Significant Floor Actions
*Note: Because of the haste with which Senate Committees considered and voted out bills (in spite of significant opposition testimony), and how quickly the Senate approved those bills, there are no Senate bills in the “Significant Committee Actions” section in this editon. City officals concerned with the bills below should focus their efforts on the Texas House.
1S.B. 1 (Bettencourt), relating to ad valorem taxation. Passed the Senate. As passed, the bill would, of primary importance to cities:
- adjust the property tax rollback rate in the following ways: (a) define “small taxing unit” means a taxing unit, other than a school district, for which the sum of property tax proposed to be collected for the tax year and sales and use tax projected to be received from the state comptroller during the fiscal period is $20 million or less; (b) maintain an eight percent rollback rate for all small taxing units (However, see Sections 2 and 3, below); (c) for a taxing unit other than a small taxing unit, provide for a rollback rate of four percent; and (d) provide that the governing body of a taxing unit other than a small taxing unit may direct the designated officer or employee to calculate the rollback tax rate of the unit in the manner provided for a small taxing unit if any part of the unit is located in an area declared a disaster area during the current tax year by the governor or by the president of the United States;
- provide that any adopted rate of a taxing unit exceeding the applicable rollback rate would subject the taxing unit to an automatic rollback election held on the November uniform election date in the applicable tax year, at which the voters would determine whether or not to reduce the tax rate adopted for the current year to the rollback rate;
- require all small taxing units to hold an election on the May uniform election date in 2018 for the purpose of allowing the voters in the taxing unit to determine whether the law governing a taxing unit other than a small taxing unit (four percent rollback rate plus automatic rollback elections) shall apply to the taxing unit; and
- make numerous calendar changes to the property tax appraisal, collection, and rate-setting process in order to have property tax rollback elections for taxing units other than small taxing units on the November uniform election date.
1S.B. 3 (Kolkhorst), relating to the regulation of certain facilities and activities of political subdivisions. Passed the Senate. This is the “bathroom bill.” As passed, it would provide – among other things – that each multiple-occupancy restroom, shower, and changing facility of a political subdivision, must be designated for and used only by persons of the same sex as stated on a person’s birth certificate or driver’s license, personal identification certificate, or license to carry a handgun, issued to the person by the Department of Public Safety of the State of Texas.
1S.B. 6 (Campbell), relating to municipal annexation. Passed the Senate.As passed, this bill would completely rewrite the Municipal Annexation Act to severely curtail the ability of cities to annex property. Generally, the bill would provide that:
- A “Tier 1 county” means a county with a population of less than 125,000.
- A “Tier 2 county” means a county with a population of 125,000 or more.
- A “Tier 1 municipality” means a municipality wholly located in one or more tier 1 counties that proposes to annex an area wholly located in one or more tier 1 counties.
- A “Tier 2 municipality” means a municipality: (a) wholly or partly located in a tier 2 county; or (b) wholly located in one or more tier 1 counties that proposes to annex an area wholly or partly located in a tier 2 county.
- A tier 2 municipality is authorized to annex an area with a population of 200 or more only if the following conditions are met, as applicable: (a) the city holds an election in the area proposed to be annexed at which the qualified voters of the area may vote on the question of the annexation and a majority of the votes received at the election approve the annexation; and (b) if the registered voters of the area do not own more than 50 percent of the land in the area, the city obtains consent to annex the area through a petition signed by more than 50 percent of the owners of land in the area.
- A tier 2 municipality may annex an area with a population of less than 200 only if the city obtains consent to annex the area through a petition signed by more than 50 percent of the registered voters of the area, or if the voters don’t own more than 50 percent of the land in the area, the petition must be signed by the owners of more than 50 percent of the land in the area.
- A city may annex for full or limited purposes any part of the area located within one-half mile of the boundaries of a military base in which an active training program is conducted only if the city and the military base enter into a memorandum of agreement to establish provisions to maintain the compatibility of the city’s regulation of land in the area with the military base operations following the annexation.
1S.B. 7 (Hughes), relating to payroll deductions for state and local government employee organizations. Passed the Senate. As passed, the bill would: (1) prohibit the state or a political subdivision of the state from deducting or withholding from an employee’s salary or wages payment of dues or membership fees to a labor organization or other similar entity, including a trade union, labor union, employees’ association, or professional organization; and (2) except from the prohibition in (1) certain fire, police, and emergency medical services personnel.
1S.B. 13 (Burton), relating to the issuance of a permit by a political subdivision. Passed the Senate. This bill mandates an expedited permitting process for city permits. As passed, the bill would - among many other things, provide that:
- Not later than the 30th day after the date an application for a permit is submitted, the city must: (a) grant or make a preliminary determination to deny the permit; (b) provide written notice to the applicant stating the reasons why the city has been unable to act on the permit application; or (3) reach a written agreement with the applicant providing for a deadline not later than the 120th day after the date the application was submitted for granting or denying the permit;
- For a permit application for which notice is provided under (1)(b), above, the city must grant or make a preliminary determination to deny the permit not later than the 15th day after the date the notice is received.
- A city may not extend the period for the city to act on an application under the bill more than once.
- If a city fails to act on a permit application within the period required by (2), above, or by an agreement, the permit application is considered approved and the city: (a) may not collect any permit fees associated with the application; and (b) shall refund to the applicant any permit fees associated with the application that have been collected.
- If a city makes a preliminary determination to deny a permit application, the city must send written notice of the determination to the applicant not later than the first business day after the date the determination is made stating: (a) each application deficiency that is a reason for the determination, including a citation to the specific ordinance, order, regulation, or policy relevant to the determination; (b) the specific actions required by the applicant to remedy each specified deficiency; and (b) a deadline not earlier than the 30th day after the date the notice is sent for the applicant to complete the remedial actions specified in the notice before the denial becomes final.
- If an applicant substantially completes the remedial actions specified in the notice under (5), above, within the period required, the applicant may request reconsideration of the determination.
- The city shall grant the permit if the city determines the applicant has substantially completed the specified remedial actions.
1S.B. 14 (Hall), relating to property owner’s right to remove a tree or vegetation. Passed the Senate. As passed, the bill would provide that: (1) a city may not enact or enforce any ordinance, rule, or other regulation that restricts the ability of a property owner of residential real property to remove a tree or vegetation on the owner’s property, including a regulation that requires the owner to file an affidavit or notice before removing the tree or vegetation; (2) a city can continue to enforce an ordinance realted to high grass or weed removal for the purpose of fire prevention; and (3) the bill does not prevent the enforcement of: (i) certiain deed restructions by certain cities; (ii) an ordinance, rule, or other regulation designed to mitigate tree-borne diseases as recommended by the Texas A&M Forest Service; or (iii) an ordinance, rule, or other regulation applicable to a person who owns a tract of land that subdivides the property for purposes of developing it to sell as residential.