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Property tax cuts go into effect


A total of $18 billion in property tax cuts were approved by more than 80% of voters in the November general election and should be reflected in property tax bills that are due by Jan. 31. The cuts come in the form of increased home exemptions, lower school district rates, and limiting the amount property appraisals can rise.

Many taxing districts sent out bills before the election that factored in the decrease, anticipating voter approval. For example, in Gregg County in Northeast Texas, the tax bill noted on the back sheet that the lower amount was contingent on voter approval of the proposed amendments. If the amendments had not passed, taxpayers would be billed for the difference.

According to the state comptroller’s office, a typical homestead valued at $350,000 will see a tax savings of about $1,000. Prior to the approval of the tax cuts, Texas ranked sixth highest in the nation in property tax rates, partly because the state does not have a state income tax.

Paxton impeachment cost taxpayers $4.3 million

The Dallas Morning News reported last week that the taxpayer cost of impeaching Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was more than $4.3 million. More than two dozen lawyers worked to prosecute Paxton leading up to and during his two-week trial in the Senate. That chamber acquitted him of all 20 charges after the House voted overwhelmingly to impeach Paxton, who is under indictment for securities fraud and was accused of abuse of office.

Lawyers billed more than 7,800 hours related to Paxton’s impeachment, The News reported after seeking copies of all invoices and related documents. Co-counsel Dick DeGuerin defended the amount of work done by attorneys.

“Everything we did was justified, and I won’t retreat from that statement ever,” DeGuerin said. “We presented strong evidence that Paxton just surrendered the power of his office in a corrupt way. It’s just that his financial supporters threatened retaliation against the Republicans that would have voted for conviction.”

Paxton has vowed to campaign in the Republican primary against House members who voted for his impeachment, especially House Speaker Dade Phelan.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Paxton said in a statement released by his campaign. “Whether it’s the House costs, Senate costs, or the overall impeachment session costs, many millions more were incurred on Dade Phelan’s sham and needless impeachment.”

Phelan said Paxton’s refusal to testify before the House on a proposed $3.3 million settlement of a whistleblower lawsuit prompted the investigation that led to the impeachment.

“The investigation, impeachment, and trial of Ken Paxton shed a clear, unflinching light on who Paxton is and the lengths to which he will go to stay in power,” Phelan said in a statement.

Texas members of Congress face sparse election opposition

Texas has 38 seats in the U.S. House, and 35 incumbents are seeking re-election, the Texas Standard reported. Of that number, 16 do not have a primary challenger, while five will face no opposition in the general election as well.

Of the remaining three seats — all in North Texas — two members are retiring, while U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, D-Dallas, opted to run against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz next November.

“It is not at all uncommon for incumbents to pretty much coast to reelection, even if they are challenged in the primary or the general election. Incumbents have an enormous advantage in name I.D. and ability to fundraise, connections and networks within the district,” Todd Gillman of The News said.

Board signs off on school library book rules

The State Board of Education approved guidelines for Texas school libraries to use in implementing policies to ban the possession or purchase of books considered “sexually explicit.” The guidelines follow passage of a bill in the last regular session requiring book vendors to supply ratings for titles that contain sexual content. The law is being challenged in court by a coalition of book vendors and associations.

“It was a work of deep value and importance to bring the library standards to fruition. In Texas, parents have been identifying this issue to schools without the necessary support of law,” said SBOE member Audrey Young, R-Trinity.

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission must also adopt the standards. Each of the state’s 1,000-plus school districts must approve a policy that explains how school libraries acquire books and other materials.

Judge upholds ban of TikTok on state-issued devices

An Austin federal judge last week upheld the state’s ban of TikTok on government-issued devices such as phones, laptops or tablets, kut.org reported. U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman upheld the policy that was challenged by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which claimed the ban was unconstitutional.

“Texas’s TikTok ban is limiting the use of an app on state-provided devices and networks, which is not a blanket prohibition,” Pitman wrote. The ban followed concerns that the Chinese company that owns TikTok — a social media platform — could provide sensitive data to the Chinese government.

TikTok spent about $1.5 billion on an initiative called Project Texas to address national security concerns. The Biden administration has called for the company to sell TikTok or face a national ban. A bill passed by Congress bans its use on federal government devices.

Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches, Lufkin and Cedar Park. Email: gborders@texaspress.com.


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