DADE PHELAN — The priorities of the Texas House for the 88th Legislature

Published 12:18 am Wednesday, April 5, 2023

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The 88th Texas Legislature recently hit its halfway mark of the regular session, and for those of us in the Texas House, we are looking forward to getting over the finish line with plenty of successes for the state when we adjourn at the end of May.

About a month ago, I announced our chamber’s priorities for the legislative session, which ranged from property tax relief to water infrastructure and data privacy. Our chamber has been hard at work these past several weeks fine-tuning several of these legislative proposals by hearing important public testimony during committee hearings and working together to find consensus on issues we agree must be addressed by our Legislature this year.

One of the most robust debates before our chamber is slated to happen next week with House Bill 1, the Texas House’s proposed state budget for the next two years.The proposal makes significant investments in various items important to our state, including our public and higher education systems, mental health services, border security operations and property tax relief efforts.

While we will work with our counterparts in the Texas Senate before a final spending plan is sent to the governor for approval, I am so proud of the product my House colleagues put together — it strikes the perfect balance between capitalizing on our state’s historic revenue surplus while still spending dollars wisely and efficiently, keeping House Bill 1 well our state’s within constitutional spending limits.

Another piece of legislation I also look forward to the Texas House soon passing is House Bill 2, otherwise known as the Property Tax Relief Act. The proposal, when combined with our spending plan, would provide Texans over $17 billion in property tax relief — the largest in our state’s history.

Texans deserve meaningful, lasting relief with their property taxes, and the Property Tax Relief Act would do just that. Under the legislation, school district property taxes would be lowered by 28 percent and the limit on annual appraisal increases would be reduced to 5 percent for all types of property in Texas — a cap that would provide homeowners, business owners, landowners and renters with a kind of certainty they have not had before.

The savings felt by the Property Tax Relief Act would also not go unnoticed: Texans who own a $350,000 house would see more than $1,200 in savings over the next two years, with that figure growing down the road so long as they continued to own that property.

Texans also deserve a secure, safe border. Since the federal government has refused to do its job, the Texas House has proposed multiple bills to crack down on cartels, criminals and human smugglers, and to implement severe and swift penalties for those who are fueling the fentanyl crisis.

House Bills 6 and 800 would beef up the penalty for those involved with drug trafficking or human smuggling — two issues that unfortunately have headlined the chaos that’s only growing along our border.

Two other measures, House Bills 7 and 20, would establish and fund a new border security operation that would professionalize and bring efficiency to our current efforts and ultimately save Texas taxpayers money. The Border Protection Unit — the new entity that would be devoted to securing and streamlining border operations — would recruit and train professionals who are either from or very familiar with communities along the border, making this a locally-driven, mission-oriented effort.

The proposals would also ensure that the new operation receives the necessary legal and financial support instead of leaving such burdens to those local communities. In doing all of this, the many cops, state guardsmen and game wardens who have been stationed along the border for weeks or months at a time would return to their home communities across Texas — and to their core missions.

I am looking forward to debating all of these proposals and more in the coming weeks. In the Texas House, though we may have various viewpoints on how best to tackle an issue, we share the common goal of being thorough and deliberate so that we can deliver the best results for Texas.

Dade Phelan is state representative to Texas House District 21 and Texas Speaker of the House. His office can be reached at 409-745-2777 or 512-463-1000.