Ed Sills, director of communications, Texas AFL-CIO, email responses to PolitiFact Texas (excerpted)

Feb. 21, 2012

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As I have reported in the e-mail news on several occasions, the 2009 Legislature enacted the exemption from property taxes, which was intended for local Chambers of Commerce but apparently also may apply to local boards of realtors and other organizations.

 

As I recall, the House added the item as an amendment to a controversial Bob Perry-promoted housing bill that Gov. Perry ultimately let pass into law without his signature. There was actually some discussion on the Senate floor raised by Sen. Ogden before the measure was voted through. It was late in the session and had the look of a “leadership deal”.

 

Possibly the best evidence I can offer you is an opinion by Attorney General Greg Abbott, who went through the ins and outs of the statutory change in his holding that realtor board headquarters may be included:

 

https://www.oag.state.tx.us/opinions/opinions/50abbott/op/2011/htm/ga-0890.htm

Feb. 27, 2012

(forwarded undated email described as one sent to Texas House members during the 2009 legislative session)

The United Labor Legislative Committee asks you to OPPOSE CSHB 831 by Rep. Taylor, which would grant a property tax exemption to 501(c)6  organizations.

 

Under CSHB 831, the public would subsidize activities that are controversial within the political process.

 

As 501(c)6 organizations, chambers of commerce in Texas routinely lobby on behalf of the employer community and, as such, are interest groups. Other interest groups covered by CSHB 831 carry out similar activities. For example, homebuilders associations may qualify as a tax exempt 501(c)(6) organization.

 

  Examples of topics on which chambers of commerce and their state organization, the Texas Association of Business, have lobbied recently include worker safety, unemployment insurance, toll roads, the minimum wage, class-size ratios in elementary schools and school vouchers. Often, the positions taken by these organizations have been contrary to majority opinion in Texas and, in our view, inimical to the best interests of the state.

 

If the Legislature wants to allow the public to start subsidizing non-profit organizations that engage in the political process, then alternatively we ask you to adopt an amendment that would include labor union organizations in that subsidy. We don’t think it would be great public policy, but it would create a more level playing field.

 

It would be preferable, though, to oppose CSHB 831. We believe that taxpayers do not want to subsidize chambers of commerce and other politicized organizations through tax subsidies.