State Legislative

85th Legislative Session - Wrap up

1. Hazlewood Education Act.

Opponents of the Hazlewood Act were attempting to significantly change the eligibility for access to Hazlewood, limit the time that the benefits can be used, and significantly reduce the credit hours for degree completion.  

TCVO Objective:  Protect the education benefits earned by Texas military Veterans for themselves and for their families.

Summary: The Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) conducted a campaign to reduce benefits received by Veterans, their spouses, and dependents currently available under the terms and conditions of the Hazlewood Act. 

TCVO leadership along with our grassroots members attended and testified at all House Higher Education Committee (HHEC) hearings related to Hazlewood, presented testimony against changes to Hazlewood benefits and requirements, and responded to points brought forward by those seeking these changes.  It should be noted that none of the IHL’s provided public testimony in support of any of the Hazlewood reform proposals. Further, the Legislative Budget Board concluded in their April 27, 2017 Fiscal Note on Chairman Lozano’s HB 3766 that “the fiscal implications of the bill cannot be determined at this time” and “the net change in waived tuition and fee revenue at IHEs cannot be determined due to lack of information on the number of students affected by the various provisions of the bill”. Until we have independently and uniformly gathered data from all IHL Systems relating to Legacy students, this issue will likely remain unresolved.  Before the end of the Session any legislation proposing to alter Hazlewood, failed to be voted out of the HHEC and never reached the House.

Result:  mission accomplished.  No changes were made to Hazlewood benefits or requirements for use of these benefits. Hazlewood will remain as it has been subject to review during the 86th Interim Session.

Reason for good outcome:  There was an enormous effort and coordination by TCVO volunteers, by member VSOs and by individual Veterans.  This issue is too big for any one tactic to succeed.  Hazlewood really highlights why TCVO is needed and the type of success we can have when working together.  Thanks for your continued help, and congratulations to all who pitched in – this is your victory!   

Hazlewood Forecast:  Because Hazlewood is so important to all Veterans, our work on this issue is not over.  And because the IHL did not get the changes they wanted, they will be back to try again next session.  TCVO’s goal is to continue our good faith efforts to engage with legislative and university leadership in an effort to find a solution.  Hazlewood benefits will continue to be threatened until we can reach a solid, long term resolution that satisfies the basic IHL concerns while still providing stability and predictability for veterans looking to receive the benefits they have earned.  Only when we get a stable, predictable solution will this issue be resolved. 

2. Property Tax Relief for Veterans Disabled Less Than 100%

Proposes to change the set dollar amounts for four levels of VA disability ratings to a percentage figure.  The proposed % figures would be used to determine the annual property tax exemption dollar reduction when compared to the average appraised value of a principal residence in Texas.   
Summary:  any proposed tax relief for Veterans disabled less than 100% faced an uphill battle due to the shortfall of revenue to the State.  The shortfall is due to diminished oil and gas revenues concomitant with the significant reduction in consumer gas prices.  Any tax relief comes as an unfunded mandate from the State to the county appraisal districts.  This means that the appraisal districts must absorb any tax relief to Veterans disabled less than 100% without any financial support from the State.  TCVO anticipated the appraisal districts fight any significant tax relief.

Result:  as mentioned, the budget shortfall made any property tax relief an impossible task.  TCVO will work with House and Senate advocates for property tax relief for Veterans disabled less than 100% during the Interim.

3. Military Absentee Voting

If military absentee ballots go out late by any time frame (eg: hours or days), the grace period will increase to six (6) days to allow military absentee voters extra time to return the absentee ballot to the local clerk’s office to compensate for the late shipment and subsequent receipt from local election offices. 
Summary:  a simple, straightforward solution has been worked out between TCVO and the Office of the Secretary of State whereby the number of days allowed in the grace period will be changed from the originally proposed ten days to a compromised six days.  This is a Win/Win arrangement for all parties. 

HB 929: Adds 6 days to grace period for ballots to be counted.  The bill would amend the Election Code relating to the time for returning ballots mailed by certain federal postcard applicants. The Secretary of State assumes any additional work associated with implementing the provisions of the bill could be absorbed using existing resources. HB929 was approved by the House and Senate, and was signed by Governor Abbott on 6/15/2017; effective 1 September 2017. 

SB 752 pertains to overseas e-mail ballot program, and amends the Election Code to make permanent the program under which a member of the U.S. armed forces who is on active duty overseas and eligible for hostile fire pay is allowed to return an early voting ballot by email. SB 752 was signed by Governor Abbott on 5/27/2017 and is effective immediately.

Result: mission accomplished.

4. License Plates

HB979: issuance of specialty license plates for recipients of Star of Texas Award: effective 1 Sep 2017
HB2115:  issuance of specialty license plates to honor recipients of certain military awards; effective 9/1/17
HB3521:  Service Academies and specialty license plates (HB2308 was amended to this bill); signed by Governor 6/15/17; effective 9/1/17
SB441: eligibility of surviving spouses of disabled Veterans for specialty license plates; signed by Governor 6/9/17; effective 1 Sep 2017
SB1936:  issuance of specially marked driver's licenses and personal identification certificates to disabled veterans; signed by Governor 6/15/17; effective 9/1/17

5. Disabled Veterans

HB217:  authority of certain persons to defer or abate the collection of ad valorem taxes on a person's residence homestead. Signed by Governor; effective 9/1/17
HB626:  late applications for certain exemptions from ad valorem taxation; signed by Governor; effective 9/1/2017
HB1101:  Relating to the authority of the chief appraiser of an appraisal district to require a person to file a new application to confirm the person's current qualification for the exemption from ad valorem taxation of the total appraised value of the residence homestead of a 100 percent disabled veteran.  Signed by Governor; effective 1 Jan 2018.
SB15 (includes SJR1): Relating to an exemption from ad valorem taxation of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a first responder who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty. Signed by Governor 96/9/17; effective January 1, 2018, contingent upon approval by the voters of the constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad SRC-SWG S.B. 15 85(R) Page 3 of 3 valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a first responder who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty.
SB1047: installment payments of ad valorem taxes. Signed by Governor 6/12/17; effective 1/1/18.

6. General

HB66: determining eligibility for a Texas Armed Services Scholarship and appointment by elected officials of students to receive that scholarship; effective 9/1/2018
HB929:  Military Voting; adjusting the time in which to return ballots; passed Senate; signed in House 5/29/17; signed by Governor 6/15/17; effective 9/1/17
HCR45: urging Congress to bestow the Congressional Medal of Honor on Doris “Dorie” Miller for his heroism during World War II; signed by Governor 5/29/17
HCR56: recognizing Texas as a Purple Heart State; signed by Governor 5/29/17
SB277: windmills near military installations; approved in House; signed in Senate 5/29/17; signed by Governor 7/8/2017; effective 9/1/2017
SB578: Veteran suicide prevention; signed by Governor 6/9/17; effective 9/1/2017
SCR52: urging Congress to pass S2896: the Care Veterans Deserve Act of 2016.  Signed by Governor 5/23/147

Effective Immediately

  1. HB777: property tax relief for Military:  eligibility of land owned by certain members of the armed services of the United States for appraisal for ad valorem tax purposes as qualified open-space land
  2. HB1117: eligibility for Texas Armed Services Scholarship Program
  3. HB1492: creation of the National Museum of the Pacific War Museum fund
  4. SB587: virtual school network for military dependents
  5. SB752: overseas Military e-mail ballot program
  6. SB1152: excused absences from public school for the purpose of pursuing enlistment in a branch of the armed services of the United States or the Texas National Guard

Effective 1 Sept 2017

  1. H.B. 217 would amend Chapter 33, Tax Code, regarding property tax collections, to include "disabled veterans" who qualified for a residence homestead exemption to be permitted to defer collection of property taxes, abate a suit to collect a delinquent tax, or to abate a sale to foreclose a tax lien.
  2. HB257: Texas Work Force Commission report of transition from Military to employment
  3. HB271: establishment of the Veterans Recovery Pilot Program to provide certain veterans with hyperbaric oxygen treatment
  4. HB626:  extend the deadline for a late application for an exemption for a partially or totally disabled veteran from one year to five years after the delinquency date, bringing these exemptions in line with certain other exemptions.
  5. HB890:  impact of Military installations on purchases of real property
  6. HB1606 and HB1630:  authority of Texas Military Department to purchase food and beverages, and approval of expenditures
  7. HB1646:  waiver of certain fees for an assumed name certificate or statement of abandonment of the use of an assumed name by a military veteran
  8. HB1655:  report offenses committed by Texas Military Forces
  9. HB2007 and HB2933:  licensing and regulation of Military optometrists
  10. SB16:  reducing handgun license fees especially Military and Veterans
  11. SB102: relating to General Officers within the State military department
  12. SB588: relating to information regarding private employers who have Veteran’s employment preference policies
  13. SB1559: fee exemption for guardianship proceedings of certain military service members

Effective 1 Jan 2018

  1. HB493:  requires that the Texas Workforce Commission, in consultation with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), report how many academic or workforce credit hours are awarded each academic year.

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