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Senate committee passes HB3 as is

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.

Sounds awfully similar to the House’s reasoning. I think it’s pretty valid, but that’s because I don’t think the anti-taxers who are currently squawking about HB3 are going to follow through on their threats by taking action in November. I don’t believe they will sit it out or vote non-Republican, and as such, I don’t think the likes of Rick Perry have much to fear from them. Some state reps may have to sweat out a primary in 2008, but that’s a long way and a regular legislative session off. These guys have made their calculations, and I can’t say I disagree with them. There may well be vulnerabilities on other aspects of the legislation now being passed, in particular how much money actually winds up going to schools and teachers, but I think the Steven Hotze/Dan Patrick crowd is full of hot air, even if they are sending out attack mailers right now, and I think Perry and the Lege are confident enough in that to call them on it.

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.

As Eye on Williamson says, this is a lot of times Dems have been promised that the things they want can be discussed later. Color me skeptical on this.

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.

That’s a change to the House version of HB2, one which I suspect is a result of the continued pounding on the idea that no new money is going to the schools. This isn’t much better, but it’s at least a step in the right direction.

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.

The rest of the story is beneath the QR paywall, so I’m not sure what the financials are of this, or what reaction it has garnered. But at least now we know what the teachers want.

Finally, RGV Politics looks at the politics of a property tax freeze in Edinburg.

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  1. kevin whited says:

    I don’t believe they will sit it out or vote non-Republican, and as such, I don’t think the likes of Rick Perry have much to fear from them.

    You’re misreading the mood of the conservative grassroots.

    Perry probably doesn’t have much to fear because no candidate is likely to get to his right, even after this betrayal of conservative principles. But if some candidate manages to, that could make things interesting.

    At this point, my vote’s up for grabs, but I’m prepared not to vote at all in that race. *shrug*

  2. I believe the conservative grassroots are angry. What I don’t believe is that they will retaliate at the ballot box this November. I’d love it if they did – go ahead! stay home! vote Libertarian! woo hoo! – but frankly, they’ve threatened this before, and it’s never happened. Trust me when I say I will never be more happy to be wrong about something than I will be to be wrong about this.