Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Principles of statutory construction

When can extrinsic information be considered in construing a statute? 

The meaning of a statute is a legal question, which we review de novo to ascertain and give effect to the legislature's intent. Entergy Gulf States, Inc. v. Summers, 282 S.W.3d 433, 437 (Tex. 2009). When possible, we discern legislative intent from the plain meaning of the words chosen. Id. This general rule applies unless enforcing the plain language of the statute as written would produce absurd results. Id. Therefore, our practice when construing a statute is to recognize that "the words [the legislature] chooses should be the surest guide to legislative intent." Id. (quoting Fitzgerald v. Advanced Spine Fixation Sys., Inc., 996 S.W.2d 864, 866 (Tex. 1999)). Only when those words are ambiguous do we resort to rules of construction or extrinsic aids. Id.

SOURCE: HOUSTON COURT OF APPEALS No. 14-15-00180-CV. - 2/11/2016

Westfield Lake and Mill Creek undisputedly held legal title at the time they filed timely applications for continuation of the exemptions establishing that they were qualifying CHDOs. Accordingly, we conclude as a matter of law that under the plain language of the statute, Westfield Lake and Mill Creek were "owners" for purposes of section 11.182.
Our holding is consistent with the supreme court's acknowledgement that the legislature wanted to encourage the development and ownership of low-income housing by CHDOs and to give CHDOs the flexibility to structure their transactions in accordance with "the realities of the commercial housing industry." See AHF-Arbors at Huntsville I, LLC v. Walker Cnty. Appraisal Dist., 410 S.W.3d 831, 837, 839 (Tex. 2012). Although the court recognized that tax exemption statutes generally are construed strictly, that does not require us to ignore the purpose of the exemptions. See id. at 837. According to the legislative history evidence submitted by the Appraisal District, the purpose of the statute was to preserve the CHDO tax exemption for "properties that might change ownership due to foreclosure." Our construction of the statute is consistent with this purpose.
We reverse the judgment of the trial court and render judgment that Westfield Lake and Mill Creek are entitled to a continuation of the ad valorem tax exemptions under section 11.182. See Tex. Tax Code § 11.182(k).

SOURCE: HOUSTON COURT OF APPEALS No. 14-15-00180-CV. - 2/11/2016

This issue involves statutory construction, which we review de novo. See CHCA Woman's Hosp., L.P. v. Lidji, 403 S.W.3d 228, 231 (Tex. 2013). In construing statutes, our primary objective is to give effect to the legislature's intent. Tex. Lottery Comm'n v. First State Bank of DeQueen, 325 S.W.3d 628, 635 (Tex. 2010) (citing Galbraith Eng'g Consultants, Inc. v. Pochucha, 290 S.W.3d 863, 867 (Tex. 2009)). We rely on the plain meaning of the text as expressing legislative intent unless a different meaning is supplied by legislative definition or is apparent from the context or the plain meaning leads to absurd results. Id. (citing City of Rockwall v. Hughes, 246 S.W.3d 621, 625-26 (Tex. 2008)). We presume that the legislature selected language in a statute with care and that every word or phrase was used with a purpose in mind. Id. (citing In re Caballero, 272 S.W.3d 595, 599 (Tex. 2008)Chastain v. Koonce, 700 S.W.2d 579, 582 (Tex. 1985)). We read statutes as a whole and interpret statutes to give effect to "every sentence, clause, and word of a statute so that no part thereof [will] be rendered superfluous." City of San Antonio v. City of Boerne, 111 S.W.3d 22, 29 (Tex. 2003)(quoting Spence v. Fenchler, 180 S.W. 597, 601 (1915)).

In addition to the general principles that guide our construction of the tax code, statutory tax exemptions are disfavored and are strictly construed against the taxpayer and in favor of the taxing authority. N. Alamo Water Supply Corp. v. Willacy Cty. Appraisal Dist.,804 S.W.2d 894, 899 (Tex. 1991). The burden of proof for showing the exemption applies lies with the claimant. See id. An exemption must affirmatively appear in the statute, and all doubts are resolved in favor of the taxing authority. See Bullock v. Nat'l Bancshares Corp., 584 S.W.2d 268, 272 (Tex. 1979).


Columbia Med. Ctr. of Las Colinas, Inc. v. Hogue, 271 S.W.3d 238, 256 (Tex. 2008)(stating that courts must not interpret a statute in a manner that renders any part of the statute meaningless or superfluous); Cont'l Cas. Ins. Co. v. Functional Restoration Assocs., 19 S.W.3d 393, 402 (Tex. 2000) (noting that courts give effect to all of a statute's words and, if possible, do not treat any statutory language as mere surplusage); see also Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 311.021(2) (West 2013) (presuming that legislature intended entire statute to be effective).

SOURCE: FORT WORTH COURT OF APPEALS - No. 02-14-00188-CV. - 2/14/2016 

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