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No significant fiscal implication to the State or local government.
The bill would amend the Local Government Code to permit a municipality to exempt property
owned by a religious organization or property used for cemetery purposes from all or a portion of
the municipal drainage service charges.
HB 1662 would amend Local Government Code to permit municipalities to use their own discretion concerning exempting religious organizations from drainage charges. Current law allows municipalities to exempt religious organizations from drainage fees but does not specify how much of the fees they may exempt. This bill would provide that a municipality may exempt a religions organization from "all or a portion of" the fees.
The bill would also broaden the exemption to allow for municipalities to grant it to historic cemeteries that are no longer open for burials.
This legislation makes minor changes to existing municipal authority to grant exemptions for drainage service exemptions. For this reason there is no real liberty principle connection on which to base a supporting or opposing position for this legislation.
That being said, there are some aspects of this bill that are at least concerning.
Special exemptions to taxes and fees provide benefits for a preferred class that are not extended broadly to all people, businesses, or entities that are subject to the tax or fee in the first place. Also, this legislation, by allowing municipalities to exempt "all or a portion of" municipal drainage fees, and by allowing discretion in whether or not to grant an exemption may open the door to political favoritism in the granting of fee exemptions.
Ultimately a tax and fee structure that is broad based, low rate, and transparent leaves little room for mischief and takes away the necessity of giving exemptions in the first place because the costs are spread out broadly and at rates that are not burdensome. While the changes to current statute that would be made by HB 1662 are minor enough that we remain neutral, the broader point is still worth considering.