Eye on Politics: Different visions for property tax relief in Texas
In the latest edition of Eye on Politics (original air date: March 23), there are two competing visions to provide property owners tax relief that are advancing in the Texas House and Senate. The debate over school choice is heating up in Austin. And with two shootings at high school parking lots in North Texas, CBS News Texas political reporter Jack Fink speaks with the authors of key school safety bills in the House.
Every week, CBS News Texas political reporter Jack Fink breaks down some of the biggest political stories grabbing headlines in North Texas and beyond. Watch the latest episode of Eye on Politics in the video player above and stream new episodes live every Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. on CBS News Texas.
State lawmakers propose school safety bills
A shooting at Lamar High School left one student dead and another injured in Arlington on Monday. Just one day later, at Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas, another student was hit in the arm by gunfire.
These incidents occurred as state lawmakers consider a variety of school safety bills at the Texas Capitol.
"There's a lot of work we have to do," State Rep. Joe Moody said Monday in an interview with CBS News Texas. "We cannot keep waking up to these stories."
In the House, HB 3 and HB 13 would require an armed security officer to be present on every school campus.
The decision to hire school resource officers, law enforcement officers or participate in the Marshal or Guardian programs, would be left to each school district.
Furthermore, every classroom must be equipped with a phone or an electronic device that enables teachers to contact school personnel or first responders immediately.
Teachers and staff would also receive training to recognize students with mental health problems.
SB 11, a similar bill, is being discussed in the Senate.
Rep. Ken King, another author of HB 3, and author of HB 13 told CBS News Texas Monday, "The whole point of the bill isn't to arm more teachers or have to stop more active shooters. It's hopefully to find these kids that are troubled and get them the help they need before it gets to this stage."
Under HB 13, King said school districts would have to update their active-shooter preparedness plans more frequently.
Both King and Moody agree with provisions in the bills that ensure school districts are complying with safety and security rules.
Lawmakers have proposed spending $600 million on school safety in the next two years.
HB 3 would also give $15,000 to each school campus for security measures.
The legislation would also create a state grant program to fund infrastructure improvements at school campuses.
HB 3, HB 13 and SB 11 have been referred to legislative committees and there will soon be hearings on those bills.
While there is bipartisan agreement to make schools safer, Republicans and Democrats don't see eye to eye when it comes to new gun safety legislation.
"Making sure that weapons aren't in the hands of folks that would do us harm is certainly another part," Moody said. "It's a conversation that we don't get enough time, energy, and attention behind in this building, and historically, that's been the case."
King disagreed with Moody. "If you follow the law, it's harder for you to get a gun than if you don't follow the law and I don't think passing more gun laws is going to change that. I think bad guys are still going to do bad things."
Watch the video below to learn more about the school safety proposals.
Competing property tax relief bills
Many state lawmakers agree they want to give Texans property tax relief. But they don't all agree on how to do it.
Legislators in the Texas House and Senate have come up with two very different visions to cut your property tax bills.
In the House, lawmakers have proposed lowering the cap on property appraisals from 10% now to 5%.
This applies for not only residential, but business and agricultural properties too.
To make up for lost property tax revenue, the House plan would add state money to pay for public schools.
Under the House plan laid out by Ways and Means Committee Chair Morgan Meyer, a Republican from Dallas, property owners would save on average $542 in 2024 and $733 in 2025 based on a $350,000 home.
During a hearing last week, Meyer said:
"House Bill 2 protects homeowners and businesses from the shock of rapidly rising property values while also making it easier to plan for future investments and economic growth."
Over in the Senate, lawmakers have proposed increasing the homestead exemption to $70,000 for 5.7 million homeowners.
That would provide $756 in savings in 2024 and nearly $800 in 2025 on a $331,000 home.
For people over the age of 65, the Senate plan would increase the homestead exemption to $100,000 for nearly 2.1 million homeowners.
That would give seniors a savings of $1,033 in 2024 and $1,062 in 2025 on that same $331,000 home.
During a news conference last week, Senator Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston said, "What we have is tremendously good news for Texas taxpayers today. These are eye-popping, off the chart numbers of savings that they can realize through the Senate plan."
The Senate plan also provides more state money to pay for public schools.
Hear Meyer and Bettencourt discuss their proposals in the video players below.
Debate over school choice
Education remains in the spotlight in Austin. Aside from school safety, the Texas Senate held a hearing for a controversial bill that would allow taxpayer money to be given to some students so they can go to private school.
Under Senate Bill 8, which is called Empowering Parental Rights, $8,000 in taxpayer money would be given to certain students each year for Education Savings Accounts, or ESAs.
"I'll bet on Texas moms and dads to do their homework above and beyond politicians all day long to make the decisions that are best for their kids," said Sen. Brandon Creighton, the bill's author.
Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, opposes the legislation for a variety of reasons.
"The accountability issue concerns me, the transparency issue concerns me also," he said. "We have school systems, public school systems that have to be accountable. We don't have transparency at all."
To help smaller school districts, those with fewer than 20,000 students would receive $10,000 for each student using ESA's for each of the first two years.
Other school districts though would lose some funding from the Foundation School Program (FSP), if their students go to private school, using the ESA's.
Learn more about the debate over school choice by watching the video in the player below.
Former President Donald Trump in Texas
In other political news, former President Donald Trump, who's running for president again, will hold a political rally Saturday in Waco. Jack will be there covering the event. Check CBSNewsTexas.com for updates.
Trump's visit comes as he is facing potential charges in Manhattan relating to a non-disclosure agreement and money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels. He has denied any wrong-doing. If he's indicted, he would be the first former president to be charged with a crime.
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