With lawmakers remaining at odds over how to distribute property tax cuts, Governor Greg Abbott announced the first special session just hours after legislators wrapped up work on this year’s regular legislative session.
Abbott called for property tax relief and border security to be the two topics addressed during this special session, according to a statement he released.
He scheduled the session to begin at 9 p.m. on Monday evening; however lawmakers in the House and Senate were told to reconvene at noon Tuesday , respectively.
Although an agreement was reached during the regular session that $17.6 billion of the state’s budget would go to providing property tax relief – the way to provide this to Texas home and business owners was not decided on.
At the center of this debate was the on-going disagreement between Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan. Patrick wanted to increase the homestead exemption and was opposed to lowering appraisal caps, while Phelan called for reducing the appraisal cap from 10 percent to 5 percent.
Despite Phelan and the House revising Senate Bill 3 – legislation that addressed property tax relief – to increase the homestead exemption more than what Patrick and the Senate proposed; the lawmakers still could not come to a compromise.
In his statement, Abbott said the "best way" to provide relief is to direct property tax reduction dollars to cut school property taxes.
He then turned his attention to border security and said those working during this special session would focus on creating legislation to increase or enhance the penalties for those smuggling people or operating stash houses.
This is just the first of several special sessions, as priority bills left over from the regular session must be passed, Abbott said.
Although he did not indicate what the special sessions will address, school vouchers – one of his priorities – will likely be added to one of the future special sessions, as they failed to make it to the governor’s desk during the regular session.