Texas Rep. Mike Schofield, R-Cypress, discussed several bills he is working on heading into the 85th Legislative Session at a town hall in Bridgeland last night. Proposed bills could affect the Electoral College, reform eminent domain and restrict the power of homeowners associations to take down religious displays. The first day of the session is Jan. 10.
Citizenship and voting
Schofield said one of his “common sense” bills will help remove non-citizens from the voter registration roll. If someone who is called to jury duty swears in an affidavit that they are not obligated to serve because they are not a U.S. citizen, their name will be taken off the voter roll.
“My view is, if you swore to us you’re not a citizen, off you go,” Schofield said. “We’ll take your word for it.”
HOAs and religious displays
In 2011, the state passed House Bill 1278, which allows HOAs to take down religious displays for several reasons, including:
- They were made of materials that were not approved
- They were located anywhere on the property other than the front door
Schofield referenced an incident earlier this year when a resident in Katy got a notice to remove his ‘He is Risen’ cross because his HOA thought he had kept it up too long. Schofield said his work to update the bill would include some reasonable restrictions, but it would remove the two listed above.
Schofield said when it comes to eminent domain, the government has often taken property from a citizen for a specific purpose and ended up not using the land for that purpose.
“We had one [case] where [the state] took not one but two places to build schools, and they ended up not building schools,” he said. “Under the law, they’re supposed to let you buy it back.”
Schofield said House Bill 528 would give property owners a chance to get their property back for a fair price if it goes unused. If the value of the land increases while the government is holding it, the property owner would be able to buy it back for the price they originally sold it for, he said.
In the 2016 presidential election, Schofield said that there were voters on both the Democrat and Republican side of the Texas Electoral College who refused to vote for the person the majority of their state voted for—Donald Trump.
Schofield said he supports House Bill 543, filed by Texas Rep. John Raney, R-Brazos, which fines rebellious electors $5,000. Twenty-nine states already have laws that disqualify rebellious electors altogether and do not count their votes. This is a system that Schofield said he hopes to install in Texas.
“We don’t have to theorize about whether this will work,” he said. “Three of the electors didn’t show up. We replaced the three of them, and all went smooth[ly].”
In his time working for former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Schofield said he learned that franchise taxes were the number one reason a business would decide not to move to Texas. Because the state does not tax income, a business's gross revenue is taxed. As a result, even when a business is not making money, it can still be getting hit with taxes, Schofield said.
Last session, legislators cut the franchise tax by a quarter. The goal was originally to cut another quarter for the next three sessions until it was completely gone. However, with the price of oil being down, it no longer makes sense to cut more and lose essential services, Schofield said.
“How can we get rid of this thing in a time where we’re having the problems we’re having financially?” he said.
Schofield said House Bill 599 proposes cutting the franchise tax by a quarter in future budget cycles, but only when the general revenue for the state is 6 percent higher than it was in the previous cycle.