A Recap of the Texas Legislative Session
By Jenna Brockman, Legal Assistant
May 29th marked the end of the 85th Texas Legislative Session. Over 10,000 bills were introduced in the House and Senate this session; almost 5,000 bills passed, and a little over 1,000 have been signed by the governor. As advocates for Texas landowners, Braun & Gresham diligently monitored bills that could likely affect rural landowners. We work to protect you from unfair law, and we are committed to create, expand on and defend good law. Few Texans have the time and resources to track movement of legislation. As we help you obtain conservation easements, defend you in condemnation cases or protect you at the appraisal districts, we are also operating behind the scenes at the Texas Capitol to preserve your landowner rights.
We put together a short list (below) of bills that we followed. These bills have been signed into law by Governor Abbott. In the future, if you are curious about following actions in the legislature, one way to do so is via the internet at Texas Legislature Online.
HB 777 – Relating to the eligibility of land owned by certain members of the armed services of the United States for appraisal for ad valorem tax purposes as qualified open-space land.
Plain English summary: HB 777 will help ensure that deployed military members who are unable to continue using land for agricultural purposes are not unexpectedly hit with a large tax bill. HB 777 will help landowners avoid rollback taxes by extending the agricultural valuation until the owner is able to manage the land.
HB 3198 – Relating to the eligibility of land to continue to be appraised for ad valorem tax purposes as qualified open-space land if the land begins to be used for oil and gas operations
Plain English summary: The eligibility of land qualified for open-space land does not end because the owner begins an oil and gas operation so long as the land that is not being used for oil and gas operation continues to qualify for open-space.
SB 594 – Relating to the procedure for the approval of rules adopted by the comptroller relating to the appraisal of qualified open-space land and qualified timber land for ad valorem tax purposes.
Plain English summary: The comptroller will approve a set of rules related to the appraisal of qualified open-space and timber land. The Comptroller will then create a manual that contains the approved set of rules, and the comptroller will distribute the manual to each appraisal office. The rules must be approved by the Department of Agriculture. Each appraisal office will use the manual to enforce procedures to verify that the land meets the necessary requirements to approve open-space and/or timber land.
SB 762 – Relating to the prosecution of offenses involving cruelty to animals; increasing a criminal penalty
Plain English summary: S.B. 762 will increase the punishment for violent animal cruelty offenses and will address certain loopholes in current statute. S.B. 762 amends current law relating to the prosecution of offenses involving cruelty to animals. S.B. 762 also cleans up language to make activities such as hunting, fishing, trapping, wildlife management, or animal husbandry a defense to the prosecution rather than an exception.
SB 1459 – Relating to incentives to encourage landowners to destroy, remove, or treat citrus trees located in a pest management zone.
Plain English summary: A landowner will not lose his or her agriculture valuation because of a decrease in productivity if the landowner is located in a pest management zone and chooses to destroy, remove or treat citrus trees that are or could become infested with pests.
Keeping up with issues that affect Texas landowners is easy with Braun & Gresham’s Landowner Alert System (“LAS”). This free email service comes out once every two weeks and gives subscribers exclusive access to a range of information: from announcements about important changes in the law to alerts about upcoming educational seminars. Anyone interested in Texas land will benefit from the LAS. Sign up here.