Republican County Commissioners ponder another quorum break

It’s a thing they can do, and have done in recent times. They shouldn’t, not for this, but they can.

The three Democrats on Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday proposed cutting the overall property tax rate for the third year in a row, though the two Republican members left open the possibility they may force the adoption of a lower rate by skipping the vote in two weeks.

County Administrator David Berry warned that option would leave the county scrambling to pay for essential services, including debt service for the $2.5 billion flood bond program. Republican commissioners Tom Ramsey and Jack Cagle, however, see an opportunity to compel the Democratic majority to cut what they view as wasteful spending.

“We are having a budget challenge because of wasteful spending, not because of tax rates,” Ramsey said, citing the creation of new county departments and hiring outside consultants for various studies. “So, when we adopt a tax rate, it should be in that context.”

Each year, Harris County sets the tax rate for the county government, flood control district, hospital district and Port of Houston; the first three together comprise an overall rate that is used to calculate each property owner’s annual tax bill.

Berry proposed an overall rate of 58.6 cents per $100 of assessed property value. This would save the owner of a home valued at $200,000 with the standard 20 percent homestead exemption $27 since their last tax bill.

The three Democrats on Commissioners Court have expressed support for that rate.

Cagle’s pitch of 57.5 cents per $100 of assessed value, which included lower county and hospital district rates, would save this same homeowner $48.

The Precinct 4 commissioner said residents who still are struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic deserve more property tax relief.

“When we do the tax rate hearings, we need to be very careful that we make sure we don’t keep just the tax-spender mindset,” Cagle said. “The taxpayers, right now, are going through a rough season in their lives.”


The pair of Republicans have rare power over the tax issue because while they frequently are out-voted 3-2 by the Democratic majority on the court, Texas law requires a quorum of four members to set tax rates.

That means they simply can skip the Sept. 28 meeting when the vote is scheduled and thwart the Democrats’ plan; Cagle and then-commissioner Steve Radack did this in 2019 to block a tax hike the majority had proposed.

If the court does not approve new tax rates before Oct. 15, by law they revert to what is called the no new revenue rate, a steeper cut than even Cagle had proposed.

Berry said that would leave the county unable to fully fund the budget Commissioners Court unanimously approved in February. It also would constrain the county budget in coming years under a Texas Legislature-imposed revenue cap, which limits annual growth to 3.5 percent unless approved by voters.

“Over time, going to no new revenue rates are going to be very, very difficult for the county, given what we see in terms of rising health care and pension expenses,” Berry said.

He cautioned that reverting to the bottom rates would leave the county flood control district without enough to pay debt service on the bond program voters approved in 2018. That also could spook creditors and threaten the county’s robust AAA bond rating.

All five court members agree falling behind on debt payments would be foolish.

See here and here for more on the previous quorum break. If everyone agrees that a Cagle and Ramsey walkout would lead to a bad fiscal outcome for the county, then the very simple and logical solution is for them to not do that. They’re getting some of what they want, which is not a bad outcome for a political minority, and they have the option of campaigning for their alternate vision in an attempt to win back a majority position on the Court for next year. Done and dusted, let’s move on.

But if they choose to break quorum to force an even lower tax rate, in the name of “cutting spending”, then it is incumbent on the Democratic majority to respond. They can’t change the quorum requirement, which is a quirk of the state constitution, but like the Republican majority in the Legislature there are things they can do to make the price of breaking quorum higher. I would endorse two things to do in response: One, rewrite the budget so that the full cuts that would have to occur come entirely from Cagle and Ramsey’s apportionment. Do whatever it takes to make them feel the pain, since they were the ones who wanted the pain in the first place. And two, absolutely go for a maximalist redistricting map, to eject one of them from their current positions. Don’t play nice, don’t let bygones be bygones, just respond in kind and let them absorb the lesson that their actions have consequences. It’s basic stuff.

Now again, none of this has to happen. Commissioners Cagle and Ramsey can show up and vote how they see fit, and still get a lower tax rate even if it’s not as low as they would like. You can’t always get what you want, especially when you’re outvoted. Or they can go their own way and force their will onto the county, and see if the Dems have it in them to do payback. We’ll know on September 28 what they choose.

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20 Responses to Republican County Commissioners ponder another quorum break

  1. Michelle says:

    Looks like a great reason for the 3 Dems to “redistrict” Pct 3 into a Dem district

  2. Manny says:

    The Democrats should play by the same rules Republicans play. Let the American hating, Democracy hating Republican not show up. After that, shift all the projects from those two commissioner’s districts (Republican strongholds) to other districts to offset the amount of revenue lost.

    Have to play by the rules they play. The

  3. Kibitzer says:

    Manny’s response has intuitive appeal.

    But here is the problem: If in future all large metropolitan counties are completely under the rule of Democrats, and Republican have no say (and not even the ability to break quorum, and thus exercise bargaining leverage), there is every and even more reason for the Republicans at the state level to emasculate all counties above as certain population size by legislative action; i.e. do what they can to take competencies and monies away, make them liable for damages in private lawsuits to bankrupt them, and impose obligations on them as subservient subdivisions of the (GOP-controlled) state.

    Currently, doing so would still hurt places such as Fort Worth/Tarrant, which might at least pose some restraint on legislative abuse of power. Same reasoning goes – analogously — for SCOTX rulings in state-local legal conflicts.

    Currently also, Republicans may still have reason to believe that they can win in county-level races, or perhaps even flip counties in a mid-term or presidential elections, depending on what is going on at the national level. That might be gone if they write off the big counties as unwinnable.

    Also, on a more philosophical note: If DEMs are no better than GOPPERs, why vote for them? Why trade one bunch of rascals for another one that is no better?

    Not sure how many still-voters and nonvoter reason that way, but it would be plausible too.

    Any thoughts, Andrew, and other local-left moderates?

    Should Dems rise when GOPPERS go low? – Odom?

  4. I think it’s time for Democrats to compromise. If not, the Republicans will boycott and the “No New Revenue” tax rate will take effect. For more on this topic, please read my post on (see link below). Thanks.

  5. Ross says:

    Cagle is an idiot when he argues that homeowners need the additional $21 in tax savings. If they don’t have $21, they shouldn’t be living in a house, or should maybe give up their unlimited data plan. This isn’t 1940 when my grandmother almost lost her house over a $20 tax bill she couldn’t afford.

    I go with Kuff on this one. Let the R’s do what they will, then screw their precincts hard, all the while blaming the cuts on the two R Commissioners. I would then follow up by:

    Ending the use of Constables and Sheriff’s deputies as mercenaries with contracts for subdivisions and neighborhoods, because no part of the County should be able to buy better government protection than another part of the County. Want more patrols? Hire a security service. True, they don’t have police powers, but they are cheaper, and visible patrols are what prevents crime.

    Require HCSO to respond equally to calls from within the city limits of Houston as with the unincorporated areas, since I am sick and tired of paying to protect Katy while getting nothing inside the Loop

    Return Constables to serving papers and providing courtroom safety, moving enforcement deputies to HCSO, eliminating the patronage power now held by the Constables.

  6. J says:

    Ignore Greg Summerlin’s attempts to promote his own website, which is an imposter site. Does it contain malware? Who knows?

    The real Harris County Democrats website is

  7. No malware, no ads – just a relatively new political blog. And, yes, I do like to promote it and comment on various topics. With people so politically polarized, I try to offer a moderate’s perspective to anyone who cares to read it. Also, unlike most folks, I identify myself when I post a comment (no hiding here).

    While I consider myself to be a moderate Harris County Democrat, my website is not affiliated with any political party. This is clearly stated on the front page of my site (no deception). And, yes, the Harris County Democratic Party website is I have a link to it on my “donation” page and encourage people to support the local Democratic Party. I hope this information clears things up for you.

  8. J says:

    Nope, I don’t buy it. This looks like a semi-pro attempt at concern trolling, where you profess to be a Democrat, but have ‘concerns’, which happen to be handy wedge issues that are Republican talking points. Plus your lookalike site name, and donations page which looks to skim off some unwary Dem contributions. So you link the real site… hoping to avoid legal action and allow you to plead innocence.

    Nossir, I don’t buy it for a minute.

  9. I’ve read a lot of conspiracy theories, but never thought I’d be one (ha, ha). Geez.

  10. Kibitzer says:


    J, this has previously been discussed — earlier in Pandemic Year II if networked neurons serve right — and Greg put a disclaimer on his site to avoid user confusion.

    Anybody can call themselves a Democrat, moderate or extreme. Not just the Harris County Democratic Party. Sorry, Odus for calling you Odem, and Greg, Andrew.

    We need more diverse speech, not less, to make the public forum meaningful.

    That said, Greg might consider allowing comments on his web property, like Kuff does, and encourage them. If you get spammed or want to censor, you can subject any postings to your prior approval, like some lawprawfs do.

    And while we are on the topic of party purity and purges:

    Campos has this today under the rubric “SICK GOP”:

    “Representative Chris Paddie has demonstrated a consistent pattern of actions demonstrably opposed to the first, second, fourth, ninth, and tenth core principles of the RPT Platform, by repeatedly voting contrary to these core principles, and abusing his authority as Chairman of the State Affairs Committee in the 87th Texas Legislature to thwart the advancement of bills favorable to these Core Principles,” the censure said.

    Here is the entire read: Harrison County GOP censures State Rep. Chris Paddie | News |

    This is a perfect example of a Texas GOP that is out of control. Rep. Paddie is pretty much a far-right winger and that isn’t good enough. Why not? Because even right-wingers like Paddie refuse to call out the lies about the 2020 election and have bought into this voter suppression crap and that still is not good enough.

    That’s your GOP, folk.

  11. J says:

    One guy with right-leaning views decides to call himself Harris County Democrats and hustles donations.


    Troll City.

  12. J,

    I don’t collect donations, fees, or receive any revenue at all from my blog. If anyone clicks on my donation page, I just refer them to I could delete that webpage, but prefer to facilitate people donating to the local Democratic Party. While our opinions on the issues may differ (you seem to be more liberal than me), we both want our local Democrats to succeed. As far as the domain name, I was going to go with “”, but that was just too long.

    Anyway, if you don’t like reading my blog, just don’t click on it.

  13. Kibitzer says:


    Re: “Anyway, if you don’t like reading my blog, just don’t click on it.”

    Amen. Don’t be discouraged, Greg Summerlin. At least one schuck-o here supports your free speech rights, and appreciates your efforts, even if he doesn’t agree with you on specific propositions, and sees nothing wrong with your self-promotion link.

    If Kuff were to off-line you (which he has every right to do as venue owner), some here will remember that you exist, and that there are self-described moderates of the Dem persuasion. So, good thing you provided the link. Anyone so inclinded can follow your offerings there, and J and Manny can ignore you.

    Meanwhile … breaking news:


  14. J says:

    Yeeeesh. Out in the weeds being tag-teamed by two Artistes! For some reason I never considered calling myself (one person, singular) an organization (several persons, plural). Also, I never considered buying a domain name like, just because was too long. Call it UnderminingtheDems or something honest.
    Freespeech smokescreens are as old as the blame-it-on-the-woman tripe in your link. No trolling there at all.

    Permit me to call Bullshit on you both.

  15. Thanks, Kibitzer. To win elections, Republicans try to paint all Democrats as extreme, radical liberals. In reality, Democrats encompass the full range of ideology. It is my belief that most Democrats are generally mainstream moderates (like former President Obama). Anyway, our diversity is one of our greatest strengths.

    Funny thing is, I usually agree with Kuff’s remarks on most topics and thus don’t bother to post a comment. I’m sure most of his readers are the same way.

  16. policywonqueria says:


    Based on his masthead, Mr Summerlin’s site is misleading because the disclaimer is not conspicuous. It might be better if he were to add “MODERATE” to HARRIS COUNTY DEMOCRATS to avoid confusion with the local party.

    While on the topic of branding in the discourse space, we coined “policywonquería” as a unique identifier on the World Wide Web. That can also be a benefit for findability. We use a noun rather than a personal name/pseudonym to avoid exchanges degenerating into ad-hominem sparring matches. We generally avoid personal narratives and emotional outburst in favor of more objective policy analysis and reasoned argumentation, which should not be confused with being value-free and not offering opinions that are contestable.

    Our neologism was formed in analogy to politiquería, which is real word. At least for Spanish-language scrabblers and politologists.

    No confusion potential.

  17. Policywonqueria, the disclaimer is prominent on the front page, and my blog is actually intended for all interested Harris County Democrats, not just the moderates. That said, I went ahead and added the word “Moderate” to the masthead as you suggested. See, I’m a reasonable guy…

  18. Manny says:

    Moderate has what meaning? In regards to what issues?

    Either you vote for the Democrat or you don’t.

  19. Oops. Sorry, Manny. I like to roam numerous blogs and didn’t notice you replied.

    As far as the meaning of “moderate” Democrat, please reference the link below. I normally don’t like referencing wikipedia but, in this case, it looks pretty accurate. Of course, you can just Google it.

    As for the “either you vote for the Democrat or you don’t” comment, during the upcoming primary season, it will be Democrat vs. Democrat. It is my hope that we nominate the best possible candidates who actually stand a chance at winning in the general election. I would prefer the Republicans “win the battle but lose the war”, not us.

    When it comes to the general election, I’m a proud Democrat and, with few exceptions, vote that way. Still, just having a “D” or “R” after your name shouldn’t be the only factor we consider when voting for a candidate. I think you would agree that candidates should have to earn our vote and support. Before voting, we all should consider each candidate’s record, job performance, ethics, qualifications, priorities, stand on the issues, and vision for the future. That said, the Democratic candidates usually stand head and shoulders above the extreme candidates nominated by the Republicans.

    Anyway, I’m going to move on now. I would like you guys to check out my blog, but to each his own. The good thing about Democrats is that we can respectfully disagree on some things, but still come together at the end.

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