AUSTIN — The House on May 4 approved HB 4765, legislation to raise the small business exemption to the state margins tax from $300,000 to $1 million but only for years 2010-11.
The primary author of the bill is Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville. One of the bill’s four co-authors, Rep. Bill Callegari, R-Katy, said the timing of the new margins tax could not have been worse on Texas businesses because tax bills came due right as the economy began to worsen. “By raising the revenue exemption, small businesses will get some needed relief to help deal with the terrible aftershocks of the economic crisis,” he said.
Next, the Senate Finance Committee will consider the bill.
The margins tax has evolved over recent sessions of the Legislature.
The 2005 Legislature, in its 3rd called session, revised the state’s franchise tax to by basing it on gross margins and businesses with total revenue of less than $300,000 were exempted from paying the tax.
In 2007, the Legislature enacted a sliding scale of franchise tax discounts for businesses with revenue between $300,000 and $900,000.
Senate approves CHIP bill
Families that earn more than the federal poverty level but still can’t afford health coverage would be able to buy into state health insurance for their children under SB 841 passed by the Senate on May 6.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) covers families whose annual income is less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $44,000 for four-member family.
Sen. Kip Averitt, R-Waco, said his bill aims to make it so families “will have the opportunity to pay part of the premium, so that they can grow into fully paying for their own health insurance for their own children.”
SB 841 would create a program where families that make up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, about $66,000 for a family of four, could pay part of the premiums and buy in to CHIP coverage.
The bill moves to the House for further consideration.
DPS chief resigns, interim named
Col. Stanley Clark, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety since September 2008, announced his resignation on May 4 after allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace against him were made public.
Allan B. Polunsky, chair of the Texas Public Safety Commission, the agency that oversees the DPS, accepted Clark’s resignation and named Lamar Beckworth of Austin as the interim director. Col. Beckworth has been a DPS officer for 31 years. He is the first African-American to lead the agency.
Ag chief requests fire assistance
North Texas wildfires over Easter weekend and recent weeks contributed to losses estimated at more than 220,000 acres of pasture, roughly 1,500 miles of fence and almost 500 cattle and calves.
Wildfires cost Texas farmers and ranchers about $35 million during March and April, and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said that is why he has requested USDA assistance.
In a May 5 letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Staples asked for access to emergency loans and other forms of needed assistance for producers in 18 counties including: Archer, Baylor, Callahan, Clay, Cooke, Eastland, Hamilton, Hood, Jack, Montague, Palo Pinto, Parker, Shackleford, Stephens, Wheeler, Wichita, Wise and Young.
In light of drought-related fires that ravage the state, a constitutional amendment proposed by Rep. Valinda Bolton, D-Austin, would authorize emergency services districts to impose an additional ad valorem tax not to exceed 5 cents per $100 valuation for the acquisition of land, equipment, or apparatus or the construction of capital improvements, with district voter approval. Bolton’s HJR 112 is awaiting a vote by the full House.
Cap on tuition, fees is approved
The Senate on May 4 unanimously approved a bill to cap tuition increases and mandatory fees for resident undergraduates at many public universities in Texas.
Authored by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, SB 1443 would establish a 5 percent per year cap, or the rate of inflation based on a three-year average, whichever is less. Affected would be 17 universities whose total academic cost exceeds the state median, just above $5,000 in 2009.