Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick sat down at The Studios at DFW for a one-on-one interview Wednesday to discuss Texas' 85th legislative session.
Patrick is hopeful that property tax reform, and the Texas Privacy act, get further attention if there is a special session.
“The people want us to do our job, and they really don't care, in my view, if we have to stay a few extra months to do it. They don't care when we get home. They care that they can afford to live in their home and that is the property tax issue which impacts everyone, even if you live in an apartment. Property taxes are going up on the apartment owners and they pass that along through the rents,” said Patrick.
The House and Senate did not agree on a property tax reform bill. The Senate bill called for an automatic election that will let voters decide if a city or municipality decided to raise property taxes more than 4 percent. The House bill did not include that measure.
Patrick also wants to see legislation regarding bathrooms. The Senate bill that passed required Texans to use the gender that matches that on their birth certificates while in schools and public buildings. The House passed a bill that pertained to schools K-12. Patrick has said it did not do enough.
“The people of Texas, it is not controversial, don’t want their sons and daughters showering together in the 10th grade and they don’t want any man to walk into a ladies room at any time,” said Patrick.
There have been protests about the Senate bill throughout the session and businesses have expressed their concerns about it. Fourteen companies, including Facebook, Amazon and IBM, wrote a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott asking him not to pursue any discriminatory legislation.
“I don't care what some big company tells us what they want us to do in Texas. You know, we are a very pro-business state and we attract a lot of businesses. They are moving to the Dallas-Fort Worth area faster than you can count,” said Patrick.
Tension ran very high between Patrick and Republican House Speaker Joe Straus throughout the session. Patrick said Straus didn’t bring the property tax legislation that called for voter approval on property tax hikes above 4 percent to the floor and also said he didn’t give House members the opportunity to vote on the Texas Privacy Act.
Straus said at the end of the session, “It is absurd that bathroom bills have taken on greater urgency than fixing our school finance system."
Straus' communications director, Jason Embry, addressed property taxes Wednesday saying, "Schools are the biggest driver of local property taxes, and the Texas House approved a plan that would have relieved the property tax burden by increasing state funding for schools by $1.8 billion. The Lieutenant Governor and Senate supported a billion dollars less for schools, choosing instead to put that extra burden on local property taxpayers in Dallas and elsewhere."
Only the governor can call a special session and only the governor chooses the topics of a special session. A special session appears likely because a routine bill to extend the life of the Texas Medical Board did not get through. The bill regulates all of the doctors in the state.
All of this is happening about a year a half before the 2018 gubernatorial race. There have been questions as to whether the Patrick would challenge Abbott for the governor's mansion, but when asked about it again he reiterated previous answers.
“Absolutely not. I don’t know how many times I can say it. I had a press conference in January where I endorsed Greg Abbott,” said Patrick.