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Pieces of TAB Open Government Agenda Enacted, Franchise Tax Fix Vetoed

Gov. Greg Abbott’s constitutionally mandated deadline to act on legislation passed in the regular session of the 88th Texas legislature came and went at midnight this past Sunday.

June 18 was the last day for Abbott to sign, veto or let bills become law without his signature.

Two TAB-advocated Open Government measures, HB 3033 by Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, and HB 30 by Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, became law.

A third TAB-championed bill, a measure on tax policy, fell victim to a gubernatorial veto as did dozens of other Texas Senate bills in a power play by Abbott over how to reduce property taxes. 

“Business Days” Defined in the Texas Public Information Act

Rep. Landgraf’s measure includes language from a TAB newsroom legislative priority bill, HB 2135 by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, which clearly defines “business days” under the Texas Public Information Act.

This long-sought TAB reform means local governments across Texas are not left to decide on their own which days they are open and closed for TPIA requests. 

Lack of a clear definition in the TPIA has led to governmental abuse that has thwarted requestors of public records.
Abbott signed the bill on June 13; it takes effect Sept. 1.

“Dead Suspects Loophole” Closed

It has taken four legislative sessions, but Moody was able to pass a law that meaningfully addresses the so-called “dead suspects loophole” in the Texas Public Information Act that has stymied Texas families and newsrooms for years. 

Currently, law enforcement can shield a wide variety of information in pending investigations and in closed cases that do not result in a conviction. 

For example, because the Uvalde school shooting suspect was killed by authorities, the case will not result in a conviction, and the loophole is still being used to prevent release of information related to this criminal case. 

The final version of HB 30 was heavily edited by the Texas House and Senate as it moved through the legislature, but the “as passed” version of HB 30 will allow Texas citizens to access more information that will help hold accountable the law enforcement that taxpayers fund.

Gov. Abbott let the bill become law without his signature, a clear nod to the Texas law enforcement community, but in stark contrast to the near unanimous support the measure saw in House and Senate votes.

The law takes effect Sept. 1.

Death of TAB’s Tax Policy Bill

TAB’s franchise tax clarification was among dozens of Senate bills Abbott vetoed in an effort to strongarm the Texas Senate into backing his preferred property tax reform measure, a House bill that Senate lawmakers have thus far eschewed.

As with the other Senate-sponsored tax bills that fell victim to Abbott’s veto pen, the Governor didn’t oppose the measure on its merits, but delayed its further consideration until the Senate has done what he wants on property taxes.

SB 1614 by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, clarified, consistent with the tax code’s applicable provisions for broadcasting and “live and prerecorded television and radio programs,” that Radio broadcasters may take the cost of goods sold into consideration when calculating their franchise tax liability, just as Television broadcasters are permitted to do.

TAB proactively sought a legislative solution on this issue after recent discussions by state tax officials suggested that further clarification would be helpful to forestall potential misinterpretations of the law.

“While Senate Bill No. 1614 is important, it is simply not as important as cutting property taxes,” Abbott wrote in his veto message. 

“At this time, the legislature must concentrate on delivering property tax cuts to Texans.  This bill can be reconsidered at a future special session only after property tax relief is passed.”

TAB will resume efforts to pass the legislation at the earliest opportunity which could come in any one of a series of special sessions Abbott has threatened to call after failing to reach consensus on property tax reform or education funding.

Questions? Contact TAB’s Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.

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