After passing a $12.7 billion property tax-cut package last year that appears to have driven down tax bills for many homeowners, the state’s top Republicans have signaled they’re not done trying to rein in Texans’ property taxes, among the highest in the nation.

Phelan, in particular, wants to revisit an idea that proved a major dividing line between him and Patrick last year as the two GOP leaders duked it out over the tax-cut package.

Phelan and House Republicans backed a proposal to tighten the state’s cap on annual increases to a home’s taxable value from 10% to 5% — an attempt to quell complaints from homeowners about fast-rising appraisals spurred by the state’s robust economic growth, which they saw as the root cause of rising tax bills. Patrick and Senate Republicans balked at the proposal, successfully pushing instead for a boost in the state’s homestead exemption. Phelan’s idea to further cap homesteads’ appraisals died, though lawmakers did pass a temporary cap on some business property appraisals.

Now, Phelan has signaled he wants to continue exploring the idea of tightening the cap — instructing the House Ways & Means Committee to explore “whether to further reduce the limit on appraised value of homesteads.” Tax-cut experts across the political spectrum have warned that tightening the appraisal cap would create greater inequities between taxpayers, disproportionately benefit wealthy homeowners and drive up housing costs.

Phelan also wants the committee to look into whether the state can afford to put more money toward cutting school districts’ tax rates as it did last year and whether to keep the state’s homestead exemption on school district taxes at $100,000.

Leaders of both chambers want lawmakers to address the state’s housing affordability crisis amid high home prices and rents.

One way they could do it: relaxing city restrictions on what kind of housing can be built and where. Phelan instructed a House panel to “examine factors affecting housing attainability and affordability in Texas, including state and local laws impacting supply and demand for housing, barriers to construction resulting from zoning practices and the availability and costs of housing outputs.”

Housing advocates have increasingly targeted city zoning restrictions that dictate how much land a single-family home must sit on and how many homes can be built on a particular lot. Those rules, advocates and housing policy experts argue, prevent the construction of enough homes to meet demand — and drive up home prices and rents as a result.

Texas lawmakers quietly considered tackling cities’ zoning restrictions last year, but those measures mostly died quietly in the House after passing the Senate. There could be common ground between leaders of the two chambers on the zoning front: Patrick also signaled that he wants lawmakers in his chamber to consider similar proposals. Texas Republicans and conservative policy wonks have lately shown a new appetite for such ideas.

The state’s top three Republican officials have all now expressed concerns that Wall Street is potentially playing too big of a role in the state’s homebuying market and boxing would-be homebuyers out of their first home. Phelan wants House lawmakers to “evaluate the impact on housing prices and rent caused by institutional buyers,” meaning investors and corporations that buy single-family homes to rent them out, in order to “determine what policy changes are needed to ensure families and individuals are not unfairly priced out of homeownership.”

Lawmakers are also paying increasing attention to Texans’ rising homeowners insurance premiums — among the highest in the nation. Insurance rates for Texas homeowners grew faster than in the rest of the country last year, driven by increased risk from extreme weather events.

Phelan told the House State Affairs Committee to examine what’s driving insurance premiums and to “investigate solutions to help Texans more easily and affordably obtain property and casualty insurance coverage.”

Phelan has also asked for “legislative solutions” to prevent wildfires and improve wildfire disaster response. The move follows historic fires in March that burned more than 1 million acres in the Texas Panhandle.

Phelan also directed the Health and Human Services committee to investigate the role the state should play in Medicaid contracts and managed care, an issue that has brought some heat on Texas state human services officials in recent years over hundreds of billions in canceled procurements that have spurred lawsuits.

A recent decision by Texas Health and Human Services to drop indigent health plans run by three legacy children’s hospitals from the Medicaid program triggered loud protests from some lawmakers over the methods the state used in evaluating managed care organizations for some $116 billion in new contracts. The proposed changes, which haven’t been finalized yet, would affect six managed care organizations across the state and shuffle the health plans of some 1.8 million low-income Texans, including children, in late 2025.

Karen Brooks Harper contributed to this report.

This article was written by JOSHUA FECHTER AND ROBERT DOWNEN of The Texas Tribune . This article originally appeared at :