House amendment to appraisal reform bill would criminalize attempt by elected official to influence property tax appraisals

State Representative Terry Canales, Democrat of Edinburg.

The Golden Hammer Staff Reports

Austin, May 4 – In the process of passing a somewhat cumbersome appraisal district reform package, the Texas House of Representatives on April 26, 2021, passed an amendment to the bill which makes an attempt by any elected official to influence a property tax appraisal into a state jail felony. State Representative Tony Canales, Democrat of Edinburg, and State Representative Dustin Burrows, Republican of Lubbock and one of the most powerful members of the Texas House, were the authors of the amendment.

The Canales-Burrows amendment to House Bill 988 provides: “A member of the governing body, officer, or employee of a taxing unit commits an offense if the person directly or indirectly communicates with the chief appraiser or another employee of the appraisal district in which the taxing unit participates for the purpose of influencing the value at which property in the district is appraised. (b) An offense under this section is a state jail felony.”

The Texas House of Representatives passed the amendment on a unanimous voice vote. House Bill 988 passed on a 146 to 0 vote. The only representatives who didn’t vote for the bill were Dan Huberty, Phil King, Hubert Vo, and Speaker Dade Phelan.

While the legislative amendment has a good intention, it appears that most of the favorable treatment elected officials receive from local appraisal districts emanates from the appraisal district staff rather than from the elected officials themselves. One of the worst examples of favorable property tax appraisal treatment for an elected official was the home of former Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal. Please see “It’s good to be the king: Craig Doyal’s $110,000 house,” The Golden Hammer, April 19, 2017, https://thegoldenhammer.net/its-good-to-be-the-king-craigs-doyals-110000-house/

The day after this newspaper reported the story, about Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal’s $110,000 property tax appraisal, miraculously the Montgomery Central Appraisal District changed the favorable appraisal for the Montgomery County Judge to its proper $565,000! In other words, shining the light on that cozy little favoritism for the County Judge for the policy-making Board of Directors of the Montgomery Central Appraisal District, which at the time had two members of the Commissioners Court – Mike Meador and Charlie Riley – on it, brought the abuse to a swift conclusion.

The best cure for favorable property tax appraisal treatment for elected officials is to shine the light of day on the property tax appraisals. Unfortunately, the Texas House of Representatives also passed House Bill 1082 on April 8, 2021, on a 142 to 6 vote to protect the personal data and addresses of all Texas elected officials. Please see “Editorial: At a minimum, Senate State Affairs Committee should amend House Bill 1082 to ensure disclosure of local elected officials’ property tax appraisals history,” The Golden Hammer, April 28, 2021, https://thegoldenhammer.net/editorial-at-a-minimum-senate-state-affairs-committee-should-amend-hb-1082-to-ensure-disclosure-of-local-elected-officials-property-tax-appraisals-history/

House Bill 1082 remains pending before the Senate State Affairs Committee, which held a hearing last week.

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