August 31, 2017

Special Session Update 8.04.17

Faircloth School Finance Bills

Last week, I filed House Bills 351 and 352, to address school finance in Texas going forward. On July 20th, Governor Abbott added that legislation establishing a statewide commission to study and recommend improvements to the current public school finance system; and other legislation relating to school finance, including Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction be included on the call for this Special Session. House Bill 351 establishes the Texas Commission on Public School Finance to study and evaluate the feasibility of reducing recapture rates of school districts in which 65% or more of the student population is educationally disadvantaged or at risk of dropping out of school. Additionally, the Commission will evaluate the potential continuation of Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction (ASATR). A study on recapture and potentially reducing payments for schools with at least 65% of the student population educationally disadvantaged or at risk of dropping out of school is very important to House District 23. Additionally, a study on the continuation of ASATR is especially important to House District 23. As it stands without ASATR funding, Texas City ISD would lose $11 million this year. This is nearly 14% of Texas City ISD's total budget. Barbers Hill ISD would stand to lose about $7 million or roughly 10% of their total budget. Addressing this gap of funding lost by ASATR is a top priority for me. Additionally, I filed House Bill 352, which is similar to House Bill 4087 that I filed in the 85th Legislative Session. This bill aims to reduce the recapture payments for schools with at least 65% of the student population educationally disadvantaged or at risk of dropping out of school. Texas City ISD and Galveston ISD are both considered property-rich schools, despite large percentages of economically disadvantaged students. Ball High School needs over $5 million in repairs, and we are sending millions of dollars to other schools across the state. It makes perfect sense to take care of our own property before taking on the needs of others.


Texas Sales Tax Holiday Weekend

Shoppers in Texas can save money on certain items from August 11th - 13th. The law exempts most clothing, footwear, school supplies, and backpacks priced below $100 from sales tax. This will save shoppers about $8 on every $100 they spend during the weekend. Texas tax holiday weekend has been an annual event since 1999. This year, shoppers will save an estimated $87 million in state and local sales taxes during the sales tax holiday. Lists of apparel and school supplies that may be purchased tax-free can be found on the Comptroller's website here. []


George Frederick Black

It's with great sadness that the Galveston community lost a distinguished civic leader, and personal friend of mine, with the passing of George Frederick Black on July 30, 2017. A proud lifelong resident of the island, Mr. Black gave generously of his time and talents to his beloved community. Mr. Black is survived by his wife, Sherry, and by their son Joshua Black; brother Donal Gangl; first cousin Carolyn Lowe and her husband, Duane, of Baytown; sisters-in-law Barbara Austen, of Galveston, Jackie Sauceda and her husband, Fidel, of Galveston and Donna Fincham, of Hilo, Hawaii; and many nieces and nephews. I wish to extend my heartfelt sympathy to the members of his family and to all those who mourn his passing.



61st Texas Game Warden Cadet Class

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department graduated the 61st Texas game warden and state park police officer cadet class on August 1st at the Texas State Capitol. The class included 34 game wardens and seven state park police officers.

Myself with Texas Parks and Wildlife Executive Director, Carter Smith.


Texas Windstorm Insurance Association Rate Increase

On Tuesday the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) approved an increase in premium rates by 5 percent, despite great efforts otherwise from myself and other coastal legislators. See letter from coastal legislators, here []. The association's board raised the rates stating that they are roughly 30 percent below what the association needs to adequately cover its risk. Even while the association has secured more than $4.9 billion in funding, which is enough to cover a 125-year storm. It is disappointing that the TWIA board approved a rate hike on coastal residents and businesses since we are captive to their decisions. None the less, I am committed to finding creative ways to continue to incentivize private market insurers to write coastal risks. The Commissioner of the Texas Department of Insurance shall approve or disapprove the filing in writing no later than October 15, 2017. If the filing is not approved or disapproved on or before that date, the filing is considered approved.