WEEK IN REVIEW
PAXTON IMPEACHMENT TRIAL SET FOR SEPTEMBER 5TH
(AUSTIN) — The Senate on Wednesday gave unanimous approval to a resolution requiring impeached Attorney General Ken Paxon to appear in person before the body on September 5th to answer charges laid out by the House. The Senate also adopted rules and procedures for the trial, setting forth protocols for witnesses, subpoenas, evidence, and other critical matters. "The citizens of Texas can count on the Senate of Texas to have a fair and just trial,” said Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who will act as presiding officer for the proceedings.
The rules include a broad-reaching gag order preventing any of the members or any counsel representing either party from commenting publicly on the upcoming trial. “Now that the court of impeachment has been called, no members of the court, staff of members of the court, presiding officer of the court, legal counsel of the presiding officer shall discuss or comment on any matter relating to the merits of the proceedings before the court of impeachment,” Patrick read from the rules approved 25-3 by the body. Members are also barred from discussing the merits of the case amongst themselves or pushing for a verdict before the Senate opens official deliberations on the case.
Paxton was impeached by the House on the last weekend of the regular session for a number of offenses of abuse of office in connection with his relationship with an Austin real estate developer. The Senate will consider sixteen of the twenty impeachment articles brought by the House; the remaining four, all relating to Paxton's 2015 indictment on securities fraud, can be considered by the Senate after rulings on the other articles have been determined. Two-thirds of members must vote to convict and remove Paxton from office. Under state law, he has been suspended from office for the duration of his trial.
Also this week, the Senate made a final offer for property tax relief before the first called session ends next week. Tuesday, the body gave unanimous approval to a measure that adds business tax relief to the existing Senate plan, raising the total tax cut to $18 billion - the largest in history said Lt. Governor Patrick. The bill still includes the increase in the homestead exemption from $40,000 to $100,000, a point that the Senate has refused to budge on. According to bill author and Houston Senator Paul Bettencourt, the bill will save the average homeowner more than $1,200 on their annual local school property tax bill between the new exemption and additional tax compression.
The new provisions would reduce the number of businesses paying the state franchise tax, exempting businesses with less than $2.57 million in annual revenue, more than double the current exemption threshold of $1 million. Bettencourt said this will take more than 67,000 small Texas businesses off the tax rolls. The bill would also do away with the filing requirement for businesses that owe no franchise taxes. Bettencourt said it's a nuisance to require businesses that owe nothing to file a statement affirming that or face a fine “One point seven million businesses have to turn that form in and if they don’t, they get a $50 penalty,” he said. “All that’s gone in this bill. So, we’re saving businesses not only money but their time.”
The bill's chances for passage this session are almost nil, with the first special session set to expire next Tuesday and the House still absent from the Capitol. It could, however, start as a negotiation point for the next special session, as Governor Greg Abbott has vowed to call special after special until the chambers can come to an agreement on property taxes. Patrick called on Abbott to endorse the deal following Tuesday's passage. “I know that the governor and the House wanted all compression, under our plan, about 71 percent would go to compression,” said Patrick. “These members are not going to give up the homestead exemption.”
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, June 27, at 1 p.m.