Legislative Update – Halfway through session

1. Last week, the Commissioners Court unanimously passed a resolution in support of Representative Shaheen’s bill, HB 1397, that changes the composition of the state-level board that governs our retirement system. The bill mandates more independent voices, much like public boards of directors. Requiring that six members are sitting Commissioners Court members and three are public members who have never held office; it both gives a stronger voice to those who actually determine county tax rates and to taxpayers who have no conflict of interest. I plan to testify in support of the bill when it is heard in committee.

2. I received a suggestion that I update the major legislative agenda the Commissioners Court discussed before the beginning of the session.

a. “All things transportation funding (no CDAs, mechanism to raise percentage over time, stop diversions)”.

There is a great deal of momentum and energy in the legislature to find a mechanism to establish a stable revenue stream for transportation funding out of existing taxes. There are at least four major bills that outline different funding mechanisms for transportation and I believe that a mechanism will be established to move transportation funding back toward the historic average over time. I believe that diversions will be ended. There are also several bills that will stem the flood of toll roads if passed into law.

b. “Change to mental health provision/organization (in place of Northstar)”.

The Sunset Advisory Commission mandated a change to the current NorthStar behavioral health care system. We are working hard to coordinate our new system and to advocate for the state funding that will follow the new design. We expect the Sunset Advisory Commission management actions to take effect on schedule.

c. “Either appropriate the LIRAP/LIP funds, or Collin County will exit the program in 2015″.

We will exit the LIRAP program, probably in August, and stop collecting the $6 fee when you register your vehicle.

d. “Normalize county/city laws for building permits in cities’ Extra Territorial Jurisdictions (ETJ) and noise abatement”.

We will most likely ask for an AG opinion shortly because there are directly conflicting court cases on the issue.

e. “Electronic court reporting” – I know of no bills that directly address our issue.

f. “State fund visiting judge salaries” – I know of no bills that address this issue.

While I don’t want to serve in the Texas House or the Texas Senate, I appreciate our State Representatives and Senators who go to Austin every two years to work for us.

3. Don’t forget that Toll-free Texas Day is Monday, March 23, at the Capitol in Austin.

4. We receive a TXDot briefing on current construction projects at Commissioners Court on Monday, March 23, at 1:30 PM. Tune in at http://collin.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=2 to hear the briefing.