The following resolutions were passed by the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas on Sept. 23, 2004, during the Association’s annual conference in Houston.
No. 1: Thanks to the Host Court
WHEREAS, the annual conference of the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas was held in Houston, Texas, Sept. 20-23, 2004; and
WHEREAS, the Honorable Commissioners Court of Harris 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 has wholehearted thanks and deep appreciation to the Honorable Commissioners Court of Harris County, the Park Plaza Hotel Reliant Center, sponsors, contributors and exhibitors for their courteous and warm hospitality extended to each of us.
No. 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 held in Houston, Texas, Sept. 20-23, 2004; and
WHEREAS, the members of the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas wish to acknowledge the expertise of, and thank the staff of, the Texas Association of Counties and Executive Director Sam Seale; the staff of the Texas Association of Regional Councils and Director Jim Ray; Mr. James Allison of Allison, Bass & Associates; Mr. Richard O. Avery of the V.G. Young Institute of County Government, Texas Cooperative Extension; the Texas Cooperative Extension agents’ professional associations; County Progress Magazine; 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.
No. 3: Memorial to Deceased Officials and 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:
North & East Texas Region:
Former Rusk County Commissioner Kenneth Ashby
Former Walker County Judge Ralph Davis
Former Walker County Commissioner Curtis Ellisor
Former Houston County Commissioner Arthur McKinney
Former Dallas County Commissioner Chris Semos
Former Cass County Commissioner Lupton Willis
South Texas Region:
Former Fort Bend County Judge Jim Adolphus
Former Lavaca County Commissioner Edwin Gaertner
Former Victoria County Commissioner Alvin H. Helweg
Former Jackson County Commissioner Steve Sablatura
Washington County Commissioner David M. Simpson
Former Colorado County Commissioner Leon J. “Sonny” Spanihel
West Texas Region:
Former Moore County Commissioner M.O. “Jack” Bain
Former Taylor County Commissioner Downing Bolls Sr.
Former Martin County Judge Bob Deavenport
Collingsworth County Judge Jim “Tank” Forrester
Former Mason County Judge Bill Gold
Former Gray County Commissioner Jim Green
Former Wichita County Commissioner H.C. “Bud” Greer
Callahan County Commissioner Charlie Grider
Former Donley County Commissioner Olace Hicks
Former Llano County Commissioner Bill Kinney
Former Lubbock County Commissioner Arch Lamb
Former Runnels County Commissioner Pat Pritchard
Former Randall County Judge Charles Purcel
Former Ector County Judge Gary Watkins
Former Donley County Commissioner Gene White
Former Stephens County Commissioner Carroll M. Williams
Former Lipscomb County Commissioner Ross Zenor;
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.
No. 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 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 does 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, including 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.
No. 5. Opposition to Limitations on Local Government Revenue
WHEREAS, local property taxpayers are struggling with the effect of continuous imposition of state unfunded mandates on local counties, cities and schools; and
WHEREAS, school districts’ share of the property tax load has risen to 60 percent of the average Texan’s total property tax bill (while the county portion only accounts for 14 percent of the tax burden); and
WHEREAS, the governor of the state of Texas has expressed the concern that if school finance reform results in lower local school taxes, then “it will be very tempting for other entities to fill the void;” and
WHEREAS, county governments have an excellent track record as good stewards of local tax dollars, despite the ongoing pressure of unfunded state mandates; and
WHEREAS, the governor has proposed that the constitution of our state be amended to require that future revenues of local governments be severely limited, with all increases beyond very minimal growth placed before the voters for approval; and
WHEREAS, ongoing unfunded mandates, as well as unforeseen local circumstances, would cause constant financial instability for local governments, whose duly elected leaders have been entrusted by the voters with making fiscally conservative budgetary decisions; and
WHEREAS, the governor has further proposed that the potential increase in the valuation of residential homesteads be limited to 3 percent annually; and
WHEREAS, such an artificial “cap” would grossly distort the current system of 100 percent valuations, shifting the property tax burden to business properties and further harming the state’s economic development; and
WHEREAS, the governor’s only proposed shelter against continued delegation of unfunded state mandates on local governments has been a vaguely worded “assurance” against future mandates, with no offer of a permanent, fail-proof section of the state constitution that protects the local taxpayer; and
WHEREAS, the governor’s proposal would result in radical cutbacks in services that local taxpayers have requested and expressed a willingness to pay for;
NOW, THEREFORE, the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas does hereby resolve and express its firm and absolute opposition to the governor’s proposal.
No. 6. Department of Human Services Offices
WHEREAS, the Texas Department of Human Services has now implemented its plans to close most of its client services offices; and
WHEREAS, this action has eliminated the opportunity for personal contact to determine eligibility for Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and many other programs; and
WHEREAS, the substitution of telephone “call centers” for these offices does not provide sufficient services to Texas citizens; and
WHEREAS, the closure of these state offices has forced Texas citizens to seek these services in hospital emergency rooms and county indigent health care offices; and
WHEREAS, the closure of these state offices has increased costs and unfunded mandates on county budgets;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas requests that Gov. Perry, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, Speaker Craddick, and Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins immediately suspend and cancel this proposal to close local offices of the Texas Department of Human Services.
No. 7: Water Leasing and Water Strategies
WHEREAS, the Texas Legislature and the state of Texas have defined a water planning process wherein all water users in the state work with the Regional Water Planning Groups and the local groundwater conservation districts to develop plans for the use of the water supplies in the state; and
WHEREAS, Regional Water Planning Groups are organized to: address diverse interest groups; represent all water users; consider best available data; coordinate water availability, water demands, population projections, and water management strategies; and prepare a Regional Water Plan based on a 50-year planning horizon; and
WHEREAS, local groundwater conservation districts are the state’s preferred method for addressing the planning, protection and management of groundwater resources in the state as defined in Chapter 36 of the Texas Water Code and the enabling legislation of the individual districts; and
WHEREAS, the 75th Texas Legislature mandated that all water-use strategies affecting the water resources of each region must be considered by the Regional Water Planning Groups in developing a water plan; and
WHEREAS, water-use strategies considered by the Regional Water Planning Groups to be viable and appropriate for the region must be incorporated in the Regional Water Plan; and
WHEREAS, a proposal has been made by a group or entity calling itself “Rio Nuevo” to pump groundwater into the Rio Grande or into a pipeline for export or for use somewhere other than the local area; and
WHEREAS, other water-marketing entities are considering comparable activities within various Texas Water Planning Regions; and
WHEREAS, the Texas General Land Office is considering the lease or sale of water from lands owned by the people of the state of Texas to one or more water-marketing entities who propose to serve market demands and population centers inside and outside of the local Water Planning Regions; and
WHEREAS, it is unclear to what extent the Texas General Land Office has considered the short- and long-term impacts of the proposed sale or lease on the economy, people or environment as provided through the regional water planning process; and
WHEREAS, proposals by the Texas General Land Office to lease or sell groundwater from lands owned by the people of the state of Texas have not been adequately presented to local Regional Water Planning Groups for consideration and possible incorporations into the Regional Water Plan;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas opposes any effort by the Texas General Land Office to lease or sell any groundwater from lands owned by the people of the state of Texas to any entity unless a water-use strategy proposing such use of groundwater is first presented to and reviewed by the affected local Regional Water Planning Group and is subsequently accepted, included and adopted as part of the local Regional Water Plan; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the General Land Office shall comply with all groundwater conservation district rules and state-certified groundwater management plans; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that all negotiations regarding the sale or lease of water from lands owned by the people of the state of Texas must be conducted in public, with public input and knowledge, and the use of the competitive bidding process; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Honorable Rick Perry, governor of the state of Texas; the Honorable David Dewhurst, lieutenant governor of the state of Texas; and the Honorable Tom Craddick, speaker of the House of Representatives, are urged to intervene and ask the Honorable Jerry Patterson, commissioner of the General Land Office, to delay further negotiations with any group or entity regarding the sale or lease of water from lands owned by the people of the state of Texas until a thorough study of the impacts of selling or leasing water under lands owned by the people of the state of Texas and controlled by the Texas General Land Office has been conducted; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the study of the impacts of selling or leasing water should focus on how the pumping, exportation and importation would affect (1) the environment, (2) the value and use of private lands, (3) the value and use of federal, state and local public lands, including the lands from which groundwater is proposed to be withdrawn, (4) ad valorem tax bases, (5) aquifer conditions, depletion, subsidence and sustainability, (6) local spring flows and well levels, (7) local economies and demographics, (8) cost/benefit analysis for both the importing and exporting Water Planning Regions during the period for which water is proposed to be sold or leased, (9) the availability of feasible and practicable alternative water supplies to the proposed sale or lease, and (10) the amount, term and proposed use of the groundwater proposed to be sold.
No. 8: Indigent Criminal Defense
WHEREAS, Senate Bill 7 has required additional county taxpayer expense to provide indigent criminal defense services; and
WHEREAS, Senate Bill 7 has added administrative duties and reporting requirements to county offices; and
WHEREAS, the present appropriation is insufficient to reimburse the county for these mandated costs, with 65 percent of the costs being imposed on county taxpayers;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas requests that the provisions of Senate Bill 7 be revised to simplify the administrative and reporting requirements and improve the efficiency of the indigent criminal defense program; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Legislature appropriate sufficient funds to compensate counties for the full cost of implementing the indigent criminal defense program or repeal Senate Bill 7.
No. 9. Witness Expense Reimbursement Program and Visiting Judge Program
WHEREAS, the state Legislature drastically reduced the funding for its Witness Expense Reimbursement Program and Visiting Judge Program; and
WHEREAS, these reduced funds have been exhausted with more than a year remaining in the state budget cycle; and
WHEREAS, the lack of witness expense funds and visiting judge funds has caused the delay of criminal prosecutions unless the county can provide the funds; and
WHEREAS, the lack of witness expense funds and visiting judge funds has resulted in increased cost for continued incarceration of prisoners in county jails;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas requests that the state of Texas immediately provide sufficient funds for the Witness Expense Reimbursement Program and Visiting Judge Program.
No. 10. Indigent Health Care
WHEREAS, the Texas system of indigent health care is currently under review by the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services; and
WHEREAS, some entities have proposed 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 health care system.
No. 11. Overweight Truck Permit Fees
WHEREAS, the Texas Department of Transportation has notified Texas counties that no further payments will be made to Texas counties for their share of overweight truck permit fees collected by TxDOT; and
WHEREAS, this statement is based upon an incorrect interpretation of a rider to House Bill 1, the General Appropriations Act; and
WHEREAS, Section 621.353(b), Transportation Code, requires that the comptroller send the amount due each county to the county treasurer at least twice each year;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas demands that the Texas Department of Transportation withdraw its incorrect position statement and that the comptroller of public accounts continue to forward overweight truck permit fees to counties as required by law.
No. 12. Motor Fuel Sales Tax
WHEREAS, county roads are a vital part of the Texas transportation system; and
WHEREAS, the increased traffic on county roads requires additional funds for maintenance and construction; and
WHEREAS, state support for the county road system has remained at $7.3 million per year since 1954; and
WHEREAS, counties are forced to increase property taxes to meet this need; and
WHEREAS, these costs should be shared by the consumers of motor fuels;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas does hereby request that the state Legislature authorize a sales tax on motor fuels dedicated to the support of the county road system.
No. 13. Transportation Code Section 251.010 Regarding Gates on County Roads
WHEREAS, the free and unrestricted use by the public of the third class roads owned and maintained by the respective counties in this state is evidenced by the overriding needs of the public to use said roads, creating the establishment of such roads; and
WHEREAS, Texas Transportation Code Section 251.010 provides that persons and neighborhood associations owning or controlling real property on which a third-class road or a neighborhood road established under Section 251.053 is located for which the right of way was obtained without cost to the county may erect a gate across the road when necessary; and
WHEREAS, the placing of such gates by private individuals and/or neighborhood associations across public roadways is contrary to and against the public interest; is the cause of frequent litigation by counties seeking removal of said gates from county roads; is allowed by a statute passed at a time prior to the period when motor vehicle traffic became common on such roads; and of necessity violates its own requirement to be constructed in such a way that opening and shutting the gate will not cause unnecessary delay to persons, including emergency personnel, using the road, while at the same time requiring emergency personnel to stop their emergency vehicles, exit them to open a gate, pass through the gate, stop their emergency vehicles, and exit the vehicles again to close the gate, or be guilty of an offense; and
WHEREAS, it is anticipated that an appreciable increase in litigation involving counties in this state attempting to protect the public interest in the free and unhindered use of the said roads will be experienced in the future as agricultural and commercial machinery becomes larger, recreational and hunting and fishing sports traffic continues to increase on rural roads, and the proliferation of gates across public roads continues to raise the expense and decrease the expediency of maintaining the roads by counties having jurisdiction over them; and
WHEREAS, such legislation contained in the Texas Transportation Code establishes a class of persons and associations that may unilaterally place a gate across a county road with no notice or requirement that the county having jurisdiction over the road participate in the decision, but to the contrary finds its commissioners answering to disapproving citizens who believe that they are entitled to free and unhindered access to their public roads and ways;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas opposes the current effect and results of Transportation Code Section 251.010, and declares that its operation is contrary to the public interest with no sufficient offsetting benefit to the private individuals and associations seeking to partially control the public roads under their provisions, and requests that the statute be amended to require approval of the commissioners court before any gate can be placed on a county road.
No. 14: Support of our President and Troops in War on Terrorism
WHEREAS, our nation is presently embroiled in a war on terrorism; and
WHEREAS, the security of our nation and our freedom is at risk;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas wholeheartedly supports our president and our troops in the war on terrorism.
Passed at the 82nd Annual Conference in Houston