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May 8, 2001     (512) 463-0300

Proposed Tax Exemption
Creates a Stir

AUSTIN - Legislation that would provide a tax exemption in San Antonio became the subject of much debate in the Senate today after an amendment was added that would include another city.

The Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 1558, authored by San Antonio Sen. Frank Madla, would return the development authority for the former Kelly Air Force Base to tax-exempt status. The Edgewood Independent School District, one of the poorest in the state, is located near Kelly.

The Kelly property has never been taxed because it was a federal military installation. The loss of tax-exempt status for the development authority now overseeing the former base jeopardizes 19,000 civilian jobs in the area, Madla said.

A floor amendment by Waco Sen. David Sibley to also provide tax-exempt status to a former military base in his district -- that was closed in the 1960s -- brought several senators to their feet in opposition.

Senate Education Committee Chair Teel Bivins of Amarillo reminded his colleagues that property taxes are the basis for public school funding and said the amendments chip away at that tax base.

"A vote for this amendment and for this bill is a vote against the schoolchildren of Texas," Bivins said.

Corpus Christi Sen. Carlos F. Truan, the chair of the Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee, speaking on Sibley's amendment, said the Kelly closing would have a huge impact on the San Antonio area.

Sibley replied that Boeing, which has operations at Kelly, would have a competitive advantage against Raytheon, which has operations at the former base in Waco, if it had a tax break and Raytheon did not.

"I'm asking for fair play," Sibley said, adding that Raytheon is Waco's largest employer.

Truan further criticized the additional amendment, saying the bill would look like a "Christmas tree" by the time it travels through the legislative process.

"God knows how many more amendments will go on," Truan said.

Bivins then proposed an amendment to Sibley's amendment that would also give tax-exempt status to an old base located in Amarillo. Several other senators followed suit, suggesting amendments that would benefit their districts, including one by El Paso Sen. Eliot Shapleigh that would extend tax-exempt status to the 13 counties along the border with Mexico. Neither Shapleigh nor the other senators made a motion for consideration of their amendments.

Although Bivins said he was trying to make a point, the Sibley amendment, including Bivins' amendment to the amendment, was added to the bill by a vote of 24 in favor to 4 opposed. The bill was finally approved on a 22 to 5 vote.

Earlier in today's session, the Senate took up legislation authored by Lubbock Sen. Robert Duncan that would allow local taxing jurisdictions more freedom to grant exemptions on interstate goods-in-transit, products housed in Texas warehouses for less than 175 days. The legislation, CSSB 174 and the Committee Substitute for Senate Joint Resolution 6, was quickly approved with little debate.

The Senate also today approved a bill authored by Austin Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos that would require certain sex offenders to stay at least 1,000 feet away from places where children routinely gather, such as schools and daycare centers.

The bill, Senate Bill (SB) 107, was the subject of a lengthy debate when it originally came up for consideration on March 19. Several senators, including Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chair Mike Moncrief of Fort Worth and John Whitmire of Houston, questioned the bill's impact on existing parole offices and treatment centers.

Today's approval of the bill included an amendment that was added by Whitmire when the bill was first debated in March. The amendment would allow exceptions for visits to parole offices and treatment centers.

The Senate stands adjourned until 8 a.m. Wednesday, when it will convene to consider redistricting plans.

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