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The bills march on

Rep. Jaron Crane’s bill would cut the amount for each student to $1,500 per year. Rep Wendy Horman and Lori Den Hartog’s bill would leave the voucher at $6,000 a year but limit it to 2,000 “low-income” students. The finances of Rep. Lance Clow’s bill.would be similar, but he’d not fund students already enrolled in private schools and would require parents to give some proof of their student’s advancement.

Thursday the House Education committee rejected Clow’s bill, 9-7. Sponsors withdrew the other two bills, presumably to shop for committees that would treat their efforts better.

According to the legislative calendar, yesterday was the final day for a bill that has passed one House to be transferred to the other. The legislature, however, treats the calendar like a New Year’s resolution–it’s a great goal, but we’re only human. The fight against vouchers draining funding from public schools may be far from over.

And there are plenty of good bills that still need passing. One would allow parents to teach their children to drive; another, to allow non-citizens to get drivers’ licenses and car insurance. And the legislature has barely started on the dozens of appropriations bills.

And none of the 10 bills about property taxes have made it out of committee yet. Four have to do with lowering taxes; three with taxing hospital property; and one each with restoring the circuit breaker to 2021 levels, allowing voters to challenge levy rates, and lowering property taxes for veterans.

Sen. C. Scott Grow is author of both HB 77 and SB 1111–something I hadn’t noticed being done before.These bills would divert $150 million of sales tax revenue to property tax relief.That is, they’d designate general fund money now available to schools and roads to cut the taxes needed by cities and counties. It’d mean a 7% cut in property taxes–$107 for every $1,500 paid.

Rep. Bruce Skaug’s bill, HB 78, would increase the homeowner’s exemption from $125,000 to 50% of the home value up to a maximum of $224,300. It would mean a steep increase in taxes for farms, businesses, and landlords since there are fewer of them than of homeowners.

House Speaker Mike Moyle’s bill, HB 79, would allot $300 million to school districts to pay off bonds and levies or future building needs. He would also raise the homeowners’ exemption to $150,000.

We haven’t seen a plan from Sen. Chris Trakel yet. Several times during his campaign Trakel claimed to have solved the property tax problem. He refused to disclose his plan, but, during the October forum for District 10 and 11 legislative candidates, he revealed support for a 50% homeowners’ exemption and for California’s method of setting the purchase price of a home as its taxable value. Trakel didn’t seem the type to give up without trying.

According to the calendar adopted by this year’s legislature, the target date for adjournment is March 24. Last year, with dozens of legislators anxious to dedicate full time to their primary campaigns, adjournment was only one week later. In non-election years, sessions usually last a week or two into April–but three sessions during the last 20 years have lasted into May.

Be prepared for a month more of calls and emails to your legislators.

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