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Legislative Liaison - January 14, 2017

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In this edition …
This edition of the Legislative Liaison looks at the first week of the 85th Texas Legislature and what TAR is doing to advocate for Texas REALTORS®.

Why you're getting this email
This newsletter is usually only sent to Texas REALTORS® who have opted-in to receive it. We are sending this particular edition of the Legislative Liaison to all Texas REALTORS® to kick off the 85th Texas Legislature.

The Legislative Liaison is an easy-to-understand newsletter that examines legislative activities from a real estate perspective. It’s generally delivered once per week during session … usually Friday to recap the current week and preview the coming week.

If you’d like to continue receiving this free newsletter, sign up at

Quick hits

  • As of Jan. 13 at 8 p.m.: 1,548 bills have been filed, and TAR is tracking 694 of them.
  • Download TAR’s Legislative Priorities for the 85th Texas Legislature at
  • Senate adjourned until 11 a.m. Tuesday.
  • House adjourned until 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Working for you … since before Day One
Earlier this week, TAR’s Legislative Management Team joined governmental affairs directors from local REALTOR® associations across the state and TAR field reps in Austin in advance of the legislative session.
The group got an in-depth overview of TAR’s legislative agenda and a preview of legislative priorities for the 85th Texas Legislature. These dedicated people help advance public policy priorities important to Texas REALTORS®.
Visit the Texas Real Estate Advocate blog to learn more about TAR’s Legislative Management Team and how TAR sets its legislative priorities.
What will happen to Texas real estate in 2017?
If you missed TAR’s legislative preview Q&A on Facebook Live, click here to watch a recording and learn what real estate-related issues we’ll be following at the Texas Capitol.
Leaders are in place
On the first day of session, the House unanimously voted for Rep. Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) to serve his fifth term as Speaker. The Senate unanimously elected Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) as President Pro Tempore.
The rule books
The House and Senate discussed, debated, and ultimately passed the operating rules for their respective chambers. The rules are important because, among other things, they establish all standing committees and set procedures for the legislative process. Community Impact Newspaper has more.
2 bills improve transparency for voters
Two of the bills TAR is supporting will better serve Texas voters. HR 270 and HR 273, both filed by REALTOR® Champion Rep. Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock), will ensure more transparency and honesty at the ballot box. 

  • HR 270 requires that a statewide proposition that attempts to change the Constitution appear first on the ballot—before all parties, offices, names, and other propositions.​
  • HR 273 requires local propositions to be identified on the ballot by the name of the authority ordering the election (i.e., City of Austin Proposition 1 or Travis County Proposition 1). 

Why TAR cares about proposition labels
This is a great example of TAR supporting bills that may not have a direct link to real estate.
You may recall the challenge TAR faced with Houston voters in November 2015 when REALTOR®-supported statewide Proposition 1 was on their ballot along with Houston’s Proposition 1, a local ordinance known as the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (and informally called the “bathroom bill”).
TAR spent countless hours fighting misinformation to educate Houston voters on the fact that these two propositions were unrelated. 
You may also remember in November 2014 when TAR supported statewide Proposition 1 for transportation funding. Not only did several cities and counties have “Proposition 1” on their ballots, we also saw inconsistencies in ballot positioning.
A tighter two-year budget
Comptroller Glenn Hegar has released the Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE)—the number that tells lawmakers how much they can spend. They’ll have approximately $104.9 billion state dollars for general purpose spending during the 2018-2019 biennium.
This is about $7 billion less than the 2016-17 biennium (a 2.7% decrease). Hegar attributed the decrease in part to a drop in oil prices. “Ongoing weakness in activity related to oil and natural gas has been a drag on state economic growth and led to lagging revenue collections in 2016,” he said in a press release.
This page on the Comptroller’s website has several easy-to-follow resources that explain the BRE.
A big Texas presence in D.C.
The U.S. Congress is in session as of last week, and the Texas delegation has several key committee assignments: 

  • Senator John Cornyn (R), Finance and Majority Whip
  • Congressman Mike Conaway (R), TX 11, Chair of Agriculture
  • Congressman Mac Thornberry (R), TX 13, Chair of Armed Services
  • Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R), TX 5, Chair of Financial Services
  • Congressman Michael McCaul (R), TX 10, Chair of Homeland Security
  • Congressman Lamar Smith (R), TX 21, Chair of Science, Space, and Technology
  • Congressman Pete Sessions (R), TX 32, Chair of Rules
  • Appropriations:
    • Congresswoman Kay Granger (R), TX 12, Chair of Defense Subcommittee
    • Congressman John Culberson (R), TX 7, Chair of Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee
    • Congressman John Carter (R), TX 31, Chair of Homeland Security Subcommittee
    • Congressman Henry Cuellar (D), TX 28
  • Ways and Means:
    • Congressman Kevin Brady (R), TX 8, Chairman
    • Congressman Sam Johnson (R), TX 3, Chair of Social Security Subcommittee
    • Congressman Kenny Marchant (R), TX 24
    • Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D), TX 35
  • Financial Services:
    • Congressman Roger Williams (R), TX 25
    • Congressman Al Green (D), TX 9
    • Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (D), TX 15

Want to make a real difference? Come to Austin April 4
Texas real estate had one of the most successful legislative sessions ever in 2015 in part because thousands of Texas REALTORS® participated in REALTOR® Day at the Texas Capitol. 
This day-long event, previously known as Texas REALTOR® Hill Visits, brings thousands of Texas REALTORS® to the state Capitol to discuss real estate issues with legislators face-to-face. There's no better way to remind lawmakers that Texas REALTORS® are politically engaged than to show up in person!
Read a recap of the 2015 event in Texas REALTOR® magazine.
Contact your local association to make your plans to attend on April 4, 2017. (add to calendar)
What you can do about the Hidden Property Tax
Rising property taxes are forcing Texans out of their homes. But the problem isn’t increasing property values. The problem is tax rates aren’t being lowered enough to offset higher property values.
At TAR, we believe local taxing entities are hiding behind increased appraisals to justify increases in their budgets … even as local officials claim they haven’t raise taxes.
We call this the Hidden Property Tax.
An increase in property value should not be an automatic increase in property tax revenue. If more tax revenue is needed, a more honest and transparent conversation needs to occur so taxpayers completely understand why. But the current system is confusing, and it ends up with more Texans seeing a hidden property tax increase.
TAR’s campaign to educate property owners about this issue is in full swing. has received more than 75,000 page views and thousands of email signups since the site was launched. Our social media posts have reached more than 13 million people, and we continue to receive local and statewide media coverage.
As we move into the legislative session, we’ll be encouraging consumers to contact their legislators and tell them to consider all bills that would eliminate the hidden property tax and ensure more transparency and honesty when tax rates are adopted at the local level.
Here’s how you can spread the word:

  • Direct consumers to the Appraisal Lookup on, where they can see the five-year history of a property's appraised value and tax assessment. (Dallas, Denton, El Paso, Harris, and Travis counties are searchable now—more counties are coming soon.)
  • Sign up to receive updates when more information is added
  • Follow the Hidden Property Tax on Facebook and Twitter as we find examples of misinformation about property taxes across Texas.

Around the web

  • According to the Austin American-Statesman, Rep. Dawnna Dukes of Austin will be indicted on ethics violations.
  • In the Austin Business Journal: Bill Hammond, who retired as CEO of the Texas Association of Business last year, opened up shop as a lobbyist. His first major assignment: title-insurance reform.
  • How will the Lege fix the state’s complicated school finance system? Read more in The Texas Tribune.
  • Former Gov. Rick Perry’s confirmation hearing has agreed to sell his energy interests if confirmed as Energy Secretary, reports the San Antonio Business Journal. Perry’s confirmation hearing with the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will be Jan. 19 at 10 a.m. EST. C-SPAN will air the hearing live here.