3/30/2011 4:05 PM
Sen. Royce West's (D-Dallas) Committee on Intergovernmental Relations has passed out a bill by Dan Patrick (R-Houston) that would prohibit the City of Houston from forcing churches, schools and other non-profits to pay a drainage fee as part of a project passed by Houston voters (some say unwittingly) in November.
SB 714, reported to the full Senate today, also restricts the city from transferring the load of drainage fees to homeowners and business owners to make up the difference. Patrick will have the full support of the Houston delegation on the Senate floor, he reported. Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) is slated to carry the bill in the House.
"This is not a partisan issue," Patrick said in a statement today. "Republicans and Democrats agree that these unprecedented fees on schools and churches in Houston violate important financial and moral principles … I applaud those on the Houston City Council like C.O. "Brad" Bradford who are pushing the Council and Mayor to do the right thing."
While Houston Mayor Annise Parker has recently shopped a compromise that would grandfather existing schools and churches, both Patrick and the Coalition for a Greater Houston, an organization of pastors, school officials, business and community leaders, have said that is not enough. They want those facilities named in the bill both present and future, and they don't want the city recouping its losses via homeowners and business owners.
Coalition spokesman Paul Bettencourt was pleased with the bill’s passage from committee and expressed optimism that it will have broad support on the Senate Floor.
"We appreciate Senators Dan Patrick, Mario Gallegos and Chairman Royce West as well as the other committee members moving this forward," Bettencourt said in a statement. "We hope that the bills progress will encourage City Council members and the Mayor to support its passage so we can both protect our churches, schools and charities as well as the taxpayers."
Representatives from Houston and Spring Branch ISD’s, Houston Medical Center, Houston Auto Dealer’s Association and Houston Area Pastor Council were among those who testified last week before the committee.