Special Legislative Session Takes on Taxes, Border

Special Legislative Session
Governor Greg Abbott | Image by Governor Greg Abbott/Facebook

Governor Greg Abbott has called a special legislative session to address property taxes and border security — two of his legislative priorities on which lawmakers failed to pass laws during the normal legislative session that ended on Monday.

The special session began Monday evening at 9:00 p.m., according to a statement released by Abbott.

“Many critical items remain that must be passed. Several special sessions will be required,” the governor said in the statement. “To ensure that each priority receives the time and attention it deserves to pass into law, only a few will be added each session.”

Abbott said the first special session will focus on cutting property taxes and “cracking down” on human smuggling at the southern border.

Lawmakers will tackle legislation aimed at increasing the penalties faced by those involved in human smuggling or operating a stash house where people being smuggled are held.

Two “landmark” bills focusing on this issue are Senate Bill 600 and House Bill 800, authored by Texas Senator Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) and Texas Representative Ryan Guillen (R-Rio Grande City), respectively.

Furthermore, the special session’s agenda will include legislation to cut property tax rates solely by reducing the maximum compressed tax rate (MCR) for school districts.

“We must cut property taxes,” Abbott said in his statement. “During the regular session, we added $17.6 billion to cut property taxes. However, the legislature could not agree on how to allocate funds to accomplish this goal.”

“Texans want and need a path towards eliminating property taxes,” he continued. “The best way to do that is to direct property tax reduction dollars to cut school property tax rates.”

The governor highlighted both property taxes and border security as emergency items in his February State of the State address. These were two of four legislative priorities that lawmakers failed to address during the normal legislative session, as previously reported by The Dallas Express. The other two issues were school choice and bail reform.

Derek Cohen, vice president of policy for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, told The Dallas Express he finds Abbott’s approach to property tax relief “interesting” because the governor chose to focus specifically on compression.

Cohen said that, while the two legislative chambers disagree on whether to cut property taxes using exemption increases or valuation caps, they agree on the issue of compression.

“[Abbott] highlighted the area of central agreement,” Cohen said. “I think that shows an eye toward getting something done and getting something that both chambers can agree on.”

Furthermore, Cohen noted that Abbott’s agenda on border security for this special session is “a very specific item” targeting human smuggling rather than a general border security item.

“What I thought was interesting is how laser-focused that was,” he told The Dallas Express. “Amongst the portfolio of different border solutions, that’s definitely an important one.”

However, some border security advocates are criticizing Abbott for the limited nature of this item.

In a press release sent to The Dallas Express, Texans for Strong Borders called upon the governor to widen the scope of the border security bills on the agenda for this session.

“We applaud Governor Abbott’s call for a special session, but enhanced penalties on human smuggling alone are not enough to stem the tide of millions of illegal aliens entering our state,” said the organization’s president, Chris Russo. “We urge him to widen the call to include repelling the invasion at our border, mandating E-Verify for employers, finishing the Texas border wall, and ending taxpayer handouts to illegal aliens.”

While Governor Abbott previously indicated plans to call a special session over school choice, that subject is not on the agenda for this session.

Cohen speculated this could be because the Texas House and the Texas Senate are much farther apart on how to approach school choice than on an issue like property tax relief.

“School funding … is infinitely more complex,” said Cohen. “I think the conversations they need to have are probably going to be a little more time-consuming.”

In the same statement in which he announced the special session, Abbott also said he will soon sign laws that advance the following items:

  • Ending COVID-19 restrictions and mandates
  • Allocating more than $5.1 billion toward border security
  • Designating Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations
  • Prosecuting fentanyl deaths as murder
  • Increasing electric power generation to secure the state’s power grid
  • Holding “rogue district attorneys accountable”
  • Protecting children from “life-altering gender mutilation”
  • Allocating $1.4 billion toward school safety and requiring armed security at all schools

“Despite these major achievements, more must be done for the people of Texas,” Abbott claimed.

The Dallas Express reached out to Gov. Abbott’s office for additional comment but received no response by the publication deadline.

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