Tuesday, April 12, 2005

House Kills Appraisal Caps

We hadn't been following the squabbling over appraisal caps all that closely before today. Let's be honest, "appraisal caps" just sounds like a snoozer. But this afternoon's House floor fight over Houston Republican Dwayne Bohac's constitutional amendment was thrilling political theater. It was also the latest sign that the House is much less predictable this session. The constitutional amendment, HJR 35, would cap annual increases on home appraisals at 10 percent. Here's a Houston Chronicle story that explains the issue and the politics behind it. The short, short version: homeowners want it; local government folks hate it.

The way we hear it, Gov. Rick Perry and the House leadership were twisting House members' arms all week to support HJR 35. But on the key vote (on San Antonio Dem Mike Villareal's amendment that gutted the bill), Gov. Perry and the leadership went down 81-65. Ouch. A slew of Republicans joined most Democrats in supporting Villarreal's poison pill amendment that removed the bill's enabling clause. As always, Quorum Report has some nitty-gritty details.

Before the vote on Villarreal's amendment, Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) and Debbie Riddle (R-Houston) pleaded with their colleagues not to "cut off debate" on the bill before the pending amendments were heard. Funny, they didn't seem to mind when the House leadership pulled the plug on more than 200 amendments to the school finance bill during last May's special session. Bonnen said the pending amendments would improve the bill. Republican Carter Casteel shot back, "You can put lipstick and a purse on a pig, but it's still a pig. You can't fix this."