(ROCKWALL, TX — June 6, 2019) On June 4th, State Representative Justin Holland provided a summary of the 86th Texas Legislative Session during a Rockwall Chamber of Commerce breakfast event.
The House and the Senate filed more than 7,500 bills during the session, which ended on May 27th. Of those, less than 20 percent (1,427 bills) passed. Here’s a look at some of the key measures that made it through the state legislature.
Biennial Budget (House Bill 1)
During the session, the legislature passed a $251 billion state budget for the next two years. The budget includes funding for some noteworthy causes in education, including $12+ million for education reform and property tax relief, as well as $200+ million for school safety measures. The budget also includes $800+ million for border security and $100 million for sexual assault and human trafficking prevention.
And here’s some good news for Texas drivers: $200+ million was added to the budget to reduce wait times at the DMV.
As set out in the Constitution, the Legislature must pass a state budget every two years.
State Property Tax Reform (Senate Bill 2)
This bill looks to slow down the growth of property taxes while increasing transparency on how they are imposed. The measure requires cities, counties and other taxing units to get voter approval prior to raising 3.5 percent more property tax revenue than the previous year. The same goes for community colleges and hospital districts if they wish to raise their property tax revenue by eight percent or more. The bill does not apply to revenue collected on new developments, only on existing property.
Before this bill passed, taxing units could raise property tax revenue by eight percent before voters could petition to roll it back.
According to Holland, the legislation will give taxpayers the tools they need to make informed decisions on their property taxes.
“Senate Bill 2 changes the way people will look at their property tax statements and notices,” Holland said. “They will know when, where and how to become engaged in the process.”
School Finance Reform (House Bill 3)
The Texas Plan for School Finance Reform works hand in hand with Senate Bill 2 to provide more than $5 billion in property tax relief. To lower property taxes, the bill increases the state’s share of education funding from 38 percent to 45 percent. For Rockwall ISD, the $5 billion impact lowers the M&O tax rate from $1.04 to $0.97 per $100 valuation.
“With our 16,000 students we have in Rockwall ISD, this will raise the school district’s revenue by $8 million,” Holland said.
Additionally, more money will go towards helping boost student achievement in the classroom through $4.5 billion in transformational education reforms. A further $1.6 billion in dedicated funds will also bolster compensation for teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses.
House Bill 3 also drastically lowers recapture by 47 percent. The recapture system helps level the playing field for public school funding between school districts. Often known as “Robin Hood,” recapture has wealthy school districts send revenue from locally collected property taxes to the state to give to lower-wealth districts and charter schools.
The reduced recapture means a great deal of savings for Frisco ISD, one of 14 school districts within House District 33.
“Under the prior law, Frisco ISD was going to send $44 million in recapture back to the state of Texas. With House Bill 3, they only have to send $2.7 million. That means they get to keep more than $35 million to go back into their school district locally,” Holland said.
Teacher Retirement System (Senate Bill 12)
The passing of Senate Bill 12 allowed the Teacher Retirement System pension fund to become “actuarially sound.” That means the pension fund has enough dollars to pay off its debts in less than 31 years. The bill accomplishes this by using $1.1 billion from the state savings account over the next two years to increase state, school district and teacher contributions. These increases will occur gradually over the next six years to help strengthen the pension fund. Between 2020 and 2024, the state will moderately raise its total teacher payroll contribution by nearly two percent. Teachers will pay 8.25 percent of their salaries into the pension fund by 2024, while districts will pay two percent by 2025.
The funds from the state savings account will also go towards providing retired teachers with a one-time 13th paycheck averaging $2,000. The bonus checks account for roughly half of the $1.1 billion coming out of the state savings account.
Rockwall County Court at Law No. 2 (Senate Bill 891)
This bill creates a second Count Court at Law in Rockwall County on Sept. 1, 2019. The general jurisdictional trial court will preside over misdemeanor criminal cases, as well as civil cases. The new court will help to better manage the increasing caseload of the current Rockwall County Court at Law. Overall, the court has seen an increase in case filings of 55 percent in the last four years.
“I have to give a lot of credit here to Rockwall County Commissioner Dennis Bailey from Precinct 3, who worked very hard on this,” said Holland. “It was not uncommon to see Dennis in Austin this session working for that County Court at Law No. 2.”
An election to the office of judge for County Court at Law No. 2 will take place in the March 2020 primary elections.
Other Noteworthy Bills Passed
Here’s a look at some other key legislation that was signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott:
House Bill 1631 – This bill bans the use of red light cameras across the state of Texas.
House Bill 1325 – This bill allows Texas farmers to grow hemp and to process the crop into finished goods.
House Bill 496 – This bill requires all public schools to establish bleeding control stations, and that students grades 7 and up participate in annual training in the use of the use of tourniquets, chest seals, compression bandages and gauze dressings.
Senate Bill 11 – This bill creates the Texas Mental Health Care Consortium to improve school safety by providing access to psychiatric professionals, along with additional safety training for school employees. It also requires every classroom to have a telephone, and the creation of campus threat assessment teams to help identify students deemed a risk to themselves or others
House Bill 1545 – This bill allows Texans to purchase beer to go from craft breweries. The bill also reduces some of the regulations on the beer and wine industry and expands the number of liquor store permits an individual can own.
Story and photo by Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News.
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