Texas Attorney General fights SB4 and school district tax law violations

Attorney General Ken Paxton and wife Angela with former U.S. President George W. Bush (Paxton Facebook)

Paxton vows to fight Senate Bill 4

Takes on school districts that violate Texas law

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today expressed his disappointment after a U.S. District Court judge in Austin refused his request to consolidate the multiple lawsuits filed against SB 4. He vowed to continue fighting for Senate Bill 4 and today’s ruling has no effect on the merits of the SB 4 cases still pending in San Antonio. SB 4 is scheduled to take effect September 1. 

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“We were first to file a lawsuit concerning SB 4, filed this case in the only proper court, and moved quickly to consolidate other lawsuits against SB 4 in Austin,” Attorney General Paxton said. “The health, safety, and welfare of Texans is not negotiable. We’re disappointed with the court’s ruling and look forward to pressing our winning arguments in the San Antonio cases and beyond (if necessary) on this undoubtedly constitutional law.”

Senate Bill 4 affirms the right and duty of law enforcement agencies throughout Texas to detain individuals pursuant to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) federal detainer program. The program enforces immigration law and helps prevent dangerous criminals from being released into Texas communities.

Property Tax Lawsuit

Paxton today also intervened in a property tax lawsuit against Dumas Independent School District, stating that the district violated state law and the Texas Constitution when it reduced the district’s local option homestead exemption. Attorney General Paxton filed similar interventions against the White Deer and Kilgore Independent School Districts in September 2016. 

“You cannot pick and choose when it comes to following the law.”

The Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 1 and Senate Joint Resolution 1 in May 2015 with near universal support—138 votes in the House (with no votes against) and 25 in the Senate. That same year, 86% of voters ratified the amendment—one of the highest amendment margins in recent history. The law provided a much needed property tax reduction to homesteaders in Texas with no downside to school districts since the Legislature paid for the tax breaks in the state budget. Still, school districts such as Dumas Independent School District chose to reduce or repeal their local option homestead exemption and assess homeowners a tax rate that is in violation of the law.

“The school district is taking Texas homeowners’ hard-earned money in violation of Texas law,” Attorney General Paxton said. “I am confident that the local taxpayers and the State will prevail in this lawsuit and the suits to come. You cannot pick and choose when it comes to following the law.”

Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), who authored the bill, has previously said: “SB 1 clearly stated that the tax relief approved in the 84th Legislative session was over and above any local option homestead exemption. Implementation of the law needs to be uniformly enforced across the state.”

In addition to Dumas, Kilgore, and White Deer school districts, 17 other school districts reduced or repealed their local option homestead exemptions in 2015; Bridge City, Broaddus, Christoval, Daingerfield-Lone Star, Excelsior, Groesbeck, Gruver, Hardin-Jefferson, High Island, Kountze, Lexington, Mount Pleasant, Riviera, Shepherd, Spurger, Veribest, and Winfield.

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