78th Texas Legislature
State Officials Gear Up for New Legislative Session
The 78th Texas Legislature convenes January 14 in Austin with new leadership and new committee assignments to tackle both new and old legislative issues.
Texas legislators began with the pre-filing of proposed legislation November 12. They will have plenty of time, however, to file more bills. The deadline for regular bill filing is Friday, March 14.
The last day of the legislative session will be Monday, June 2. The last day for the governor to sign or veto bills will be Sunday, June 22. Monday, September 1, is the date that bills without specific effective dates (that could not be effective immediately) become laws.
The Comptroller's Property Tax Division will track property tax legislation to advise local tax officials about law changes and to update Comptroller publications.
For example, the division will include any legislative changes to the Truth in Taxation Manual - 2003, the guide for setting local property tax rates, and distribute it in mid-July after all bills are final. The annual regional legislative seminars will be held in late July and August when staff will provide information on new and changed tax laws.
More information about the regional seminar dates and locations will be in upcoming issues of STATEMENT.
* Dates may change when the Texas Senate and House of Representatives adopt new rules for the 78th Legislature in January 2003.
Dates * Key Legislative Events November 12, 2002 First day for pre-filing of legislation for the 78th Legislature January 14, 2003 (1st day) First day of 78th Texas Legislature March 14, 2003 (60th day) Deadline for filing bills and joint resolutions that are not local or have not been declared an emergency by the governor June 2, 2003 (140th day) Last day of 78th Regular Session June 22, 2003 Last day governor can sign or veto bills passed during legislative session September 1, 2003 Date that bills without specific effective dates (that could not be effective immediately) become law
Some November pre-filed bills for property tax changes included the following areas.
Local tax administration
House Bill (HB) 193 proposes to remove restrictions on the number of appraisal review board (ARB) members appointed by a county appraisal district board of directors. Current law sets the maximum number of ARB members at 75 (depending on the population of the county). HB 193 would still maintain the minimum of three ARB members, but the board would determine the “number of members the board of directors considers appropriate.”
Numerous pre-filed bills address exempting properties, including travel trailers and childcare facilities, from property taxes. Others would expand the tax ceiling on age 65 or older homeowners to include other taxing units’ taxes. Current law sets a tax ceiling limit for school taxes only.
Several bills — HB 40 with House Joint Resolution (HJR) 12 and HB 161 with HJR 19 — would broaden the travel trailer exemption, passed by the 77th Texas Legislature in 2001 and adopted by Texas voters in November of that year. These bills would include exempting school taxes on travel trailers, which the 2001 legislation did not do.
HB 86 and HB 136 (with HJR 16) would extend the limitation on taxes for age 65 or older homeowners to other types of taxing units, including cities and counties. Current law sets a tax ceiling (or tax freeze) on school taxes for these homeowners.
HB 106 (with HJR 14) would allow local taxing units the option to exempt childcare facilities from property taxes.
HB 104 would set forth the enabling legislation for the constitutional amendment passed by Texas voters in November 2001 for “goods in-transit.” This exemption would apply to inventory held in warehouses for not more than 270 days.
HB 169 would set a capitalization rate for timber land appraisal at 10 percent or the interest rate specified by the Farm Credit Bank of Texas plus 2.5 percentage points, whichever is greater. Current law does not have a 10 percent floor for timber land appraisal, as the law provides for qualified productivity value for agricultural land.
HB 203 would expand the confidential home address information in appraisal and tax records for certain persons. This bill would add justices of the peace and state trial court judges to the current list of persons.
School finance is also on the list of topics for consideration by the 78th Texas Legislature as it awaits the report from the Joint Select Committee on Public School Finance.
Read more about proposed and passed legislation in future STATEMENT articles or by checking out the Texas Legislature’s Web site at www.capitol.state.tx.us.
Sunset Commission Report: BTPE
The Sunset Advisory Commission has released its staff report on the Board of Tax Professional Examiners (BTPE). BTPE is the licensing and certification agency for property tax appraisers, assessors, and collectors.
The November report stated three issues with key recommendations:Issue #1. Texas has a continuing need for BTPE, but could benefit from a stronger administrative link to the Comptroller’s office. Key recommendations:
- Continue BTPE for 12 years.
- Strengthen the Board’s ties with the Comptroller of Public Accounts.
Issue #2. The Board’s structure does not include public representation and its size does not comply with the Texas Constitution. Key recommendation:
- Decrease the size of the Board from six to five members and include public representation.
Issue #3. Key elements of the Board’s licensing and regulatory functions do not conform to commonly applied licensing practices. Key recommendations:
- The Board should clearly define the role of the Property Tax Education Coalition.
- Standardize licensing provisions in the Board’s statute to ensure fair and consistent licensing with regard to registration exemptions, application requirements, and accessible examinations.
- Update elements of the agency’s enforcement activities to better protect the public and ensure consistency and fairness towards licensees regarding complaint filing, range of sanctions, and reasons for complaint dismissals.
The staff report is available on-line from the Sunset Advisory Commission at http://www.sunset.state.tx.us/78threports/btpe/btpe.pdf. The Commission’s phone number is 512-463-1300 and mailing address is P. O. Box 13066 Austin, TX 78711.