Notes & Noticias: Equitable Homestead Exemptions

Dear Friends,

Each legislative session is only 140 days long, and this past week we rounded the half-way mark. With less than 70 days to go, I’ve been busy laying out my bills in committee and working to gain them a vote on the floor.

This week I’m highlighting HB 3348, a bill to give local taxing authorities more flexibility in issuing homestead exemptions, which will specifically help low and middle-income Texans afford rising property taxes. 

And in this week’s The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, I’m focusing on Local Food Education Day, gun training for teachers, and opposition to Agenda 21.

If you enjoy reading Notes and Noticias each week, please ask your friends to sign up for it on my website.

Improving Homestead Exemptions

This session I filed HB 3348 to give taxing authorities–counties, cities, schools, and other special districts–more flexibility in homestead exemptions. Homestead exemptions are a vital tool to help low-income Texans afford to stay in their homes by decreasing their property taxes.

Currently, the law allows for an exemption up to 20% of a home’s value. Additionally, school districts must grant a $15,000 exemption for all residence homestead owners, with an additional $10,000 for homeowners age 65 or older or disabled.

However, the law does not currently permit all taxing authorities to grant a flat-dollar homestead exemption.

A flat-dollar-amount exemption is a more fair way to reduce property taxes for homeowners, especially for low and middle-income households.

The flat rate will benefit property owners with lower value homes because they will receive the same dollar amount homestead exemption as property owners with more valuable homes. Read more on HB 3384 on the CPPP blog.

This bill is an important step towards empowering our communities to do more to keep low and middle-income families in their homes, and will give taxing authorities more flexibility in granting homestead exemptions.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Each week in my newsletter, I highlight what’s good, bad, and ugly at the Capitol right now.

The Good: Local Food Education Day and HB 1306

This week, local food advocates took to the Capitol for Local Foods Education Day, in which they visited several of my colleagues and urged passage of various local food bills. One of these, HB 1306, is a bill I authored to give agriculture valuation to small and diverse farms, such as Springdale Farm, Boggy Creek Farm, and Rain Lily Farm in my district. This legislation is crucial to supporting our Texas farmers and local food industry.

The Bad: State-Funded Gun Training for Teachers

Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst has proposed using our scant state resources to fund specialized gun training for teachers. At a time when the Legislature seems lacking in willpower to restore the cuts to education made last session, funding gun training seems like the worst way to support our public schools.

The Ugly: HCR 34, The Anti-Agenda 21 Resolution

Agenda 21 is a voluntary action plan from the United Nations that encourages sustainable development and environmentally friendly policies. It establishes guidelines that countries may adopt to recognize these priorities at home, and see to their implementation. The United States is a signatory on Agenda 21, and many American cities are leading the way on adopting recommended policies for smart growth and “green” projects.

Unfortunately, several of my Republican colleagues have filed a House Resolution framing Agenda 21 as an extremist environmental agenda that promotes social engineering. This stands in stark contrast the actual purpose of Agenda 21, which is to address overpopulation, pollution, poverty and resource depletion.

Somehow my Republican colleagues have managed to equate environmentalism with totalitarianism and socialism. The US voluntarily signed Agenda 21, along with over 170 world leaders. It represents a universal understanding that we need to think about sustainability, and provides the mechanisms to do so. It does not give anyone enforcement authority, and it’s an important step towards a more sustainable future for everyone who calls our planet home.

Sí Se Puede!

Saturday promises to be a busy day in District 51. Start the day at a community forum I’m hosting, then join me for the Cesar E. Chavez “Sí Se Puede” March.

Community Forum
Saturday, March 23 | 8:30-9;45 a.m.
Habitat ReStore Conference Room
310 Comal Street, Austin, Texas 78702
RSVP on Facebook

Thanks for reading another edition of Notes and Noticias. I hope to see you this weekend, and around the Capitol.