The Lege accomplished one task today, passing HB4, the so-called Liar's Affidavit, thus sending it to Governor Perry for a signature.
The House has approved a conference committee version of the “liar’s affidavit” bill.
That bill would require buyers of used cars to use a blue book value when reporting the sales price for tax purposes. The committee stripped from the bill an amendment by Rep. Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs, that would have prohibited insurance companies from giving customers whose cars are totaled less than the presumed value of the vehicle.
If the Senate also approves the conference committee version, the bill will be sent to Gov. Rick Perry, the second piece of his five-part tax plan to make it to his desk.
Note that all of these bills are tax hikes. The bill that would cut property taxes (HB1) is still languishing in the system, under a death threat from Sen. Florence Shapiro, and its fate is unclear at this point. Gardner Selby wonders what happens if HB1 doesn't pass?
A pause in Senate momentum leaves open the politically torturous (or delicious, depending on vantage point) possibility of Gov. Rick Perry signing into law the business tax boost sitting on his desk, but ending up without a school tax cut to tout as justification.
Another scenario: Perry, seeking re-election in November, ends up vetoing the very business tax he has championed as a route to reform the corporate franchise tax and a financial source for school property tax cuts starting in 2006-07.
His reasoning for a veto might be that he isn’t about to be the governor who signs in higher business taxes without cuts, yet doing so could also doom the tax for good. To bring it back to life, Perry would have to ask senators and House members, many also seeking re-election, for renewed political courage by voting again to send him the business tax in a fresh special session also featuring a tax-cut measure. (Turn those stomachs.)
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said today that Perry should sign HB 3 “I’m not concerned with the timing,” Dewhurst said, referring to the tax-cut legislation stalled in the Senate. “All these bills will come together.”
Earlier, Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, termed the prospect of Perry signing the hike without a cut “terrible.” He said, instead, that if this special session craters, Perry could quickly call another session to ensure the tax cut happens - and hold off on signing HB 3 until the tax reduction is on his desk.
“I wouldn’t advise him to sign it right now. The clock hasn’t run on it,” Chisum said.
And on another note, the math textbook kerfuffle is not going away.
Texas teachers are fuming over a provision in the Senate's education reform bill that would delay the ordering of new math textbooks for elementary school students.
The provision is tucked in a bill that would use part of the state's budget surplus to reduce school property taxes. It was one of several school reform measures a Senate committee added to the bill Friday, including a $2,000 teacher pay raise and bonuses for teachers who raise students' scores on standardized tests.
If it passes, the State Board of Education will have to stop taking bids from publishers for math textbooks that schools are scheduled to receive in 2008.
That's a huge problem for students and teachers because the books they're currently using were adopted in 1998 and don't cover all the topics included in the standardized test the state began using in 2003, said Colleen Clower, the elementary math coordinator for the Denton school district.
For example, a section on charts and graphs in the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills stumped one third-grade class in her district because it wasn't in their textbooks and their teacher wasn't expecting to see so many questions like that on the test, Clower said.
It's even more troublesome for fifth-graders, who have to pass the math section of the TAKS to be promoted to sixth grade.
"If the state has not provided materials like that to every student and teacher, then how can they legitimately test them over it, much less hold them back a grade," said Penny McAdoo, director of elementary mathematics for the Lewisville school district.