By Mark Otte
With the 85th session of the Texas legislature in full swing, it’s not all bathroom and budget talk at the Capitol. Four bills have been introduced, three in the House and one in the Senate, that would exempt textbooks purchased by college students from sales tax.
The bills, all authored by democrats, give students a short period in both the spring and fall when they will be able to purchase their textbooks tax-free. The amount of time student would get to make those discounted purchases varies from bill to bill, from seven to 15 days in each of the two tax-free periods.
With an already contentious session developing between democrats and republicans, Rep. Ana Hernandez, D-Houston, says she hopes that her bill, HB 242, will be met with bi-partisan support.
“It’s in our state’s best interest to have a well-educated and well-trained workforce,” said Hernandez. “We need to do what we can facilitate that.”
While some of the proposed bills have fixed dates for the tax-free period, Hernandez’s bill would ask the comptroller to survey the state’s universities and assign the dates after determining the dates that would allow the most books to be purchased.
Hernandez also said that this measure is just a start and that the legislator will eventually need to tackle the rising cost of tuition in Texas. Tuition in Texas has risen over 100 percent since the passage of a state law in 2003 allowing Texas universities and colleges to set their own tuition rates, according to Hernandez.
The proposed bills will have to work their way through the legislative process the same as the rest, but Hernandez said that student participation in the process, such as calling their representatives and coming to the committee meeting where the bills will be discussed, will help ensure the measure becomes law.
The bills will get a first reading before being assigned to a committee. It’s in these committee meetings that things like cost and implementation will be discussed and reports will be produced. If committee members see fit, the bill will then come up for a floor vote in the full House or Senate. It will then require the governor’s signature to become law.
KTSW News will have ongoing coverage of this and other bills during the rest of the 85th session of the Texas legislature.
Featured image by Mark Otte.