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Proponents are calling it the “biggest property tax cut in Texas history.” Both chambers of the Texas Legislature passed an $18 billion package during the second special session, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
If signed as expected by Gov. Greg Abbott, the bill raises the homestead exemption to $100,000, with an additional $40,000 exemption for owners 65 and older. It also dedicates more than $12 billion to lower school property taxes.
Agreement on a tax cut plan took months of haggling between competing plans in the House and Senate. After House Speaker Dade Phelan and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick met, a plan began to fall into place.
“I thank my partners in the Texas Legislature for coming together to honor the best interests of hardworking Texans who want to own their property—not rent it from the government,” Abbott said in a statement following the passage of the tax plan.
The Legislature adjourned after passage of the bill in the House. Another special session is likely in the fall to address Abbott’s bid to enact a school voucher plan.
Second heat wave means record demand on grid
The second heat wave of the summer means the state’s power grid is breaking records for demand almost daily, the Houston Chronicle reported. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is forecasting several thousand megawatts of excess supply, with demand late last week exceeding 84,000 megawatts. ERCOT manages the power grid serving about 90% of the state, except for part of East Texas and the El Paso area.
Excessive heat warnings have been issued for much of the state, with heat index values topping 117 degrees around the Houston area. Much of the state is also experiencing triple-digit temperatures with high humidity.
The latest heat wave is baking much of the Southwest, with all-time record highs expected in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Palm Springs, California.
Drought conditions expected to expand
A hotter and drier June for much of the state means 45% of the state may slip back into drought conditions, according to Mark Wentzel, hydrologist with the Texas Water Development Board. At the end of June, about a fourth of the state was in drought, a marked reduction from winter conditions, thanks to ample rainfall.
“The latest seasonal drought outlook from the National Weather Service anticipates that drought will expand to cover most of central, southern, and West Texas by the end of September,” Wentzel wrote.
However, the recent switch to El Niño weather conditions typically bring cooler and wetter-than-normal conditions this fall and winter.
First case of West Nile virus reported this year
Public health officials have confirmed the state’s first case of West Nile virus, occurring in Dallas County, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The virus is transmitted through mosquito bites. Most people do not get sick, but about 20% develop symptoms such as headaches, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea and fatigue. Less than 1% of those infected develop more serious symptoms, including death.
“It’s important for people to be aware that there are many diseases transmitted by mosquitoes found in Texas,” said DSHS Commissioner Jennifer Shuford. “Most of these diseases cause mild illness but in rare instances diseases like dengue or Zika can cause severe illness. We’ve even had a locally acquired case of malaria in Texas this year, which underscores the importance of taking precautions to prevent mosquito bites.”
DSHS urges people when outdoors to wear long sleeves and pants, apply insect repellent, remove standing water in yards, such as in plant pots, and buckets. The state had 41 cases of West Nile disease last year with seven deaths.