Gov. Greg Abbott called a second special session Tuesday afternoon, just hours after the previous session ended without anything to show for it. The new session will focus on the same topic as the first: property tax relief. As we mentioned in our last posting, Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan are focused solely on tax compression, while Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants to include a significant increase in the state’s homestead exemption in any tax relief plan.
Today, the House met briefly to introduce HJR 1 and HB 1 before recessing until Friday morning, while the Senate met and passed both SJR 1 and SB 1, which significantly increase the state’s homestead exemption. SJR 1 was amended by Sen. Roland Gutiérrez to include language in a bill from the regular session that would give annual bonuses between $2,000 and $6,000 to teachers for two years. Classroom teachers in districts with enrollment of 20,000 or more would receive $2,000; those in districts with under 20,000 students would receive $6,000.
The bonus would be dependent on voter approval of a constitutional amendment on the November ballot.
In closing the day, Patrick said that he and Phelan plan to meet to work out their differences and hope to send something to the governor’s desk soon. This issue is far from decided, since the House and Senate had major differences during the regular session in their approaches both to property tax reduction and teacher salaries.
It remains to be seen whether passage of this proposal (if both the House and Abbott agree) would preclude a future special session on education issues. Abbott still has his sights set on vouchers, so we will likely have to wait until after mid-August to know if there is anything more for education on the horizon.