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Two proposed amendments on May ballot

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  • Two proposed amendments on May ballot

Voters who go to the polls for municipal and school board elections on May 7 will also be asked to decide on two proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution.

Deputy Secretary of State Joe Esparza drew the ballot order last week for the two proposed amendments, both dealing with property taxes. The first proposition on May’s ballot would authorize the Legislature to cut the property tax limit for the homesteads of elderly or disabled residents “to reflect any statutory reduction from the preceding tax year.”

According to Ballotpedia.org, the measure would result in a reduction in revenue of $467.5 million in the first two years it is implemented. The measure passed unanimously in both chambers during the second special session.

The second proposed amendment would increase the homestead exemption for school district property taxes from $25,000 to $40,000. That measure, approved by the Legislature in October in another special session, also passed unanimously.

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, the author of the amendment, said, “People see the need for property tax relief, and Texans are going to cry out for that continuously. This is a great way to bring that home to all of the taxpayers of Texas.”

State signs deal with Tokyo

The state hopes to see expanded growth from Tokyo-based small and medium-sized businesses after signing a cooperative agreement with the Tokyo metropolitan government. The governor’s office of Economic Development and Tourism organized 18 local economic development partners across the state to provide resources to Tokyo businesses interested in expanding in Texas.

“Tokyo and Texas may be half a world apart, but we are closing that gap by facilitating more investment and economic development between our two regions,” Gov. Greg Abbott said. “I look forward to our continued work together as we create a more robust partnership and a more prosperous economic future.”

The Texas community partners include cities and economic development corporations from throughout the state. More than 400 Japanese companies have operations in Texas. Japan was the state’s sixth-largest export destination in 2020, with more than $9.8 billion in exported goods, including organic chemicals, industrial machinery, aircraft and spacecraft, fuel and oil.

Deadline extended for Uri reimbursement for schools

The deadline for public school districts and charter schools to seek reimbursement from the state for damages caused last year by Winter Storm Uri has been extended to Feb. 24, the Texas Education Agency announced. Any district located in an area declared a disaster after last February’s storm can apply for assistance for costs not covered by insurance or federal disaster relief.

Schools can receive reimbursement for uninsured damages to facilities, vehicles and computers.

TEA has posted two webinars explaining the program on YouTube, which can be found at https://tinyurl. com/y76tev3j

Panel to examine Rolling Pines wildfire

An independent panel has been formed to review the circumstances and causes of a recent prescribed burn at Bastrop State Park that got out of control and burned more than 800 acres. It forced about 250 families to temporarily evacuate, although no structures were damaged. The panel was ordered through the Texas A&M Forest Service and includes wildland fire experts from state forestry agencies in Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

Prescribed burns at Bastrop and Buescher state parks have been suspended until the review is complete and recommendations are evaluated.

“We fully support this independent review and will continue working every day to earn the public’s trust for the continued safe and effective use of prescribed fire,” said Carter Smith, executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “Prescribed burns are a carefully calculated risk but are essential in managing many of our habitats, landscapes and private and public lands across Texas, including the iconic Lost Pines Forest at Bastrop.”

“As a land management tool, prescribed fires are important and help minimize the threat and severity of major wildfires by reducing the amount of existing and dormant vegetation. If left unchecked, the excess of leaves and plants would fuel a minor situation into a major wildfire,” according to the department’s news release.

Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches and Cedar Park. Email: gborders@texaspress.com.