Eye on Politics: First look at Texas budget proposals

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – This week’s episode of Eye on Politics (original air date: Dec. 19) covers the proposed state budget and the efforts by some lawmakers to “rein in” district attorneys who don’t enforce Texas law.

Every week, CBS 11 political reporter Jack Fink breaks down some of the biggest political stories grabbing headlines in North Texas and beyond. Watch the latest episode of Eye on Politics in the video player above and stream new episodes live every Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. on CBS News DFW.

Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick sworn in

Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick were sworn into office for their third terms this week. During their inauguration at the Texas Capitol, the state’s top Republican leaders outlined their visions for the next four years, promising property tax relief.   

In his most specific remarks to date, Patrick announced he wants to nearly double the homestead exemption, which is now $40,000, to $70,000, which he argues will save Texans thousands of dollars over the life of their homes, “enough to make a difference.”

During an interview with CBS 11, State Representative Ramon Romero Jr. (D-Fort Worth), said he agrees homeowners need a break, but that so do renters who also contribute to the Texas economy.   

“A lot of that came from sales tax and a lot of it came from the severance tax from fueling up our cars. How we return money to those folks is just as much of a question and I think that’s where some of the battles are going to come into play.”

Watch the video below to learn more about this week’s inauguration.

Texas Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick inaugurated for third terms


Reaction to the proposed budget   

The Republican majorities in the State House and Senate released their first budget proposals this week. The proposals released by each chamber of the legislature show a general funds budget of more than $130 billion, with agreement on a number of spending priorities:

  • Each chamber has set aside $15 billion dollars for property tax relief with details still having to be sorted out.  
  • Also addressed in the budget — school safety. After the deadly mass shooting in Uvalde, there’s at least $600 million for school safety measures in both the chambers’ budgets.
  • Lawmakers are looking to increase funding for mental health hospital beds by $2.3 billion in the House and $3 billion in the Senate.
  • Both budget proposals call for spending $4.6 billion to maintain current state border security operations.

The plans leave billions of dollars in revenue unspent because of a spending cap.  

State Senator Royce West, D-Dallas, agreed Wednesday the state shouldn’t spend all of the extra cash available. “We know we’re flush with resources that we’ve never had here in the State of Texas. That doesn’t mean we spend everything needless to say. While we’re flush with monies now, around the corner, we will need some of those dollars.”

State Representative Justin Holland, R-Heath said, “I do believe spending caps are important. I know there’s a lot of people, having served on Appropriations, a lot of people would wish we could spend all of it and a little bit more but in Texas, we like to operate like you should operate a budget in a household, not spend all the money.”

Here more from both State Sen. West and State Rep. Holland in the full episode of Eye on Politics.

Texas House & Senate agree on property tax relief, school safety, & border security funding


May elections filings begin

This week candidates for local mayor’s races, city councils and school boards are able to begin filing their paperwork to run for office.

The mayor’s of the three largest North Texas cities are up for re-election this May: Eric Johnson in Dallas, Mattie Parker in Fort Worth and Jim Ross in Arlington.

Effort to “rein in” district attorneys who disregard state law

This session the political hammer could fall on district attorneys in some of the state’s largest Texas counties. 

House Speaker Dade Phelan has said he wants to “rein in” rogue district attorneys who don’t enforce state law. Now there are bills filed in the House and the Senate that will allow the Texas Attorney General to file suit against DAs who aren’t complying.

“This is a very straightforward bill,” said State Rep. David Cook, R-Mansfield, who filed HB 1350 in the State House.

He said district attorneys who’ve pledged not to prosecute certain marijuana crimes or abortion cases are placing their personal politics over their job of evaluating each criminal case.

HB 1350, and an identical bill filed in the Senate, would allow the Texas Attorney General to sue the DAs, and if they’re found guilty in a jury trial, they could automatically be removed from office.

In addition, the DAs would face up to a $1,500 civil penalty for the first violation and up to $25,500 for each additional violation. 

Cook said, “It’s ridiculous that a step like this has become necessary. But when you have district attorneys that are being defiant saying we’re not going to prosecute certain crimes, then you have to have a process in place that provides repercussions for making bad decisions.”

CBS 11 emailed two officials with the Texas District and County Attorneys Association but didn’t hear back.

The organization’s website referred to the legislation as “shots across the bow” and “a narrative that has apparently become part of the partisan culture war at the national level.”

Cook responded by saying, “It’s quite frankly the opposite of what the statement says. The purpose of this bill is to remove politics from the courtroom.”

Learn more about the legislative efforts by watching the video below or by watching this week’s full episode of Eye on Politics.

New Texas bill could remove DAs who refuse to enforce certain laws


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