Legislative stand-off intensifies as House delays property tax bill


The House delayed a floor vote on a Senate bill aimed at restricting local property tax increases.

The move intensifies the stand-off between Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Patrick has threatened to force a special session if the House does not cave to his demands.

In an escalation of the legislative brinkmanship between Texas House Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, both Republicans, the House on Friday delayed until Sunday or later a floor vote on a property tax bill Patrick has demanded the House approve.

Patrick, who leads the Senate, had previously threatened to force a special session of the Legislature unless the House acted quickly to approve the property tax measure, Senate Bill 2, as well as legislation that would restrict transgender Texans from using the bathrooms of their choice. The property tax bill was scheduled to come to the floor this week.

But Rep. Dennis Bonnen, an Angleton Republican who is carrying the House version of SB 2, on Friday sent it back to the House Ways and Means Committee, which he chairs, saying it needed a do-over in the committee “out of an abundance of caution” in case opponents of the bill raise procedural challenges.

TEXAS POLITICS DELIVERED EVERY DAY: Sign up for our Texas Politics email

Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, on Thursday questioned whether the committee handled the bill properly when it was initially approved, prompting the delay. Bonnen’s committee re-approved the measure in a 9-2 vote Friday, but House rules will prevent it from coming back to the floor until Sunday at the earliest, he said.

Asked about how the move would affect negotiations between Straus and Patrick and the potential for a special session, Bonnen said the House was working at its own pace.

“The House is not taking actions due to demands of the lieutenant governor. The House is taking action because we believe in adding transparency and engagement by the local taxpayer,” Bonnen said. “The House has historically not responded to demands and threats. What the House responds to is positive public policy that helps Texans, and I believe Senate Bill 2 is exceptional public policy for Texas taxpayers.”

Patrick’s threat to force a special session if the House does not meet his demands centered on an unrelated housekeeping measure known as the Sunset scheduling bill that, if not passed, could result in the closure of several state agencies. Thanks to a revolt of tea party-aligned Republicans, the House failed to pass its version of the bill in time to meet a key legislative deadline last week, leaving Senate Bill 310 as the only vehicle for passing the measure by the end of the regular session.

Patrick this week said he would hold up the bill until the House acted on his priorities, an ultimatum Straus called “regrettable.”

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK: Our Lone Star Politics page brings Capitol news to your Facebook feed

The Senate has not yet acted on the bill, which means it almost certainly cannot return to the House in time to meet a Saturday deadline for House committees to consider Senate bills. If a deal to prevent a special session is brokered next week, however, both chambers could vote to suspend their rules and pass the necessary legislation. The regular session ends May 29.

Under the Senate-approved version of the property tax bill, cities and counties would be forced to hold elections approving property tax increases of 5 percent or more. Currently, such tax ratification elections apply only to increases of 8 percent or more, and they do not happen automatically. Residents must petition to make them happen.

Bonnen stripped that language out of the bill after it became apparent that a majority of his Ways and Means Committee did not support such tight restrictions on local elected officials. Instead, he focused the bill on increasing transparency about how property taxes increase by giving taxpayers clearer information on the appraisal and rate-setting processes.

Bonnen said he personally favors language similar to the Senate version, but that it likely doesn’t have enough support to be approved by the full House, where Democrats and some rural Republicans oppose it.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Texas News & Politics

THE SUSPECT: Mark Conditt driven by personal issues — not hate, cops say
THE SUSPECT: Mark Conditt driven by personal issues — not hate, cops say

An unemployed 23-year-old who was home-schooled growing up and had dropped out of community college, Austin serial bomber suspect Mark Conditt struggled to adjust to adulthood. Interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said Wednesday evening that Conditt, a Pflugerville resident, left a “confession” in the form of a 25-minute video message...
Bombing suspect’s neighbors shocked by news of connection, death
Bombing suspect’s neighbors shocked by news of connection, death

The Austin bombing investigation has hit home for Pflugerville Mayor Victor Gonzales in a way he didn’t expect: Gonzales lives only two streets away from suspect Mark Conditt’s home. “It’s very shocking because you never think about these things,” Gonzales said. “We never think about a lot of things in life...
LCRA chief joins General Land Office to help situate Harvey survivors
LCRA chief joins General Land Office to help situate Harvey survivors

Lower Colorado River Authority general manager Phil Wilson is joining the Texas General Land Office for an “interim assignment” to help Hurricane Harvey survivors with short-term housing, Gov. Greg Abbott and Land Commissioner George P. Bush announced in a statement Wednesday. Wilson will stay on with the river authority, a job he&rsquo...
55 hours of terror, and a final blast
55 hours of terror, and a final blast

The trip wire that set off the fourth explosion in Austin’s horrifying March, authorities now chillingly say, was tied to a “caution, children at play” sign that the accused bomber had bought at a Home Depot. But the breaching of that wire and the resultant detonation Sunday, which sent two men to the hospital, also set off an increasingly...
Access to Google searches, cell technology helped crack bombing case
Access to Google searches, cell technology helped crack bombing case

Investigators have yet to reveal many of the details that allowed them to home in on Austin bombing suspect Mark Conditt, but one important development came by accessing the man’s Google search history. Authorities obtained a search warrant to view the suspect’s digital history, revealing suspicious searches that included addresses in the...
More Stories