The following resolutions were passed by the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas representing 254 counties in the State of Texas on Oct. 10, 2013, during the Association’s Annual Conference.
1. Thanks to the Host Court
WHEREAS, the Annual Conference of the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas was conducted in Galveston County, Texas, Oct. 7-10, 2013; and
WHEREAS, the Honorable Commissioners Court of Galveston County has hosted the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas in the most entertaining and excellent manner;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas expresses its wholehearted thanks and deep appreciation to the Honorable Commissioners Court of Galveston County, sponsors, contributors, and exhibitors for their courteous and warm hospitality extended to each of us.
2. Thanks to State and Local Associations and Friends of County Government
WHEREAS, the Annual Conference of the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas was conducted in Galveston County, Texas, Oct. 7-10, 2013; and
WHEREAS, the members of the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas wish to acknowledge the expertise of and thank the staff of: James Allison of Allison, Bass & Associates, LLP.; the Texas Association of Counties and Executive Director Gene Terry; the Texas Association of Regional Councils and Director Penny Redington; the V.G. Young Institute of County Government, a part of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, and Director Richard O. Avery, Ph.D.; the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agents’ professional associations; County Progress Magazine and Editor Julie Anderson; and the many other state and local associations and people who have all been so helpful to county government;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that this Association thanks all of these individuals and their staffs for their past, present and future help on behalf of county government.
3. Memorial to Deceased Officials and Special Friends
WHEREAS, the following highly regarded members and friends of the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas are deceased; and
WHEREAS, the Association desires to pay appropriate respect to these members and friends; and
WHEREAS, since our last conference, the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas has mourned the passing of:
West Texas Association
Jeff Davis County Judge Wanda Lou Adams
Former Tarrant County Commissioner R.T. “Dick” Andersen
Former Upton County Judge Vikki Bradley
Former Kent County Commissioner and County Judge Donnie Wayne Carriker
Former Garza County Judge Giles Wilson Dalby Sr.
Former Ector County Commissioner Bill G. Elms
Collingsworth County Commissioner Dan Langford
Former Pecos County Commissioner Richard Gregg McKenzie
Former Lubbock County Commissioner Eliseo Solis
Former Swisher County Commissioner James Vineyard
Citizens of West, Texas
South Texas Association
Former Comal County Commissioner Jack Vaughn Dawson
Former Calhoun County Judge Arlene Marshall
Former Webb County Commissioner Lilia “Lily” Perez
Former Kendall County Judge Gaylan L. Schroeder
Former Comal County Commissioner Morris “Moe” Schwab
Former Atascosa County Commissioner Tommy Dean Shearrer
Former Colorado County Commissioner Louis W. Stiles
Former Bandera County Commissioner Stanley E. Tschirhart
North & East Texas Association
Former Morris County Judge Vanoy Troy Boozer
Former Rains County Commissioner Hershel Bullard Jr.
Former Kaufman County Commissioner Hal Lee Couch
Former Delta County Commissioner Tommie (Gaston) Dodd
Angelina County Commissioner Richard Earl “Rick” Harrison
Former Somervell County Commissioner Billy C. Miller
Former Trinity County Commissioner Wayne Odom
Fannin County Commissioner Joe Strong
Former Hood County Commissioner Joe Horace Swaim
Former Jasper County Judge and Jasper County Commissioner Corbit Whitehead
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas members pause for a moment of silence and meditation to honor the memory of these respected individuals.
4. Opposition to Unfunded Mandates
WHEREAS, Texas counties are responsible for the operation and management of many and various governmental programs as required or authorized by state law; and
WHEREAS, some county government programs are fully or partially supported with funds disbursed by the State of Texas pursuant to the state appropriations process; and
WHEREAS, the State of Texas, acting through the Texas Legislature or through a state agency or executive order, may enact laws or promulgate rules that have the effect of imposing mandatory financial obligations upon Texas counties; and
WHEREAS, the State of Texas, through the Texas Legislature or through a state agency or executive order, mandates that counties implement certain governmental programs or perform certain duties and obligations including financial commitments by a county to expend county funds in connection therewith; and
WHEREAS, during each regular session of the Texas Legislature, all state funds that support county programs are reviewed through the state appropriation process and by other state budgetary review systems; and
WHEREAS, the aforementioned review process may result in a reduction, or cessation, of state financial support of county government programs causing an unforeseeable disruption and reduction of the county budget and operations; and
WHEREAS, Texas counties cannot achieve reliable financial planning and the necessary bond ratings sufficient to support county-related obligations when the state mandates a new program that is not fully funded or under conditions where the state reduces or fully withdraws prior funding and disbursement for county government programs;
NOW, THEREFORE, the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas and its 254 current member counties do hereby resolve that for the foregoing reasons, it is in the best interests of Texas counties and their taxpayers to support and favor the passage of legislation in the form of an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Texas that would expressly prohibit the imposition of a mandatory governmental program on Texas counties, whether by an act of the Texas Legislature or a state agency or by executive order, unless the State of Texas has fully funded and disbursed all necessary funds to enable Texas counties to operate said governmental program.
5. Opposition to Appraisal Caps and Revenue Caps
WHEREAS, the Texas Legislature has considered proposals for additional revenue caps and additional appraisal caps on counties; and
WHEREAS, 60 percent of the average taxpayer’s property tax burden is due to school taxes while only 14 percent is due to county taxes; and
WHEREAS, appraisal caps or revenue caps would diminish local control and tie the hands of county officials and limit their ability to provide essential services to address the needs and emergencies of their citizens; and
WHEREAS, county government is already struggling to meet the demands of under-funded and unfunded state mandates such as indigent health care, indigent defense and federal mandates such as the Help America Vote Act and the Clean Air Act; and
WHEREAS, the demands on county budgets continue to increase including motor fuel, road materials, and all other products and services purchased by counties; and
WHEREAS, artificial appraisal caps or revenue caps will result in a shift of taxes from rapidly appreciating properties to those remaining relatively stable in value and to all non-residential properties; and
WHEREAS, appraisal caps or revenue caps will not necessarily result in a reduction of property taxes but will result in a severe impact on county services; and
WHEREAS, undermining a property tax system based upon fair market value is questionable public policy and will result in a distorted, inequitable taxation scheme under which identical homes could be taxed at vastly different amounts; and
WHEREAS, it would be unfair for the Texas Legislature to impose additional revenue caps on local governments without imposing similar caps on state government;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas does hereby express its opposition to efforts to limit local control and does hereby oppose any attempts to impose revenue caps or appraisal caps upon Texas counties, and the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas expresses its deep appreciation to all legislators who oppose these unsound measures.
6. Indigent Health Care
WHEREAS, revisions have been proposed regarding the Texas system of indigent health care; and
WHEREAS, some revisions propose an assessment upon counties to support a regional indigent health care system; and
WHEREAS, such assessment would constitute an unfunded mandate, requiring property tax increases in those counties; and
WHEREAS, such regional systems would not be efficient or responsive to local taxpayers;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas opposes any attempt to impose a mandatory assessment upon Texas counties to fund a regional or statewide health care system.
7. Opposition to Diversion of Dedicated Funds
WHEREAS, the Legislature has committed certain funds for dedicated purposes; and
WHEREAS, unfortunately these funds have been improperly withheld from these needed functions and used to balance the general state budget; and
WHEREAS, the state leadership has proposed to end this diversion of funds;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas expresses its opposition to any state diversion of dedicated funds and supports the state leadership’s commitment to end this practice.
8. Emergency Services Program
WHEREAS, citizens of rural Texas desire access to 9-1-1 emergency services in an efficient manner, as evidenced by approval of the monthly fee on business and residential phone bills; and
WHEREAS, the 9-1-1 emergency services dispatch and response depends on equipment which must function reliably on a continuous basis; and
WHEREAS, older equipment reaches a point of being high maintenance and becomes unreliable; and
WHEREAS, technology continues to improve, necessitating upgrading hardware and software for reverse 9-1-1 services and other needs;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas urges our state legislators to provide full funding to the Emergency 9-1-1 Services Program for maintenance and improvement; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that funds generated by the 9-1-1 surcharge will not be used by the Legislature as money set aside to balance the state budget; and
BE IT ALSO RESOLVED that any such funds set aside that currently exist be fully appropriated for the Emergency 9-1-1 Services Program.
9. Opposition to Granting Powers to Municipal Utility Districts and Special Utility Districts
WHEREAS, Texas is one of the fastest-growing states in the Union; and
WHEREAS, city government and county government should have appropriate authority to regulate growth in their respective counties and cities; and
WHEREAS, special water districts and private water corporations have the means to furnish water and provide for growth in rural areas of the counties; and
WHEREAS, municipal utility districts and special utility districts have been improperly used by certain developers to avoid compliance with county and city infrastructure plans;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas opposes the granting of additional powers to municipal utility districts and special utility districts and requests that the approval of the county be required before any further districts are created.
10. Mental Health Patients
WHEREAS, Texas counties have been forced to hold mentally incompetent prisoners for an average of six months while awaiting court-ordered transfer to a state mental facility for treatment; and
WHEREAS, each of these pre-trial inmates costs the local taxpayer approximately $9,000 during this period of incarceration; and
WHEREAS, the county jail is not an appropriate facility for the mentally ill, and these prisoners pose a high risk of injury to themselves, the jail staff and other prisoners; and
WHEREAS, a State District Court in Travis County has ordered the Department of Health Services to receive these prisoners within 21 days of a judge’s order; and
WHEREAS, instead of accepting its responsibility, the State has appealed this order; and
WHEREAS, this delay by the State is increasing the cost to our taxpayers and continuing this improper practice;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas hereby requests that the State of Texas implement the additional funding for mental health services in S.B. 1, the General Appropriations Act, and implement the state mental health plan approved in H.B. 3793 to ensure the efficient and effective use of these resources.
11. County Road Repair Program
WHEREAS, Texas is currently experiencing record oil and gas drilling activity; and
WHEREAS, new drilling and exploration technology has tremendously increased the oil and gas truck traffic on county roads; and
WHEREAS, this truck traffic has literally destroyed many county roads, creating a safety hazard for the public; and
WHEREAS, Texas counties are dependent upon the property tax and have no source of funding to repair the damage from this oil and gas truck traffic; and
WHEREAS, immediate assistance is required to protect the public and prevent further deterioration of the county roads;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas requests that the Texas Transportation Commission approve grants to counties for the $225 million appropriated in H.B. 1025 for county road repair and implement S.B. 1747 to distribute these funds to meet this drastic need, and we also urge that Texas voters approve S.J.R. 1 in November 2014 to further address funding for our state and county transportation system.
12. Uranium Mining Regulation
WHEREAS, uranium mining creates a special hazard for local groundwater; and
WHEREAS, uranium mining places a high demand upon local groundwater resources; and
WHEREAS, groundwater pollution by uranium mining cannot be recovered or rehabilitated and creates a permanent loss of groundwater; and
WHEREAS, county and groundwater conservation districts have very limited power to regulate uranium mining under current law;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas requests that state law be amended to require a due process permit proceeding and approval by the local Commissioners Court and groundwater conservation district before any permit is granted for uranium mining.
13. Resolution to Support Federal Legislation H.R. 1526 to Provide Payments in Lieu of Taxes to Local Governments for Federal Lands
WHEREAS, the United States government established the four National Forests in Texas in 1934, setting aside more than 637,000 acres of forest lands which are located in 12 counties and 58 public school districts throughout East Texas; and
WHEREAS, when these lands were taken off the local property tax rolls, the federal government made a commitment to manage the lands for the benefit of the counties impacted by federal forestland, improve forest health and help prevent catastrophic wildfires; and
WHEREAS, beginning in the 1990s, federal policy changed which resulted in significant reduction in timber harvesting and, as a result, a significant reduction in funding to the impacted counties for public roads and public education; and
WHEREAS, the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act was enacted in 2000 to partially restore lost funding to the National Forest counties and schools, but that funding has been reduced significantly and is set to expire after 2013; and
WHEREAS, the United State House of Representatives has passed H.R. 1526, the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act. This legislation would restore critical funding by extending the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act, and would renew the federal government’s commitment to manage federal forests for the benefit of counties impacted by federal forestland, improve forest health and help prevent catastrophic wildfires; and
WHEREAS, specifically, the legislation would: (1) re-establish the priority of actively managing our forests and promote responsible timber production on Forest Service commercial timber land; (2) improve forest health and prevent catastrophic wildfires by allowing significant state and local involvement; (3) improve forest management by establishing Good Neighbor Authority, which allows state and federal authorities to work together on fire mitigation efforts even when project areas cross ownership boundaries; and (4) allow for a short-term extension of Secure Rural Schools payments to rural counties and schools; and
WHEREAS, enactment of H.R. 1526 would also create new jobs and economic development in the National Forest counties; and
WHEREAS, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that enactment of H.R. 1526 would result in an estimated reduction of the federal deficit of $269 million over a 10-year period;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas that we support the enactment of H.R. 1526, and we furthermore urge the Honorable John Cornyn and the Honorable Ted Cruz to support this important legislation in the United States Senate.
County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas
2013 Resolutions Committee
Chairman: Woodrow W. “Woody” Gossom Jr., Wichita County Judge
Tim Brown, Bell County Commissioner
Emma Bennett, Harrison County Commissioner
Roger Galvan, Calhoun County Commissioner
John L. Norman, Garza County Judge
Joseph Rathmell, Zapata County Judge
Susan Redford, Ector County Judge
In addition to the above-adopted resolutions, the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas Resolutions Committee requests that the following items be recommended for future study and consideration:
- County ownership of mineral rights in county roads.
- County responsibility for cost of transport, autopsy, and disposition of dead bodies.
- County responsibility for drug-resistant tuberculosis cases.
- Recovery of cost of reproduction of clerk’s digitized records.
- Tax valuation of refineries and new oil and gas production facilities, and new oil and gas interests.
- Full funding for school vaccination program.
- Implement H.B. 2454 to allow counties to adopt an automatic procedure to qualify jail inmates as indigent for indigent health care.
- State assume full responsibility for transport cost of jail inmates to TDCJ.
- Implement S.B. 1510 to authorize counties to publish a single, simplified, combined tax rate and budget notice.
- Request voter approval of Proposition 6 (S.J.R. 1) from the Regular Session to support funding for water supply projects on the November 2013 ballot.
- Require vehicles to reduce speed and/or yield a traffic lane to county road and bridge vehicles and equipment.
- Require Commissioners Court representation on regional water planning groups.
- Request legislation to require state reimbursement for court-appointed attorneys in child protective services cases.