The following topics were identified as platform items for the Tax Assessor-Collectors Association of Texas during the 86th Legislative Session.
Texas Sunset Commission – Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
- H.B. 604 was effective on Sept. 1, 2019. The bill relates to the continuation and functions of the Texas DMV and to the operations of certain other entities performing functions associated with the department. The Texas Sunset Commission’s review process examines the agency for the purpose of making improvements to troubled programs and/or eliminating redundancies within the organization. The new legislation states that the DMV board will adopt rules and policies that establish standards for reviewing contested cases. The bill also:
- authorizes a licensed salvage vehicle dealer to buy and/or sell salvage and non-repairable motor vehicles that have been issued a salvage or non-repairable vehicle title;
- authorizes the use of digital license plates;
- establishes a risk-based system for monitoring and preventing fraud related to vehicle registration and titling;
- authorizes the DMV and the tax assessor-collector to audit, perform a compliance review, or investigate a person providing titling and registration services by March 1, 2020;
- requires the DMV to implement and complete a registration and title system training program by Dec. 1, 2019;
- requires all county tax assessor-collectors to make WebDealer available to all motor vehicle dealers and allow them to submit titling and registration applications electronically by Sept. 1, 2020; and
- requires counties to comply with state contracting practices and establishes specific criteria for contracts with full-service deputies. Contracts must be rebid by March 31, 2020.
- S.B. 616 was effective on Sept. 1, 2019, unless noted below. The bill relates to the continuation and functions of the Department of Public Safety (DPS) of the State of Texas, the conditional transfer of the driver’s licensing program to the Texas DMV, the abolition of the Texas Private Security Board, the transfer of the motorcycle and off-highway vehicle operator training programs to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, and the regulation of other programs administered by the DPS. The legislation also addresses penalties and fees.
- The bill authorizes a conditional transfer of the driver’s license program from DPS to the DMV on Sept. 1, 2021, including existing rules, policies, fees, contracts, pending contested cases, property, funds, full-time employees and more.
- The bill extends the renewal requirement from six to eight years for driver’s licenses, provisional licenses, learner’s licenses, occupational licenses, and other licenses specified by the bill.
- Fees for driver’s license renewals are increased to accommodate the extended renewal period.
Texas Sunset Commission – Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC)
- H.B. 3754 was effective on Sept. 1, 2019. The bill supports and actively engages in legislation amending the TABC to allow local taxing units to contract with private entities for the purpose of collecting local delinquent alcohol beverage license fees owed to the county. Currently, cities and counties have limited options for recovering delinquent alcohol permit and license fees.
- This bill amends the Alcoholic Beverage Code to allow cities and counties to contract with a third-party vendor for collection of the fee once it becomes 60 days late.
- The bill authorizes the third-party vendor to assess a collection fee in addition to collecting the fee owed to the city or county.
- Lastly, H.B. 3754 allows the commission to suspend or cancel the permit if the fee is not paid within 180 days of the fee being levied.
Ad Valorem Tax Reforms
- H.B. 492 will be effective Jan. 1 of this year. Hurricane Harvey’s destructive power demonstrated a significant need for taxing jurisdictions to have options for reappraisals or exemptions for property destroyed in natural disasters. The bill allows elected officials to act as a resource on how an optional temporary local exemption from ad valorem taxation of certain property damaged by disasters would work logistically.
- H.B. 2 supports legislation that promotes transparency in tax rate calculations and tax rates imposed by any local jurisdiction. Most of the provisions of S.B. 2 are effective this month, January 2020. The bill lowers the percent increase that an entity can increase tax revenue without approval from the voters through a mandatory vote.
- B. 2 makes changes to the process a county uses to adopt a tax rate, the manner in which a county will calculate the tax rate, and the tax appraisal process.
- The term “rollback tax rate” has been changed to “voter-approval tax rate” and has been lowered to 3.5 percent. If a county adopts a tax rate of 3.5 percent or greater, an automatic election will be triggered for November.
- The voter-approval tax rate can be modified by special adjustments such as including any unused increment rate, or utilizing special provisions that pertain to a county with a hospital district, experience a natural disaster, or incur indigent defense expenses, among other considerations.
- The comptroller will disseminate new forms to assist all taxing entities in calculating a tax rate for 2020.
By Ronnie Keister, Lubbock County Tax Assessor-Collector
Amber Layton, Lubbock County Special Projects Coordinator, and Katy Estrada, TAC Legislative Manager, contributed to this article. Sources: 2019 TACA Texas Legislative Agenda and TAC 2019 Legislative Analysis Report