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Monday, April 19, 2021

Council Report: Legislative Session hit city hard

The 86th Legislative session was tough on local governments, according to a report given to the Fort Worth City Council on June 18.

It was not a good session for local government, noted Fort Worth Manager of Legislative Affairs T.J. Patterson.

“I told you the session was going to be very difficult. It was worse than we thought,” he said.

There was some good news.

The approved internet sales tax in HB 1525 will help Fort Worth by about $850,000, he said. Meanwhile, two new laws could cost the city about $4 million each — HB 1631, the elimination of red light cameras, and SB 1152, which will now have companies that deliver both cable and phone services paying the greater cost of cable franchise fees or right-of-way access line fees, but not both as was the case previously.

Also, the negative impact of SB 2 (revenue caps), HB 852 (building fees), and HB 2439 (building materials) has yet to be determined. Also, several other possible forms of legislation supported by Fort Worth city officials fell short.

“This is the fourth or fifth session we’ve been under attack at the local level, and we lost more this time — and I have never seen a stronger concentrated effort to let them know how critical it is that local control maintain, and they totally ignored it,” Mayor Betsy Price said.

Fort Worth’s budget priority items in the state’s $251 budget for 2020-21 include:

*Business assistance center, $3 million, no change.

*Military communities, $30 million, up $6.4 million.

*Mental health collaborations, $25 million, no change.

*Libraries: resource sharing, $39.58 million, up $133,000.

*Libraries: aid to local libraries, $8.89 million, up $1.67 million.

*Local parks, $36.13 million, up $7.43 million.

*Mixed beverage tax, $443 million, no change.

*Homelessness, $10 million, up $100,000.

*Local law enforcement training, $12 million, no change.

*Grants for bulletproof vests, $5 million, down $20 million.

*Local cultural and fine arts districts, $10 million, up $10 million.

In all, 7,324 bills were filed, almost 800 more than in the last Legislature two years ago. Of those, 1,429 passed, over 200 more than in 2017. The 1,229 signed into law exceed the 1,007 from the last session. Gov. Greg Abbott also vetoed more bills this time, 58, compared with 50 two years ago.

Of the 217 proposed constitutional amendments filed, 10 passed, compared to 169 filed and nine passed last time. Voters will have the final say on the proposed amendments in an election on Nov. 5.

Big issues that passed:

*SB 2, The Texas Property Tax Reform and Transparency Act.

*HB 3, School Finance and Property Tax Rate Compression Bill.

*SB 11, School Safety Bill — Texas Mental Health Consortium.

*HB 1545, Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission Sunset Bill.

*HB 3143 Chapter 312 Extension Bill (lower introductory tax rate for new industrial projects that last up to a decade).

*HB 1325 Hemp legalization – CBD oil.

Impact of SB2:

*Requires cities and counties to hold an election if they want to raise property taxes by more than 3.5% (previously 8%).

*Automatically triggers a November election if taxes are raised above 3.5%.

*Eliminates petition requirements for roll-back elections.

*Requires notices from appraisal districts to be issued electronically.

*Requires an online form for taxpayers to communicate their position on proposed rates and submit it to the appropriate taxing unit.

*Increases financial disclosures from taxing units.

Looking ahead to the next session in 2021, highlights will include redistricting, along with several agencies under sunset review including the Department of Agriculture, Animal Health Commission, Economic Development and Tourism Office, Commission on Jail Standards, Commission on Law Enforcement, Department of Licensing and Regulation, Parks and Wildlife and the Teacher Retirement System.

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