Early June, Gov. Greg Abbott called for a special session to address 20 issues that did not advance during the 85th Legislature regular session. A special session can last no more than 30 days.
With the special session beginning on July 18, Community Impact Newspaper spoke with local representatives to discuss the 85th Legislative session, as well as ask about priorities going into special session. Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, who is the author of one special session bill—a pro-life insurance reform—and co-author of two special session bills—an annexation and property tax reform—expressed optimism for the session.
1. What are some of your priorities going into the July 18 special session?
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asked me to lead on pro-life insurance reform legislation during the special session. As a staunch pro-life legislator, I am certainly supportive of Gov. Greg Abbott’s efforts and glad he included several pro-life measures.
A second priority of mine is to reform property taxes. I was the first legislator to ask Abbott for a special session to address property taxes. The financial burden property taxes are putting on families is out of control, and property owners in Texas demand that this be addressed during special session.
Finally, I intend to co-author annexation reform legislation to allow a vote from citizens who could potentially be annexed into a city without their consent. After the example of the city of Houston taking Kingwood years ago, and the recent April Sound annexation by Conroe, constituents have been very clear that they expect to have a say in future tax rates, the cost of water and the reliability of emergency services.
2. What do you hope legislators will accomplish during the special session?
We are considering a much smaller number of bills during the special session. With specific focus on a limited number of issues, I hope that the House and Senate can come together to negotiate the best outcome for Texas. I specifically hope that House leadership will show a genuine effort to bring true property tax reform because that is what Texans deserve.
Local taxpayers cannot digest 10 percent compounded interest increases on their residences, while local governments take in new revenue well beyond inflation. I do not want to see a missed opportunity to address very important issues that the Senate has already passed. Abbott especially has included issues important to Texans who have voiced their concerns. I am prepared to stay until the job is done.
3. What needs to be done with Senate Bill 2 to reach an agreement during the special session?.
I have been heavily involved in property tax reform measures during my time as Senator. During the 84th Legislative Session interim, I was appointed by Lt. Gov. Patrick to the Senate Select Committee on Property Tax Reform and traveled the state listening to Texans and their concerns.
During the 85th session, I was again appointed by Patrick to the conference committee on property tax reform to resolve differences in the bill between the two chambers. House leadership removed key provisions of the bill and refused to appoint conferees, and the bill died.
The Legislature kept spending in line by only allowing the current budget to grow 1.9 percent from the last budget. Many Texans are frustrated by local government taking in 8-12% percent new revenue each year and spending most of it. SB 2 requires a spending restraint of 5 percent new revenue unless the voters approve further.
4. What is the importance of the pro-life insurance reform?
There are three pro-life issues added to the special session called by Abbott. I intend to file similar legislation to Sen. Larry Taylor’s, [R-Friendswood], SB 20, which passed out of the Senate during the regular session.
I will work hard to pass all pro-life measures called by the Governor this special session. The legislation I will file requires a policy writer to cover elective abortions, rather than requiring all Texans to pay for these procedures through policy premiums.
5. How do you feel about the legislation to protect the W.G. Jones Forest from development dying during regular session?
It was important to me to file SB 1964 after learning of Texas A&M University’s request because I did not want any other legislator to control the measure. Constituent feedback was excellent during the process, and I was proud to pass the most restrictive, anti-development legislation for any state forest in Texas out of the Senate.
At the end of the day, the House ran out of time. The victory here was that the university heard loud and clear through the passage of the Senate that our local communities demand that the forest be protected and remain in its current state of use.
6. What is the significance of bills passed that address the possibility of The Woodlands Township incorporating into a city?
I couldn’t be happier about the passage of SB 1014 and SB 1015. These are truly historic pieces of legislation that keep residents of The Woodlands in charge of their own local governance for the future. Several Township members and constituents traveled to Austin to testify on the bills during Senate committee hearings, which was a great help.
I appreciated the opportunity to work with Rep. Mark Keough on these bills to protect the citizens right to vote should the decision ever be decided by the Township to advance toward incorporation.
Note: Interview questions were subject to editing and condensing.