State legislators passed a surplus budget, created a trust fund for the coastal barrier, concentrated on advancing Texas’s reputation for space exploration and are still working on property appraisal reform.

The full story

Local legislators discussed the 88th Texas Legislature during a Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership event June 15.

Rep. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood, said the budget had a $32 billion surplus, which made it more challenging due to the number of extra requests legislators received for funding. Inflation was the biggest driver in the surplus; with costs up, sales tax revenue was also up, leading to the surplus, he said.

Rep. Dennis Paul, R-Houston, helped pass House Bill 2416, which created a trust fund for the coastal barrier. The multibillion-dollar project to build a coastal barrier between Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula will require local matching funds from the Gulf Coast Protection District, which includes several counties near the coast. The trust fund will allow state officials to invest money that could be pulled out over the 30-year span of the project, potentially turning a $5 billion investment into $9 billion, Paul said.

Bonnen mentioned a bill that will provide $150 million toward making Texas maintain its leadership role when it comes to human space exploration. Many states are branching into aerospace, and Texas needs to lead this charge, or it will be left behind, Paul said.

Rep. Ed Thompson, R-Pearland, said he worked on a bill related to vaping after his office was contacted by Alvin ISD and other districts facing an increase in expulsions due to students using vape pens, some of which contained THC. The bill will take effect Sept. 1.

“It’s rampant,” he said. “It’s heartbreaking to me this is where we’re at, but this is where we’re at.”

These students are sent to a county program that gets backed up. The bill aims to reduce that by allowing students who make a vape-related infraction to be corrected at the school level. Some may think that’s letting them off easy, but resources to deal with these offenses are limited, Thompson said.

What’s next?

Bonnen said the state House and Senate did not pass bills related to property appraisal reform as residents across the state face growing property values, effectively increasing how much they pay in property taxes.

However, Bonnen said the sate has $17.6 billion set aside for property tax relief and that legislators have been charged by Gov. Greg Abbott to address the problem, possibly by agreeing to compress school district tax rates in a special session.

“At the end of the day, we have to get this done,” Bonnen said. “It’s a top priority for me.”