By State Rep Ernest Bailes
Throughout the 88th Legislature’s regular session and in two subsequent special sessions, legislators have been working tirelessly over the past seven months to deliver legislative victories for our constituents. As state representative for House District 18, I was proud to champion legislation that will substantially improve our great state for many years to come. While we aren’t done yet, these victories address the issues that matter most to our community, from school safety to infrastructure to major property tax reform.
Starting with the biennial budget, or House Bill 1, we appropriated $144.13 billion to fund the state’s operations over the next two years. This fiscally conservative budget spends a substantial amount of the anticipated $32.7 billion surplus while still staying well below the state’s spending limits. This budget includes several provisions to address the issues that matter most including:
- Securing our southern border by directing $5.1 billion to border security efforts at the 13 state agencies tasked with defending our border;
- Boosting the state’s share of public education to $50.4 billion, including $3.2 billion to fund projected enrollment growth;
- Protecting Texas students in the classroom with $1.4 billion for school safety grants that will equip campuses with tools needed for potential emergencies (when combined with supplemental appropriations);
- Dedicating $17.6 billion to much needed property tax relief for ALL property owners;
- Improving Texas infrastructure with $9.3 billion for infrastructure-related projects, and so much more (when combined with supplemental appropriations).
After passing the budget, the legislature turned its attention to several key pieces of legislation. I worked with my fellow legislators on both sides of the aisle to get numerous of these comprehensive and purposeful bills across the finish line. Some of these notable bills include:
- The Texas Data Privacy and Security Act ensures that all Texans have the rights and abilities they deserve to control their personal data online, while the Securing Children Online Through Parental Empowerment (SCOPE) Act makes sure Texas children are safe from addictive algorithms and harmful content.
- Improving our infrastructure through the Texas Broadband Infrastructure Fund and the Texas Water Funds. These funds will transform the state’s ability to tackle modern infrastructure projects, including providing statewide internet access and protecting our future water supply.
- Several measures to protect Texas students including requiring the presence of an armed security guard on all campuses, expanding mental health training programs, and improving school safety infrastructure.
The Texas Legislature took on numerous other bipartisan priorities this session. I was glad to support these meaningful legislative solutions that address a wide range of issues. We reined in rouge district attorneys who continue to refuse to prosecute criminal offenses by classifying refusal to follow the law as official misconduct. We also worked to boost public education by improving the teacher recruitment process, and passed legislation to take better care of our retired teachers with a cost of living adjustment as well as a 13th check.
This session, we passed several measures to support the “One Pill Kills” campaign to combat the growing national fentanyl crisis plaguing Texas and the United States. With the passage of House Bill 6, we increased the penalties for fentanyl-related crimes in Texas.
These are just a handful of the measures I proudly supported this session.
Just this past Thursday, the Texas House and Senate passed a series of measures providing the largest property tax cut in Texas history. SB 2, SB 3, and HJR 2 will address your growing property tax bills from a variety of angles.
Highlights of the measures include:
- An increase in the Texas homestead exemption to $100k on 5.72 million Texas homeowners ISD property tax bills, effective on this year’s property tax bill;
- Over $12 billion spent on reducing the school property tax rate for all homeowners and business properties;
- The establishment of three elected, non-partisan positions added to each County Appraisal District board of directors in order to increase democratic representation in these entities;
- Non-homesteaded properties, valued at $5 million and under, including residential and commercial properties, will receive a 20% circuit breaker on appraised values as a 3-year pilot project;
- and an increased exemption for the business franchise tax from $1 million to $2.47 million.
Some proponents of the legislation anticipate an average Texas homestead savings of 41.5% or $1373 per year.
While I am grateful to be back home in the district with Courtney and the boys, I look forward to providing more details on the work I accomplished at the Texas Capitol. For questions about this session, please contact my Capitol office at 512-463-0570. For information about setting up a meeting in the district or for a local issue, contact my District Office at (936) 628-6687.
I thank each one of you for the opportunity to serve you in Austin and work hard on these many issues for HD-18.