AUSTIN — Top state officials last week named members to the Texas Public School Finance Commission, an agency created by legislation passed last summer during a special session of the 85th Texas Legislature.
Gov. Greg Abbott named Scott Brister of Waco, a former justice of the Texas Supreme Court, as chair of the commission.
• Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick named his appointees to the commission:
• Senate Education Chairman Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood;
• Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston;
• Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas; and
• Doug Killian, Pflugerville Independent School District superintendent.
House Speaker Joe Straus announced his appointees:
• House Public Education Committee Chair Dan Huberty, R-Houston;
• Rep. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio;
• Rep. Ken King, R-Canadian; and
• Nicole Conley Johnson, chief financial officer, Austin Independent School District.
“Reforming the school finance system in order to give schools more resources and reduce the burden on local property taxpayers has been and will continue to be a priority of the Texas House,” Straus said.
“Establishing the School Finance Commission was landmark legislation in the special session. This will be the first school reform commission since the Perot Commission in 1984,” Patrick said.
The commission is tasked with developing recommendations related to:
(1) The purpose of the public school finance system and the relationship between state and local funding in that system;
(2) The appropriate levels of taxes for local maintenance and operations, plus interest and sinking funds, necessary to implement a public school finance system that complies with the requirements under the Texas Constitution; and
(3) Policy changes to the public school finance system necessary to adjust for student demographics and the geographic diversity in the state.
The deadline for the commission to make its recommendations is Dec. 31, 2018.
Governor extends declaration
Gov. Greg Abbott on Dec. 18 issued a proclamation extending the State Disaster Declaration for Texas counties affected by Hurricane Harvey.
The proclamation ensures that the 60 counties included in the disaster declaration continue to be eligible for assistance as they recover and rebuild after Hurricane Harvey.
State Disaster Declarations must be renewed every 30 days for assistance to remain available.
Tax amnesty program set
State Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Dec. 21 announced a temporary tax amnesty program to give certain delinquent taxpayers “a chance to make their accounts compliant with state tax law without incurring penalties and interest on tax due.”
The Texas Tax Amnesty Program, set to run from May 1 to June 29, 2018, applies to periods prior to Jan. 1, 2018, and only includes liabilities that have not been previously reported to the Office of the Comptroller.
Passed by the Texas Legislature in 2017, Senate Bill 1 required the Office of the Comptroller to establish the program to encourage voluntary reporting by:
• Delinquent taxpayers who do not have a Texas Sales and Use Tax Permit, or are not registered for a tax or fee administered by the Comptroller’s Office; and
• Taxpayers who have a permit, but may have underreported or owe additional taxes or fees.
Hegar unveils website
Comptroller Hegar on Dec. 18 announced the Unclaimed Property Division’s new and improved website, ClaimitTexas.org, a way for Texans to search for their unclaimed money.
“I am proud of our unclaimed property program, which has returned about $800 million to its rightful owners since I’ve been comptroller,” Hegar said. “The newly redesigned website makes it even easier for users to search for unclaimed property and I encourage everyone to go online, take a look around and see if there is money waiting for you or your loved ones.”
More than $2 billion in unclaimed property has been returned to rightful owners since the program began in 1962. People without Internet service may call 800-321-2274 to check for unclaimed property in their name.
DPS: Give safe travel
The Texas Department of Public Safety on Dec. 18 reminded drivers that by staying sober and following basic traffic laws, they can give their fellow motorists the gift of safe travels this season.
In an effort to increase safety on Texas roadways, state troopers will conduct traffic patrols throughout the holiday weekends of Dec. 24–27 and Dec. 31–Jan. 1, looking for drunken drivers, speeders, seat belt violators and other dangerous drivers. Many local law enforcement agencies also will increase enforcement efforts over the holidays.
Ed Sterling is director of member services for the Texas Press Association.