By Matt Geske, VP Government Affairs

The special session of the 85th Texas Legislature ended Tuesday, August 15, a day before the official deadline.

After much discussion but little progress on the so-called “bathroom bill” during the regular session, Governor Abbott included bathroom (aka privacy) policies as one of his 20 agenda items for the 30-day special session.

Unlike during the regular session where business groups, including the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, stood in opposition of bathroom policies, individual companies, law enforcement and faith based groups flexed their muscles over three weeks of press conferences, lobby efforts and media buys.  In the end, strong leadership and courage, led by Speaker Joe Straus and House State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook, sank the bathroom bill.

Annexation legislation was also on the Chamber’s radar due to the potential impact of non-compatible growth around our military installation, Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base (NAS Fort Worth JRB).  Our region strongly supports our military, and the base is the third largest economic engine in North Texas.

“…take it or leave it…”

During the regular session, Representative Charlie Geren guided House Bill 890 (HB 890) to the finish line.  HB 890 requires sellers of property to disclose any military operations nearby.  After much deliberation behind the scenes, both legislative chambers agreed on an annexation bill that would provide a five-mile buffer zone around military installations that requires a city to submit a memorandum of understanding with the base in order to ensure compatible growth, which will help protect NAS Fort Worth JRB in the event Congress calls for a Base Realignment and Closure review.

After a year-long interim study on property tax roll-back elections and rates, no legislation was able to pass the regular session, therefore Governor Abbott asked the Senate and House to continue working towards a resolution.  Ultimately, the Senate bill required the automatic triggering of a roll-back election if the county exceeded a four percent threshold of tax growth, whereas the House favored a six percent threshold.  The House, instead of calling a conference committee with the Senate, said “take it or leave it” and gaveled out of session.

With that, the Senate agreed and the Legislature headed home one day ahead of schedule.