The 84th Legislative Session doesn’t begin until mid-January, but one local representative is already gearing up by taking advantage of the opportunity to pre-file bills he wants the lawmakers to take up when the session starts..
State Rep. James White of House District 19 submitted more than a dozen bills on Nov. 10, the first day of early filing for the upcoming session. The Woodville Republican represents Hardin, Jasper, Newton, Polk and Tyler counties.
“Since I was unopposed in the primary and unopposed in the general election, I’ve been busy working all year for my constituents (instead of campaigning),” White said in a telephone interview.
“Voters in the last election cycle were crystal clear,” he said. “They want me to work to boost the private sector, secure our borders, increase their educational opportunities and uphold the Constitution.”
Among the bills he filed Monday are HB 83 and HB 84, which relate directly to the economy of his district in the Piney Woods of east Texas, where timber is a major industry.
HB 83 would allow a taxable entity to subtract the direct costs of acquiring or producing the timber, regardless of whether the taxable entity owns the land, the harvested timber of the wood products resulting from the harvested timber, including the costs of moving harvesting equipment, severing timber, transporting timber to and from a mill or delivery point, storage and maintenance of equipment and other supplies, labor, freight and fuel.
HB 84 would exclude certain funds used to determine total revenue for purposes of the franchise tax for entities engaged in harvesting trees for wood. The excluded funds would be “payments made by the taxable entity to a person who owns or controls the land from which the trees are harvested,” the text of the bill reads.
“We need to eliminate the franchise tax, it’s very complicated and very hard on business,” White said. “The impact of the tax is negative and unfair to small businesses and logging contractors.”
On Nov. 12, White filed another proposed bill dealing with the Texas economy – the oil and gas industry.
HB 251 would authorize a study and report on the feasibility of allowing the Railroad Commission of Texas or other state regulatory agency to process applications for drilling or reentry of oil and gas wells under federal lands.
“The federal process is slow, and Texas is losing revenue that could go to our schools and local governments,” he said.
“We kicked off the oil and gas industry. We know how to permit, we know how to lay pipelines, we know how to drill. Our Railroad Commission knows how to get in and get those natural resources we have been blessed with. Let us take off the shackles of federal regulations and move toward energy independence and economic growth.”
Another bill White pre-filed is HB 86, which would create a select committee to evaluate the effects of elimination or reduction of federal funding.
The Select Committee on Budget Dependence would conduct a study on the percentage of the state budget that is funded by federal money and the effects on the state budget “if federal fiscal policy necessitates a significant reduction in or elimination of federal funding for state governments and would create a plan to address the loss of federal money, including how to maintain benefit programs like the federal Medicaid matching money and federal social security payments,” the bill states.
“There is so much dysfunction in (Washington) D.C.,” White said. “And when you look at our state budget, you will see that a considerable portion comes from the federal government. If the federal government can’t deal with the $17 trillion debt or its budget, we want to know where we stand. Texas needs a plan to make sure we can continue the programs that our citizens need.”
The bills filed early by White are among more than 350 submitted in the first week pre-filing was available. White said he had "more to come."