Capitol Update: 2.6 Billion

June 7, 2019

Dear Friends,

The 86th Legislative Session wrapped up last week after 140 jam-packed days tackling a wide range of issues. Since a few key topics grabbed most of the headlines, we’d like to give you a more in-depth look at the results of the session.

Today’s email is the first in a summer series highlighting legislation we were honored to work on. I hope you’ll find there’s a common thread… putting the interests of the people of Texas above any level of government’s interest. Between property appraisal reforms, electric grid security, landmark drug price transparency, eliminating surprise medical billing – and a few fun bills like the Fido-friendly Outdoor Dining Act – our office managed to pass more than 60 pieces of legislation this session designed to do just that.

As the saying goes, “Keep the first things first.” So we’ll start by covering the clear No. 1 priority of Texas taxpayers: property tax reform.

SB 2 – Texas Property Tax Reform and Transparency Act of 2019

As a joint author of SB 2 and member of the newly-formed Senate Property Tax Committee, I had the privilege of chairing the conference committee on this bill to work out differences between the House and Senate versions near the end of the session. For the first time in 40 years, the Texas Legislature delivered an extremely strong property tax reform measure that will fundamentally transform the rate-setting and appraisal processes in the Lone Star State.

KEY PROVISIONS

If a general taxing unit increases its revenue (i.e. your community’s taxes) more than 3.5% year-to-year, voters now have the protection of an automatic referendum election on the November uniform election date, when voter turnout is at its highest.

The Legislative Budget Board projects that as long as voters don’t allow their taxing units to bust the 3.5% cap, Texas taxpayers will save more than $2.6 billion over the next five years!

With pages and pages of appraisal reforms, just some of the highlights include:

Prohibiting appraisal review boards (ARBs) from raising a property owner’s appraised value during protest proceedings;

Requiring Chief Appraisers to maintain a list of qualified individuals offering free property tax assistance;

Requiring appraisal districts to notify a property owner if they’re not taking advantage of a homestead exemption to which they may be entitled;

Giving property owners aged 65 and over, military service members, veterans, and their spouses priority scheduling for protest hearings;

Allowing property owners to submit a survey related to their experience after completing a tax protest or motion (those should be interesting reads!);

Prohibiting anyone who is related to an ARB member by blood or marriage from serving as a fellow ARB member, and prohibiting elected officers or employees of a taxing unit from being simultaneously employed by an appraisal district;

Preventing taxing units from filing suit to collect delinquent taxes if the disputed tax is the subject of an appeal; and

Creating a “real-time tax notice” on appraisal district websites. This online portal will allow property owners to type in their address and see a customized notice of appraised value, including the amount of taxes that would be due under each taxing unit’s no-new-revenue rate, voter-approval rate, and proposed tax rate. Contact information for each taxing unit will be prominently featured for property owners to express their support or opposition to the proposed tax rate, adding yet another layer of transparency and accountability to the system.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this update! Please don’t hesitate to share it with any friends, family, and neighbors who may be interested.

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9
Chair, Business & Commerce
Vice Chair, Transportation


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