bill because there is not enough time,” he said, explaining that under House rules, there would not be enough time left in the session to issue a conference committee report and have the chamber vote on it.

Bonnen’s announcement came after a vote on a school finance measure in which House members expressed deep disappointment —and anger — that the bill they had sent to the Senate had come back largely stripped provisions the chamber had fought to keep, including reducing $1.8 billion in funding for schools to only $352 million.

“I’d tell the Senate to take back this crap and fix it,” said state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, adding that she did not like “being bullied.” The House ultimately approved the changes to the bill, sending it to the governor’s desk.

While House lawmakers didn’t get their way with school finance, by adjourning Tuesday night, they forced the Senate to either accept their version of the property tax bill or let it die.  A key point of contention between the chambers: whether the the threshold requiring voter approval of property tax increases should be at the 6 percent preferred by the House or the 4 percent preferred by the Senate.

Some conservatives, including Patrick, have claimed an automatic election trigger would drive down property taxes. But such elections would only happen when taxes rise. 

Bonnen and other House members repeatedly said the automatic elections would not drive down taxes. They also said transparency provisions that existed in at least two bills sitting in the upper chamber Tuesday would have made it more clear to homeowners which local government entities were behind rising tax bills.

And while the Senate focused on what increase should require voter approval, the House debated and passed far more bills during the special. That included legislation that would have lowered property tax payments for some Texans, including the elderly, disabled and military members. 

So far at least two other Senate Republicans, Don Huffines of Dallas and Brandon Creighton of Conroe, have joined Bettencourt in calling for a second special session on property taxes. Patrick, at the post-adjournment news conference, said he would leave it up to the governor to decide.

Both Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Abbott have said property tax reform is their top priority for the session. At the time the House adjourned sine die, Abbott was on track to claim victory on nine of the 20 items he had put on the special session call. As of Tuesday afternoon, he had signed five of them into law, and four more were on their way to his desk.

Patrick forced the special session by holding hostage a bill needed to prevent the shuttering of some state agencies during the regular session in May. At the time, he said he was doing so in order to push the House to move on two pieces of legislation: one that would regulate bathroom use for transgender Texans and another that would set new thresholds for when cities and counties must get voter approval for their property tax rates.

Just as during the regular session, the House never took a vote on a “bathroom bill” during the special session.

Brandon Formby, Emma Platoff and Shannon Najmabadi contributed reporting to this story.

The Texas Legislature closed out the special session Tuesday night amid a stalemate on property tax reform, leaving unfinished Gov. Greg Abbott‘s top priority.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2017/08/15/texas-house-adjourns-sine-die/.

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8 Responses to "Texas Legislature Ends Special Session Without Passing Property Tax Measure"

  1. Bill Crumrine  August 22, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    Jesse – Here are two quotes that I keep constantly in mind – Thomas Jefferson’s “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” The other is credited sometimes to Benjamin Franklin and other times to Thomas Jefferson – “He who surrenders a little liberty for a little security deserves neither liberty or security.”

    No Jesse, I will not be able to attend the breakfast, as I am here in Colorado. On Friday, September 1, my wife, son, and I will fly to Alaska and be there, until around September 11th or 12th.

    My son lived in Alaska from January 2006 until taking a position with Anadarko Petroleum, in December 2013, as he is a senior petroleum engineer. He still retains his property in Cooper Landing on the Upper Kenai River. He hopes to return to Alaska sometime in the not too far distance future. He and I are big time fishing and hunting enthusiasts, as I do outdoor writing for the Texas Outback Magazine. I am a black bass species and cold-water trout (rainbow trout) addict, doing most of my saltwater fishing in Alaska, though my wife and I plan on taking a trip to the Texas Coast sometime during late October or early November.

    My wife and I will remain in Colorado, until Thursday, October 5, give or take a few days. We are planning to move here sometime in late 2018 or early 2019, as now that my 92-year-old, mother-in-law passed away on Friday, July 14th. Her dying wish was for us to take a very long and much deserved vacation/trip, as well as my sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law “demanding” we do so, for we took care of my wife’s parents for 6 years and really over 20 years, when in 1997 my father-in-law started developing macular degeneration ,with his night-vision going first.

    We plan to return to Colorado at the Thanksgiving time, come back to Texas in early December and return to Colorado for about a month or so right prior to Christmas. When we return to Texas, I guess, around January 18, we hope to have found our new home. Then it will be just putting our house on the market and see how fast we can close on a deal. This is why I stated earlier the moving time-frame of late 2018 or early 2019.

    The move here helps our son and daughter-in-law with taking care of the two granddaughters, such as taking and picking them up from school, having them stay at our home nearby, helping with homework, etc., should mom and dad need a break or go out for the evening.

    Well, until next time, I send my…,

    Bass Wishes & Good Hunting/Shooting,
    Bill Crumrine

  2. Jesse Del Castillo  August 22, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Good to hear from you again, Bill. One thing that does give me hope and energy is the Bible, of course. But also, conversations with American patriots like yourself really energize me. Thank you for your encouraging responses. They just remind me that America is not dead and that there are still true Americans alive that still care. Will you, by chance, be attending the San Antonio Tea Party breakfast on August 26? If so, I would love the opportunity to meet you.

  3. Bill Crumrine  August 22, 2017 at 10:15 am

    Jesse, you are correct to the nth degree. Much of it is with the news media. The judiciary needs a tight reining in, too. Read our third President Thomas Jefferson concerning the Marbury vs. Madison decision, and how he says, the judiciary can and has made the Constitution into a ball of wax to be anything they want it to be. Other than the Bible, nothing could be truer.

  4. Jesse Del Castillo  August 21, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    I am in total agreement, Bill. Term limits is an answer to shortening the time of excuse-filled human beings. IF they do a good job, that for which they were elected, then, maybe they have earned a little more time…in which to SERVE. But it seems that for every turn of accountability that the citizenry reaches for, the criminal element is always two steps ahead, with criminal methods and results. And I am sorry, Bill, I know that we are instructed to be “nice”…”polite”…”cordial”…that is a two way street that these liars have abused at citizens expense. We speak and make requests of them(to DO THEIR JOB) and what to they do? History bears me out! If term limits could be shortened and even impeachment used against leftist congressmen and women as well as those sorry excuses in the judiciary, maybe a difference could be hoped for. The wheels of justice seem to move so slowly…for the good and decent citizens of Texas. For white collar criminals in every branch of government, the wheels move ever so swiftly simply because thieves merely take and they shove(down peoples’ throats). So where does the citizen stand? And therin, Bill, lies the deepest of my frustrations and anger, on the lopsided playing field where filthy politicians keep taking and we, the citizens keep getting taken.

  5. Bill Crumrine  August 19, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    Here’s my second comment on this issue, Jesse. Term limits and recall petition(s), and very limited judicial appellations by these politicians. It has worked with San Antonio City Council thanks to the efforts of C.A. Stubbs versus Boy King Henry Cisneros. Once state-wide for the state legislature and other state political positions, no politician can campaign for another position for a five-year period, plus not hole any political appointment during that five-year time period. Require the term-limited politician to not hold any kind of political job, but only employment within the private sector. Now this doesn’t mean that a term-limited politician could not return to say, if he was a Texas Parks & Wildlife Department fisheries/wildlife biologist, that he couldn’t return to such, but say he couldn’t be appointed to the TPWD Commissioners position.

  6. Jesse Del Castillo  August 18, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    Once again, the majority of citizens ignored and let down by filthy politicians. I don’t know about anyone else but I have had it with outright lying, which has become the NORM, thanks to the leftist, yellow press sorry excuse for media. What once was decried, shameful and looked down upon is now ballyhooed as a badge of honor among the dirty birds of a feather, of which JOE STRAUSS stands out as the filthiest at this moment. What are the realistic possibilities of criminal charges, removal from office, etc., that can be brought against and achieved against these white collar criminals that go against the decent citizens of Texas? They spew their poisonous rhetoric within the safe confines of their capital building offices and chambers. They wouldn’t have the guts to face the constituency that they have let down and insulted. What are our alternatives as this putrid group, led by the dirt bag himself, Joe Strauss, continue to railroad the citizens of decent Texans as they continue to elevate their pathetic, individual, political careers?

  7. Bill Crumrine  August 17, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    As with the federal Congress, there is not a dime’s difference between the Democans and the Republicrats. Often credited to the late Alabama Governor, George Wallace, the original statement came from the late United States Senator from Illinois, Everett Dirksen, in the 1950s. Often stated is the quote the Republicans can prove to be their own worse enemies.

  8. Roy F. Schauffele  August 17, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    I live in Strauss’ district and campaigned against him and will do so again. Pretty darn easy to ignore Property Tax Reform when your family fortune runs into the tens of millions of dollars.
    Thanks also go to Jim Luntz for continuing to run “Republican” candidates out of the Alamo Heights area, back to back extremely wealthy families doesn’t quite help us, the average Joe true conservative.

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