Sen. Pat Fallon presented a legislative session recap this week at the East Parker County Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon.
"Mr. Fallon is a wonderful speaker and kept everyone engaged and interested during his 40 minutes presentation," EPCCC President and CEO Lisa Flowers said. "Everyone was able to learn what bills did and did not pass this legislative session, were able to network with almost 200 attendees, ate a wonderful lunch catered by Bakers Ribs and had an opportunity to win a door prize. It was by fa, the best luncheon we have hosted this year."
Fallon touched on the state budget, bills that were passed and things that are still left to accomplish.
“I want to briefly talk about the budget. We have a 24-month budget and we meet every two years. Last session in 2017, our budget was $217 billion, but they only funded a lot of the major programs with 23 months, not 24, knowing the next legislature would have to finish it out. I voted no on that budget and one of the reason was because of that,” Fallon said. “Our budget this time is $250 billion, but we did have Hurricane Harvey that dropped 11 trillion gallons of water on Houston within a week and that’s going to add some cost, clearly. Then we passed $5 billion in property tax relief back to taxpayers. So the budget this session was really $243 billion, so about a 7.5 percent increase, which is actually below population inflation.
“In 2021 there’s going to be a supplemental budget to pay for some expenses that we didn’t anticipate in 2019, but we funded a 24-month budget this time so I thought it was a good budget and it’s in line with principles.”
Fallon went over some highlights of bills that have been passed and are either awaiting Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature, or have already become law.
“One of the hallmark pieces of legislation that [Rep.] Phil [King] had sponsored, and it is now law, is House Bill 347,” Fallon said. “So you cannot be annexed into a city without your permission because cities don’t have rights, people have rights and we can’t ever forget that.”
Fallon said like Parker County, other counties he represents need tax relief and tax reform, Senate Bill 2.
“We did finally get that done. So, school finance, your property tax bill can never go more than 2.5 percent and for cities and counties it was 3.5 percent, so close, but not quite what I would have preferred,” Fallon said. “So what’s going to happen from here on out? If you’re on a homestead exemption, you are not going to ever see again your tax bill increase 8 percent, 7 percent, 10 percent, thank the Lord. So that was one way we addressed at least future growth and then we passed $5 billion in relief moving forward, and Gov. [Greg] Abbott just signed that into law as well.”
According to the Texas Tribune, taxing units have been constrained to 8 percent annual property tax growth, but voters have had a petition for an election to roll back the increase.
“What this does is achieve something that has never been done before with regard to property tax reforms of the past,” Abbott said.
Speaker of the Texas House Dennis Bonnen said there wasn’t much argument when it came to property taxes, according to the Texas Tribune.
“On this issue, I don’t think you’re going to see significant differential between the House and Senate,” Bonnen said. “The reality of it is we’re all pretty close on where we’re going.”
Fallon said one of the most important pieces of legislation for him personally, was Senate Bill 719 — Lauren’s Law.
“[Tuesday] I was in Austin for a bill signing for a bill called Lauren’s Law, Senate Bill 719. A little 13-year old girl in Wichita Falls was violently murdered three years ago — shot 15 times on her way home from school because an evil predator was watching her for an entire year and he hated her,” Fallon said. “He desired her and he hated her and hated her primarily because she had African American friends. He shot her 15 times, he shot her African American friend in the chest once.”
Fallon said if the other little girl had died, it would have been considered aggravated murder.
“He would have faced the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole. But because she survived, believe it or not in Texas, premeditated murder is not aggravated murder. I didn’t know that,” Fallon said. “So this evil person that took her life is going to be eligible for parole in 28 years. Her parents have to go to his parole hearing, that’s not justice. This is somebody who clearly never needs to see the light of day. So Lauren’s Law, if you murder a child under the age of 10 it’s aggravated, so we raised the age to 15 and Gov. Abbott just signed that [Tuesday]. Personally for me and my staff, that was the most important piece of legislation we could pass this session. Next session I’m going to file legislation to make a murder of any human being premeditated, to be aggravated because if you plot someone’s demise, you just don’t need to ever see the light of day again.”
House Bill 3, school finance reform, was also signed into law by Abbott this week.
“It’s a very complicated piece of legislation and expensive as well. My goal is to repeal and replace the STAAR test. It’s going to take some time, but what we wanted to do immediately was no more high-stakes STAAR tests,” Fallon said. “No more three-hour test because you’re not testing a fifth grader on what they know, you’re testing their endurance for three hours. So we’re going to break it down into a 45 minute test at the beginning of the year, in the middle of the year and the end of the year to better track where the kids are and lower the stakes. Also, we’re never going to have STAAR test on a Monday — it will never be on the first day of the week.”
Fallon said HB 3 wasn’t a solution, but it was a big step forward.
According to the Texas Tribune, Abbott said the one law does more to advance education in Texas than any law that he has seen.
“You could not overstate the magnitude of the law that I’m about the sign because this is a monumental moment in public education history in the state of Texas,” Abbott said. “We did something that was considered to be highly improbable, and that is to be able to transform public education in the state of Texas without a court order forcing us to do so.”
The $11.6 billion school finance measure includes about $6.5 billion in new public education spending, according to the Texas Tribune.
Fallon said HJR 38, state income tax ban, will be on the November ballot for voters to decide.
Fallon went over some of the bills that didn’t pass, which included Senate Bill 421, eminent domain; SB 29, taxpayer funded lobbying; SJR 29, term limits; and SB 862, elected official related to lobbyist disclosure.
King, R-Weatherford, will be the guest speaker at the next EPCCC luncheon at 11:30 a.m. on July 10 at New River Fellowship.