Governor’s Vetoes Include City-Related Bills
Governor Rick Perry has vetoed 26 bills passed by the legislature during the regular session. Seven of the 26 were city-related bills described in the League’s “wrap-up” Legislative Update on May 27. Those seven vetoes are detailed below:
- H.B. 950 (Thompson/Davis) – Employment Discrimination: tracks the language of the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (a 2009 law that overturned a U.S. Supreme Court decision that the statute of limitations for presenting an equal pay lawsuit begins on the date that the employer makes the initial discriminatory wage decision, not at the date of the most recent paycheck) by: (1) extending the statute of limitations on pay discrimination claims to include every instance an individual is paid based on a past discriminatory decision made by an employer; and (2) allowing back pay and benefit damages for up to two years preceding the date of filing a complaint for pay discrimination.
According to the governor’s veto message, “Texas’ commitment to smart regulations and fair courts is a large part of why we continue to lead the nation in job creation. House Bill 950 duplicates federal law, which already allows employees who feel they have been discriminated against through compensation to file a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.”
- H.B. 1982 (Murphy/Hinojosa) – Enterprise Zones: this bill, among other things: (1) authorizes a county to nominate for designation as an enterprise project or activity of a qualified business that is located within the jurisdiction of city located in the county only if the nominating county enters into an interlocal agreement with the city that has jurisdiction of the territory in which the nominated project or activity will be located; (2) requires that the interlocal agreement specify that either the nominating county or the city that has jurisdiction of the territory in which the nominated project or activity will be located is the governmental body having administration authority and that both the city and the county approve the nomination; and (3) requires the nominating city or county to submit: (a) a certified copy of the minutes of all public hearings regarding local incentives available to qualified businesses with the nominating body’s jurisdiction; and (b) any interlocal agreement that states which governing body has administration authority and that both the city and the county approve the nomination of the project or activity.
According to the governor’s veto message, “I applaud the intent of House Bill 1982 to improve the enterprise zone program by requiring projects that get the biggest tax refunds to create more jobs rather than focusing on job retention. However, H.B. 1982 also contains ambiguous language which could hurt, rather than help, the program. Therefore, I…will recommend that the lieutenant governor and speaker of the House conduct an interim study to review this issue and ways to improve the program.”
- S.B. 1606 (Zaffirini/Strama) – Property Tax Liens: provides that a tax lien on inventory, furniture, equipment, or other personal property attaches to all such property that is owned on January 1 of the year the lien attaches, irrespective of whether the personal property is located within the boundaries of the taxing unit in whose favor the lien attaches.
According to the governor’s veto message, the bill “would provide that a taxing authority has an annual lien that automatically attaches to all business personal property that the business owns in the state, including property outside the taxing authority’s jurisdiction. Current law gives taxing units authority to deal with taxpayers who move property around the state in an attempt to avoid taxation, while also protecting taxpayers from overly aggressive taxing authorities. By providing taxing authorities with an automatic lien on property they do not have the authority to tax, this bill could lead to abusive taxing authorities overextending their reach, to the detriment of smaller taxing units and taxpayers.”
- S.B. 722 (Ellis/Johnson) – Interpreters: allows the authority ordering an election to either use an interpreter selected by a voter or to select an interpreter for a voter, and provides that to be eligible to serve as an interpreter, a person: (1) if selected by the voter, may be any person other than the voter’s employer, an agent of the voter’s employer, or an officer or agent of a labor union to which the voter belongs; or (2) if appointed to serve as an interpreter by the authority ordering the election, must be a registered voter of the county in which the voter needing the interpreter resides or a registered voter of an adjacent county.
According to the governor’s veto message, “Ensuring the integrity of our state’s election process is a key component of providing a system of fair, open and honest elections. Under current law, if a voter cannot communicate with poll workers in a common language, the voter is entitled to use an interpreter of the voter’s choice who is a registered voter in that county. Often, this is a family member or other person in whom the voter personally has confidence…the elimination of the requirement that an interpreter selected by the voter be from the county will lead to the likelihood of undue influence being placed on the voter to agree to ‘select’ activists from outside the area with whom the voter is not familiar.”
- S.B. 1234 (Whitmire/Price) – Failure to Attend School: changes the penalties for the offense of failure to attend school including setting up alternatives to fines and providing for additional truancy resources in schools and allows a city to employ a juvenile case manager.
According to the governor’s veto message, “Senate Bill 1234 attempts to change how truancy is handled by placing progressive sanctions on students based on recommendations established in a behavioral improvement plan. While these plans are meant to hold students accountable for attendance and behavior management, they do not track the child from district to district and are lost as a student transfers from one school to another, which is common for chronically truant students. Senate Bill 1234 will hurt established local programs and prevent schools from identifying and helping address the issues students are facing. Additionally, S.B. 1234 conflicts with other legislation, such as S.B. 393, concerning which truancies are considered a ticketable offense.”
- S.B. 219 (Huffman/Bonnen) – Texas Ethics Commission: among other things, this bill: (1) makes various changes in regard to the functions and duties of the Texas Ethics Commission, including: (a) changing the system by which ethics violations/alleged violations are categorized and handled; and (b) requiring the commission to design forms that may be used for filing a financial statement with an authority other than the commission (e.g., a city); (2) changes the financial disclosure statement requirements in cities with 100,000 or more in population to provide that: (a) a statement may be filed with the city clerk or secretary by electronic mail, and the clerk or secretary may prescribe guidelines for filing by electronic mail; and (b) a financial statement that is not filed by electronic mail is timely filed if it is properly addressed and placed in the U.S. post office or with a common or contract carrier not later than the last day for filing; and (3) amends the definition of “political advertising” to include communications transmitted by an automated dial announcing device and adds some political advertising disclosure requirements.
According to the governor’s veto message, “S.B. 219 contains several important changes to the state’s ethics laws, especially those relating to the sworn complaint process. However, these positive changes are outweighed by several provisions added late in the legislative process without an open and honest discussion. The Legislature had an opportunity, through the sunset review process, to make needed changes to our campaign finance, lobby, and financial disclosure laws – changes that are needed to modernize laws while still protecting our rights and providing for transparency. I urge the Legislature to look closely at our ethics laws during the interim in an open, deliberative, and transparent way, so that all voices are heard and all proposals are thoroughly discussed.”
- H.B. 1511 (Larson/Eltife) – Local Sales Tax Rate: this bill: (1) allows a city to hold an election to impose a dedicated sales and use tax for sports and venue districts, crime control and prevention districts, economic development corporations, property tax relief, or street maintenance at any rate that is an increment of one-eighth of one percent that would not result in a combined rate that exceeds the maximum local sales and use tax rate of two percent; (2) allows a city to hold an election to impose its general sales and use tax at any rate that is an increment of one-eighth of one percent that it would not result in a combined rate that exceeded the maximum local sales and use tax rate of two percent; and (3) extends from four years to eight years the expiration date on the dedicated sales and use tax for street maintenance. (Note: This bill was not summarized in the May 27 “wrap-up”.)
According to the governor’s veto message, “House Bill 1511 would restrict Texans’ power to vote to maintain or increase a street maintenance tax. This bill would allow municipalities to delay voter input by limiting the tax elections to once every eight years rather than the current four-year period. Texans should have the right to vote on tax measures sooner rather than later.”