Legislative Update: March 30, 2021 (updated 3/31)

This is an update on historic preservation-related legislative activity during the 87th Texas Legislative Session. Legislation is being considered in Austin that impact historic district designation, county funding for preservation, tax credits, markers, monuments, local tax appraisals, Main Street, and related issues. The bill filing deadline was March 12, and bills are being assigned to House and Senate committees and public hearings are being scheduled. Your input is valuable to our democratic process. Keep informed at https://capitol.texas.gov/

HB 1474: Historic District Designations
The committee substitute for this bill, which we oppose, has been reported out of the Culture, Recreation, and Tourism Committee favorably, despite thoughtful comments provided by many of you in opposition to this unnecessary bill. Unfortunately, as we reported last week, the language of the bill was changed just hours before the hearing. The bill would make it easier for investors to demolish historic properties to clear the way for new construction. Testimony included claims (without providing any specific examples) that municipalities “venue-shop to achieve a supermajority” so as to landmark buildings against a property owner’s will and that cities “rushed to create historic districts” to avoid legislation passed in 2019 and “ensnare” unsuspecting property owners. We have asked for specific examples of the above and have received none. There were also claims that local historic districts regulate drywall and that buildings in a historic district cannot be expanded or have elevators installed. A companion bill, SB 1585, has not yet been heard in committee, but we look forward to the opportunity to provide accurate testimony.

HB 1756 / SB 1542: County Appropriations for Restoration of Historic Buildings
We support these bills. They would make it possible for the commissioners court of a county of any size to appropriate funds from general revenue as grants to nonprofit organizations to purchase, restore, preserve, maintain, or reconstruct historic landmarks and buildings of historic significance to the county, provided the organization is a nonprofit. HB 1756 has been scheduled for a hearing on April 30.

HB 4326 / SB 813: State Historic Preservation Tax Credit
We support these bills. They would create a separate provision in state law that ensures that the state historic preservation tax credit can be applied to the insurance premium tax. HB 4326 has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. Update 3/31: SB 813 has been reported favorably without amendment out of the Senate Finance Committee 15-0 and recommended for the local and uncontested calendar.

HB 3971: Local Property Tax Appraisals
We are monitoring this bill that would allow property tax appraisers to take into consideration the economic impact of historic district designations on real estate values. We would suggest that this bill also include individually-designated local landmarks in addition to districts. No hearing has been scheduled at this time.

We are also monitoring:
  • SB 1269: Expanding eligibility for participation in the state’s Main Street Program to include communities and “historic neighborhood commercial districts” in addition to central business districts. No hearing has been scheduled at this time.
  • HB 1200/SB 416: These bills would create a pathway for local ordinances outside of Chapter 211 of the Local Government Code (traditional zoning) in cities such as Houston. Hearing scheduled for HB 1200 on March 30th.
  • HB 1644, HB 3584, and SB 1501: These bills would establish guidelines for historic marker relocation and provide legal remedies if monuments and markers were to be moved without the approval of the Texas Historical Commission. No hearings have been scheduled at this time.
  • SB 1177: This bill would create a task force to evaluate state-owned historic artifact collections and make recommendations for a potential disaster-secure conservation and storage facility shared by multiple state agencies. We feel that private sector input would be beneficial and that representatives from the museum and artifact conservation professions should be included on the task force. As written, the task force would be limited to state agency employees from the Texas Historical Commission, General Land Office, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Parks and Wildlife Department, State Preservation Board, and Texas Facilities Commission. No hearing has been scheduled at this time.

We are also monitoring a number of bills that include provisions that would allow the state’s Preservation Trust Fund to be used to pay for new monuments or memorials. We do not support use of the Trust Fund for this purpose, as these funds are critically needed for historic preservation planning, restoration, and rehabilitation.

Thank you for your interest in state legislative activity because it directly impacts historic preservation activities at the local level.