Not much drama in the Senate yesterday.
A Senate committee passed the House business tax bill without making any changes Friday, greatly increasing the likelihood that it will become law.
"This is an attempt to make sure that House Bill 3 doesn't get killed and we have another failed session," said Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan.
The business tax could be debated by the full Senate early next week. A Senate rule prevents amendments from being offered on the floor if they have not been discussed in committee. Unless that rule is suspended with a two-thirds vote, the Senate would vote up or down on the tax bill. If passed, HB 3 could be on Perry's desk sometime next week.
The action by the Finance Committee took many lobbyists by surprise. Major legislation almost always is changed when it moves from one chamber to another, and then is finalized by a joint House and Senate conference committee.
Ogden said that keeping the business tax bill free of amendments would give opponents fewer opportunities to kill the bill. It also prevents the business tax from getting "hung up in negotiations over other issues" such as teacher pay or education reforms, he said.
But Ogden's action ruffled Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso. Shapleigh, who is not a member of the Finance Committee, had several amendments he was hoping to have discussed.
Shapleigh said he had been told that he had until 5 p.m. Friday to file his amendments. But the committee took its vote at 3 p.m., passing the bill 9-4. Four of the five Democrats, including Whitmire of Houston, voted no.
The Finance Committee also passed HB 4, which applies stricter rules to sales taxes on used vehicles. Instead of paying a tax on the sale price, the buyer would pay a tax based on at least 80 percent of the vehicle's "blue book" value.
The committee approved HB 2, which dedicates revenue from the business tax and other new taxes to property tax relief. The bill was different from the version passed Monday by the House, which dedicates all the tax revenue to lowering property taxes.
Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said under his version all new tax revenue would go to lowering the basic school tax rate from $1.50 per $100 valuation to $1. After that, two-thirds would go to continued lowering of property taxes and one-third to new spending on public schools.
When the school tax rate drops to 75 cents, any revenue beyond what it takes to make up for lost property taxes would be dedicated to education.
Also, a late in the day amendment to HB4 was omitted in the Senate version. Dallas Blog has the scoop.
Elsewhere, the Quorum Report lists the criteria for getting four teachers' groups to support what the Lege is doing:
1. $3,000 pay increase. Increase should be in state minimum salary schedule. It should include counselors, nurses and librarians and is flowed through the funding formulas
2. Retention of the salary escalator that is in current law
3. Deletion of language granting commissioner authority to use factors other than experience to determine minimum state salary schedule
4. Retention of $1,000 health insurance supplement (not converted to salary) for all employees incentive pay.
Finally, RGV Politics looks at the politics of a property tax freeze in Edinburg.Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 29, 2006 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack