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West Homeowners Could Get Tax Break With Last Minute Law Change

State Farm

Five stories that have North Texas talking: End-of-session legislation would spare West homeowners from paying tax on a house that’s no longer there, Texas senior health care ranks toward the bottom in new study, Plano spelling whiz is one step closer to hoisting the Scripps Bee trophy and more.

A last minute piece of legislation currently sitting on Governor Perry’s desk would save hundreds of homeowners in West from paying taxes on a home that no longer exists. When the West Fertilizer Company exploded on April 17, several hundred houses were destroyed. But under current state law, property taxes are calculated based on Jan. 1 home value and only natural disasters count as exceptions.

An amendment to the law was passed overwhelmingly by the House and Senate earlier this month. According to the Dallas Morning News, it’s now awaiting final action by Governor Perry and would simply delete the word “natural,” offering victims of all disasters a tax break. If the bill is signed, residents would pay taxes on the full value of their homes up until the day of the explosion. For the remainder of the year, they’d only be taxed on the value of what’s left.

  • Ranking Senior Health Care: The United Health Foundation has released its first ever study on senior health care. Since most of the elderly population is insured through Medicare, this study focuses on quality of care and quality of life. Texas was ranked 39 out of 50 states due in part to high obesity rates in the Lone Star State and uncontrolled arthritic pain that makes it tough for seniors to stay active. The study does point out a few bright spots in Texas, like high availability of home health care workers. Minnesota was ranked first for senior health, Mississippi was ranked last. [KUHF]

  • Cleaner Breathing, Bluer Skies: Air quality in Houston has long been a problem, and that’s not surprising considering Houston produces about a third of the nation’s plastics and about a quarter of our gasoline. But a law change paired with a piece of new technology has made the view in Houston dramatically clearer. Starting in 2005, companies along the Houston Ship Channel had to start disclosing emissions. Infrared cameras also came out that allowed businesses to “see” and thus fix their own chemical leaks. Things started to change and a few years later, Houston met the federal air quality smog standard for the first time in decades. NPR’s Richard Harris has more here about Houston’s pollution journey going forward.

  • Top 42 And Feeling Fine: Plano’s Chetan Reddy is one of the 42 best spellers at the Scripps National Bee. He was called onstage as a semifinalist after surviving both live spelling rounds yesterday and placing high on computerized tests Tuesday. Scripps originally named 41 semi-finalists, but added another student from Florida last night. Three Texas kids will compete in the semis: Chetan, Pearland’s Shobha Dasari and Friendswood’s Syamatak Payra. You can cheer for them from the comfort of your living room later today. The semi-final round starts at 1 p.m. central on ESPN2.

  • Costco Maverick: Mark Cuban has inspired an interesting experiment. The Dallas Mavericks owner may be worth a gazillion dollars (technical figure), but surprisingly, Cuban is a big fan of buying in bulk, especially items like razors and toothpaste that he’ll use later. NPR’s Uri Berliner e-mailed him about his strategy, and here’s what Cuban had to say: "The money you save by investing in bulk will provide a better return on investment than any investment vehicle on the planet." That’s pretty definitive high praise, so Berliner has decided to give it a shot. Getting advice from financial experts and considering factors like global prices, Berliner unleashed himself on Costco. See what bulk items made the shopping cart cut here.