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Lawsuits from far-right activists throw voter-approved property tax cuts into limbo

Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, talks about Senate Bill 6 during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Jurisprudence on December 1, 2023.
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
/
The Texas Newsroom
Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, talks about Senate Bill 6 during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Jurisprudence on Dec. 1, 2023.

The Texas Senate passed a measure Friday that would significantly shorten the window to challenge a constitutional amendment election. Senate Bill 6 is an effort to skirt lawsuits filed by far-right activists that could impact the constitutional amendments — including property tax cuts and raises for retired teachers — that voters approved in November.

Senate Bill 6 was filed by Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, and the Senate approved it hours later.

The lawsuits that sparked Hughes’ proposal were filed by activists who stand by debunked theories challenging last month's election results, The Texas Tribune reported Friday. Even though voters overwhelmingly approved a majority of the constitutional amendments, they wouldn’t be enacted until the lawsuits have been decided.

"So, if this bill is not passed, and if this case is slow in the courts … that means the property tax cuts that Texans are expecting are in jeopardy,” Hughes said. “That means our retired teachers who are relying on this long-overdue cost-of-living increase for our retired teachers or retired school employees are in jeopardy.”

According to The Texas Tribune, the lawsuits “are based on false claims that Texas’ voting equipment is not certified and that voting machines are connected to the Internet. Gov. Greg Abbott has not certified the results of the election and won’t be able to until the lawsuits are resolved in the courts.”

SB 6 would require any trial regarding a constitutional amendment election challenge to happen no later than 50 days after the election.

It would also expedite the appeals process. Under current law, a ruling can be appealed with the court of appeals, and a ruling by that court could be appealed with the Texas Supreme Court. Texas' highest court currently has 180 days to issue an opinion. SB 6 would shorten that window to 30 days.

SB 6 would apply retroactively to constitutional amendment elections that happened on or after Nov. 1, 2023.

Hughes told reporters his bill is not trying to take away the rights of the people who filed the lawsuits.

“This just says the court has to rule quickly so the people of Texas aren't waiting around to see what the result is,” he said.

Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, asked why there was a group of voters questioning the November election at all.

“Denying an election? Gee, I wonder where they would have come up with that,” Alvarado said.

Hughes has previously made baseless claims regarding election security and has authored legislation tightening Texas' election rules. Property tax cuts were among Gov. Greg Abbott’s legislative priorities this year.

It’s unclear whether the Texas House will vote on the measure. The House left Friday afternoon and will reconvene next week. The current special legislative session must adjourn by Dec. 6.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is the Texas Capitol Reporter for The Texas Newsroom. Got a tip? Email him at smb@kut.org. Follow him on Twitter @SergioMarBel.
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