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Texas broadcasters converge on Austin Jan. 26 to press agenda

 - House rolls out plans for state spending, room for tax cuts

TAB is striving for two major legislative fixes this session that would help newsrooms and radio stations immensely in serving their communities. The effort gets underway Jan. 26 at TAB’s Legislative Day conference which concludes with a lunch where lawmakers and broadcasters can speak without distraction about these efforts and other community concerns.

The state’s local newspapers are joining forces with broadcasters to resolve a state Supreme Court ruling hindering journalists’ ability to report on third-party allegations. A similar partnership helped deliver major legislative wins in the past three sessions, including the Texas reporter shield law, anti-SLAPP litigation law and uniform corrections and retractions law, but this year’s effort will be challenging at best.

Defending state Open Government laws also is high on the groups’ agenda, while TAB separately is seeking to correct a sales tax ruling that harmed radio stations and monitoring all proposed legislation for potential restrictions on advertising and other regulatory concerns.

Lawmakers’ top priority is developing the state’s budget for the next fiscal year which runs from Sept. 1, 2015 to Sept. 1, 2017. They heard good news last week when State Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced that they will have 20 percent more revenue to allocate than they did in the current budget.

Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, responded to Hegar’s estimate just days later by releasing a conservative working draft for budget writers that leaves roughly $14 billion available for the Legislature’s discretion.  Among the likely targets for that additional revenue:

  • Transportation – In addition to redirecting $1.2 billion from certain tax sources to transportation funding, state engineers estimate they’ll need at least $5 billion annually to fix existing roads and maintain current levels of highway congestion.
  • Public Education – The budget already reserves $2.2 billion to increase local school funding – primarily for student population growth and far less than what is likely needed to satisfy the courts deliberating the ongoing school finance lawsuit.
  • Tax Relief – While no consensus has emerged, lawmakers are committed to some sort of tax relief that is balanced between homeowners and businesses.  This could include increasing the homestead property tax exemption, limiting local taxing authority and increasing the business franchise tax threshold beyond the current $1 million, among myriad other options.

Comptroller Hegar is presenting the keynote address at TAB’s Jan. 26 conference, followed by a review of major state policy issues and TAB’s legislative agenda. Broadcasters will be seated with their lawmakers at the closing luncheon.


Questions? Contact TAB's Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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