Monday, May 23, 2011

TCVO Legislative Priorities: Bill Status as of 22 May 2011

Texas Coalition of Veterans Organizations Priorities for 82nd Texas Legislature
As of 21 May 2011, Legislation filed in support of the proposed legislation:
1.  Transferring the 100% property tax reduction for 100% disabled veterans to their widows and/or eligible dependent children.  This will, of course, require a change to the Texas Constitution as well as enabling legislation. 
There one week left in the Session and two Senate bills have passed the Senate and are in the House Calendars Committee for scheduling: SB 516 (Patrick) and SJR 14 (Van de Putte | Davis).
Action needed:  grassroots support.  All veterans are requested to call their Representatives and Senators and ask for full support for these bills.
Process for implementation: a change to the Texas Constitution requires 2/3s approval of the House as well as the Senate and approval of the Governor allowing the bill to be placed on the November 2011 Special Election as a statewide Proposition.  The Proposition must then be approved by plebiscite vote.  If approved the effective date for bill implementation would be as stated in the enabling legislation.  The effective date for implementation has not been determined as of this date.
2.  Adjusting the dollar amount that will be used to reduce the appraised value of the principal residence/homestead of a veteran disabled less than 100%.  The maximum amount is $12,000.  That amount has not been changed since 2001.   
Questions that have been asked include:  when were the various amounts ranging from $5,000 to a maximum of $12,000 enacted into law?  What was the average value of property in Texas at the time that the exemption was enacted?  During the intervening years the dollar amount of the exemption has remained constant while property values have increased.
Strategy:  complete the financial impact study and have the proposed legislation added to the Lt Governor's list of issues to be researched for the 83rd Legislature as part of his Interim Study.  This will keep the proposed legislation viable for future consideration during a time of less financial volatility.
SB 540: Van de Putte filed 8 Feb 11 addresses the interim study.  SB 540 has passed both the Senate and the House and has been enrolled. The next step is the formal signing in the Senate and House prior to sending the Bill to the Governor for approval.
3.  Re-introduction of legislation to recognize Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business (SDVOB) as a category of small business with equal standing to State HUB (minority, women, etc) business enterprises.   
Financial impact on State and local revenue:  budget neutral.
·       Major obstacle to approval and implementation:  strong opposition and intense lobbying against SDVOB legislation from HUBs (Historically Underutilized Businesses).  HUBs traditionally are businesses owned by women, minorities, disabled, and other disadvantaged groups.  HUBs perceive SDVOBs as major competition for State contracts that have historically been reserved exclusively for HUBs.  SDVOBs have verbal support in the House and Senate, but due to intense HUB lobbying only two Representatives submitted our requested legislation.  Both HB 888 (Guillen) and HB 1096 (Farias) have been trapped in House Calendars.  NOTE:  if HB 888 is not amended to another fiscal bill from the Senate (SB 1811) then the House Defense Affairs Committee will be formally requested by TCVO to place the re-introduction of legislation to recognize Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business (SDVOB) as a category of small business with equal standing to State HUB (minority, women, etc) business enterprises in those topics to be researched during the Interim between the 82nd and 83rd Legislative Sessions.
4.  Expand, streamline, and simplify the military voting bill process for men and women in uniform serving overseas, under seas, and on temporary duty in the Continental USA.
Legislation filed in support of implementing the Federal MOVE Act in Texas:
·       Senate Bill: SB 100: Van de Putte:  has passed the Senate, was reported out of the House Defense Affairs Committee favorably, and is in the House is scheduled for review on the House floor on 5/24/11.
·       HB 1502: White: with wording similar to SB 100, has passed the House and is in the Senate State Affairs Committee.
·       SB 904 (Patrick et al): has passed the Senate, was reported out of the House Elections Committee favorably, and has been sent to House Calendars for scheduling.
Analysis:  since it is to the advantage of Texas Legislators to encourage voting by all constituents, and since Texas is military friendly, and since the Federal MOVE Act must be implemented, the proposed legislation will receive little or no opposition.  Major obstacle to approval and implementation:  the Texas State Affairs Committee is in the process of defining the methods of implementation to ensure full military enfranchisement.  Delays may occur at the voting district level, but the MOVE Act will be complied with before the end of the 82nd Texas Legislature.

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