The City of Houston has a mayor-council form of government in which the mayor and 14 council members (five elected at-large, nine from single-member districts) serve as the legislative body. These 15 officials and the city controller are elected for two-year terms that run concurrently. Term limits provide that no elected city official may serve in any one position for more than three consecutive terms.
A county judge and four commissioners perform the principal administrative and legislative functions in each Houston CMSA county. They serve four-year terms.
Legislative districts lying partly or entirely within the Houston region:
U.S. House of Representatives Districts 7-9, 18, 22, 25, 29
State Senate Districts 4-7, 11, 13, 15, 17
State House of Representatives Districts 15, 16, 24-27, 126-150
Taxation: In Houston there are no state or local personal income taxes. The sales and use tax rate is 8.25% (6.25% state, 1% city, 1% transit authority); certain food and drug items are exempt. The only taxes applied generally to all types of business in Texas are ad valorem taxes, annual corporate franchise fees (which include an income component), unemployment insurance, and sales and use taxes. Certain businesses pay gross receipts taxes, occupation taxes, and other taxes. (Although workers' compensation insurance is voluntary, it is recommended that all employers carry it.) Texas imposes no unitary or property tax.
Ad valorem taxes are assessed at 100% of market value.
2009 rates per $100 valuation:
Harris County (combined) - $0.61809
City of Houston - $0.63875
Houston Independent School District - $1.1567
Houston Community College - $0.09243
Port of Houston Authority - $0.01773
The County and City exempt 20% of assessed valuation for a legally declared homestead
HISD, 20% plus $15,000; HCC, 1%. Owners over age 65, or totally disabled homeowners under age 65 are entitled to the following additional exemptions from assessed valuation: Harris County $160,000, City of Houston $70,862, HISD $15,000, Houston Community College $90,000. For veterans with 10% or more disability, all three jurisdictions exempt $1,500 for 10%-30% disability, $2,000 for 31%-50%, $2,500 for 51%-60%, and $3,000 for 71% or greater.
Zoning: Houston is the largest city in the US without zoning. Real estate development must meet city codes, but no zoning regulations exist to restrict land use. Most Houston neighborhoods have deed restrictions that prevent non-residential use within their limits, but nothing restricts development of commercial structures bordering these communities. With the exception of Pasadena, most other Houston area municipalities have strictly enforced zoning regulations.