News Roundup: House Votes To Put Ban On Texas Income Tax Before Voters

Our daily look at news from around the state.

By Becky FogelMay 10, 2019 1:36 pm

The Texas House has passed a resolution that could ban the state from ever implementing a state income tax. House Joint Resolution 38 would allow voters to decide whether or not to amend the Texas Constitution to prohibit such a tax.

State Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, authored the resolution. He spoke ahead of a vote on the measure Thursday night.

“If this House Joint Resolution passes with 100 votes today and two-thirds of the Senate, and receives the Governor’s signature,” he said, “the people of Texas will this November be able to soundly reject, in stone, in our Constitution, the possibility of a state income tax.”

State Rep. Leach got the 100 votes he needed to advance the measure to the Texas Senate. Gov. Greg Abbott thanked Leach on Twitter for carrying HJR 38 in the Texas House.

President Donald Trump is highlighting efforts in Congress to reign-in surprise medical bills. During an event on the topic held at the White House Thursday, one of the guests was Austin resident Drew Calver. KUT’s Ashley Lopez reports Calver received a six-figure bill after having a heart attack.

The Austin high teacher lives in Central Austin with his wife and two young daughters. About two years ago, he had a heart attack known as a “widow-maker” and was rushed to the nearest hospital.

“Although I had insurance, I was still billed $110,000,” Calver said Thursday. “The hospital threatened to send my bill to collections.”

As part of the Bill of the Month series, Calver told NPR, KUT and Kaiser Health News last year that he tried to settle the matter with the hospital, but his efforts were unsuccessful.

Even though Calver had health insurance, the hospital he received care from was out-of-network. As a result, he had fallen victim to a form of surprise billing that stems from an insurer and medical provider not agreeing on a reasonable price for services.

Calver was stuck with the bill.

“I feel like I was exploited at my most vulnerable time in my life having just suffered a heart attack,” he said during the White House event.

After his story aired on NPR, the hospital lowered his bill to about $330. At the time, Calver said Americans shouldn’t be put in the position in the first place.

“I hope that Congress hears this call to take action,” he said Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, has been introducing legislation for the past four years aimed at removing consumers from the middle of disputes between insurance companies and medical providers.

Trump’s event is a sign there is finally some bipartisan support on the issue, Doggett said, but there are still “obstacles.”

“There is also bipartisan resistance to taking on either the insurance industry or the health care providers,” he said.

Doggett also said he’s disappointed things are moving so slowly. Trump first announced his interest in tackling medical billing months ago.

“President Trump has been there for more than two years and has never done anything to get surprise medical billing legislation passed,” he said. “He hasn’t gotten behind meaningful legislation on that.”

Lawmakers told Trump on Thursday they believe they will have legislation ready by July.

More than 30 school districts in and around the Houston area are closed today due to heavy rain, according to the Houston Chronicle. An average of one to three inches of rain fell in Houston last night, with some parts of the city seeing between three and six-and-a-half inches.

Josh Licther is a meteorologist with National Weather Service Houston-Galveston office. He said another event is expected later today and it’s not clear when it will start or how much rain will fall.

“That is the big question, there is a frontal boundary that’s in the area and it’s probably going to depend on where that front ends up,” Licther says. “If it heads more toward the coast the focus could be more south of the Houston area toward Galveston. If the front hangs up where it is right now, north of the Houston area, we could get a more focused rainfall event. Similar to what we had last night.”

A flash flood watch is in effect for that area until Saturday evening.