The following resolutions were passed by the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, representing 254 counties in the State of Texas, on Sept. 27, 2007, during the Association’s annual conference.
Thanks to the Host Court
WHEREAS, the annual conference of the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas was held in Galveston, Texas, Sept. 24-27, 2007; and
WHEREAS, the Honorable Commissioners Court of Galveston County and former Galveston County Commissioner Eddie Janek have hosted the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas in the most entertaining and excellent manner;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVEDthat the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas has wholehearted thanks and deep appreciation to the Honorable Commissioners Court of Galveston County, former Galveston County Commissioner Eddie Janek, Moody Gardens Hotel and Conference Center, sponsors, contributors and exhibitors for their courteous and warm hospitality extended to each of us.
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 Galveston, Texas, Sept. 24-27, 2007; 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, L.L.P.; the Texas Association of Counties and Executive Director Karen Norris; the Texas Association of Regional Councils and Director Penny Redington; the V.G. Young Institute of County Government, a part of Texas Cooperative Extension, Director Richard O. Avery, and Extension Program Specialist Stacy Morris; 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.
In Memory of Sam D. Seale
WHEREAS, Sam D. Seale passed away on February 7, 2007; and
WHEREAS, Sam Seale was truly our county leader for many years; and
WHEREAS, Sam Seale performed outstanding public service in many capacities, including County Judge of Jackson County, President of the South Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association, President of the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, and Executive Director of the Texas Association of Counties; and
WHEREAS, the values and character of Judge Seale will continue to provide inspiration and guidance to all county officials;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas hereby expresses its deepest condolences to Sam’s beloved wife, Sylvia, and the Seale family and that we dedicate this conference in honor of our friend, Sam Seale.
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 Region
Former Dawson County Commissioner J.E. Airhart
Former Wise County Commissioner Farley Bridges
Former Moore County Commissioner George Brown
Former Borden County Commissioner Dee Burrus
Former Potter County Commissioner J. Pat Cunningham
Former Mason County Commissioner Mason Dobbs
Former Archer County Commissioner Bennie Fichte
Former Terrell County Judge Dudley Harrison
Callahan County Commissioner Tom Holland
Former Hartley County Commissioner Bob Hunnicutt
Former King County Commissioner Darwin Marshall
Former Swisher County Commissioner F.L. McGavitt
Former Upton County Commissioner Morris E. “Mac” McKenzie
Former Armstrong County Commissioner Gladys Posey
Former Ward County Commissioner Lenora Price
Former Tarrant County Judge Doug Ribert
Former Terry County Judge Doug Ryburn
Former El Paso County Commissioner Rogelio Sanchez
Former Hutchison County Commissioner W.D. “Bill” Shipley
Cottle County Commissioner Gus Timmons
Former Donley County Commissioner Gene White
North & East Texas Region
Former Wood County Commissioner Glenn Bevill
Lamar County Commissioner Mike Blackburn
Former Newton County Commissioner Charlie Brenham
Former Anderson County Judge Luther C. Johnston
Former Bell County Commissioner Mae Latham
Former Bosque County Judge Earl W. “Pete” Page
Red River County Judge Powell W. Peek
Former Bell County Commissioner R.L. Peters
Coryell County Judge Riley Simpson
Former Rusk County Commissioner Jerry Weaver
Former Dallas County Commissioner and Judge John Harold Whittington
South Texas Region
Cameron County Commissioner Pedro “Pete” Benavides
Former Harris County Commissioner Jamie H. Bray
Blanco County Commissioner Floyd Cooley
Former McMullen County Judge Annie Bendele Crain
Former Austin County Judge J. Lee Dittert Jr.
Former San Patricio County Commissioner Hazel Edwards
Former Guadalupe County Judge J.B. Fleming
Former Colorado County Judge John Alden Hancher
Former Bandera County Judge W. O. Hatfield
Former Live Oak County Commissioner J.J. “Bucky” Houdmann
Former Walker County Judge A.M. McCaig
Former Medina County Commissioner Christine “Chris” Mitchell
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.
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 and its 254 current members 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, 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.
State-Imposed Property Tax Increases
WHEREAS, the Texas State Constitution prohibits the Texas Legislature from levying a property tax; and
WHEREAS, indigent health care is the state’s responsibility; and
WHEREAS, indigent criminal defense is the state’s responsibility; and
WHEREAS, the costly voting machines mandated and partially paid for by the federal government will be an added expense from now on; and
WHEREAS, counties can implement some government programs and perform some duties more effectively than the state government, and counties should be reimbursed for their expenses for state responsibilities; and
WHEREAS, while we believe that indigents should be helped and provided for, we do not believe this burden should be the responsibility of only the county property taxpayers; and
WHEREAS, a county’s primary source of raising money is through property tax, and this is, in effect, the state levying a property tax to pay for mandated programs;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas requests that any and all mandated programs be funded by the state; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we resist, by litigation if necessary, any further state attempts to compel local property tax increases and encourage the Legislature to study and authorize additional alternative revenue sources for counties.
Indigent Health Care
WHEREAS, during the past legislative session, revisions were proposed regarding the Texas system of indigent health care; and
WHEREAS, some bills 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 or statewide health care system.
Federal Funding for Indigent Health Care
WHEREAS, Texas has relied upon hospital districts, counties, and public and non-profit hospitals to provide health care to our indigent citizens; and
WHEREAS, the State of Texas has failed to fully access federal Medicaid funds; and
WHEREAS, this failure of the State of Texas has forced local taxpayers to assume this burden through property taxes; and
WHEREAS, these federal funds are being fully utilized by other states;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas requests that the State of Texas expand its Medicaid program to obtain federal matching funds for indigent health care and relieve the property taxpayer of this unfair burden.
Opposition to Appraisal Caps and Revenue Caps
WHEREAS, in Regular Session the Texas Legislature considered proposals for revenue caps on counties and lower appraisal caps; 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, 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 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;
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 Rep. Fred Hill, Rep. Jim Dunham, and all other legislators who opposed these unsound measures.
Indigent Criminal Defense
WHEREAS, indigent criminal defense legislation has required additional county taxpayer expense to provide indigent criminal defense services; and
WHEREAS, indigent criminal defense legislation 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 indigent criminal defense legislation be revised to simplify the administrative and reporting requirements and improve the efficiency of the indigent criminal defense program, and that formal criminal proceedings be initiated within 30 days in all criminal cases; 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 and submit the program to full Sunset Review in 2009.
Mandatory Attorney Fees in Child Protective Services Cases
WHEREAS, the 79th Legislature’s Senate Bill 6 was amended in Conference Committee to mandate that counties provide attorneys to represent indigent parents in all Child Protective Services cases; and
WHEREAS, this unfunded mandate was added to this legislation without any notice or public hearing; and
WHEREAS, this legislation provided no funding for these additional services; and
WHEREAS, this mandate has been imposed upon county property taxpayers;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas requests that mandatory representation in Child Protective Services cases be repealed unless fully funded by the State of Texas.
Local Option Development Authority
WHEREAS, Texas counties have very limited authority to implement a county development plan; and
WHEREAS, this lack of authority has caused inefficient and inequitable distribution of the transportation and infrastructure costs of new development;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas requests that counties be granted local option authority to adopt county development plans, including subdivision density controls, and impose reasonable impact fees to fairly distribute the infrastructure costs for new development.
County Fees and Fines
WHEREAS, county fees and fines are a traditional source of funding for the support of local law enforcement, county detention facilities, and the court system; and
WHEREAS, counties have no other available sources of revenue except the over-burdened property tax; and
WHEREAS, the State of Texas has invaded these traditional county revenue sources by creating additional fees to be collected at the county level and forwarded to the state comptroller for state purposes;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas requests that all fines and fees collected at the county level be retained by the county for local budget needs; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas requests that an interim study be conducted to determine if the current fees and fines are adequate to fund their original purposes.
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, Texas is expected to have a 75 million population at build-out; 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 Legislature granting additional powers to municipal utility districts and special utility districts.
Filing Deadline Conflict
WHEREAS, the current Election Code provisions result in filing date deadlines that occur on national and state holidays; and
WHEREAS, this results in considerable confusion and inconvenience to the public, candidates and filing officials;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas does hereby request that the Texas Legislature amend the Election Code to prevent filing deadlines that coincide with national or state holidays.
State Hospital System
WHEREAS, Texas counties are required to provide inpatient psychiatric services to meet the needs of the citizens of Texas; and
WHEREAS, the state hospital system has not been able to service court-ordered confinement and voluntary commitment to these fragile individuals needing care for their mental illnesses because rooms formerly used by patients are now dormant or being used for criminal inmates; and
WHEREAS, the state hospital system is frequently on diversionary status requiring law enforcement and families to transport individuals and loved ones to hospitals far from their home community for care; and
WHEREAS, there has been a substantial decrease in the number of private psychiatric inpatient care facilities in Texas leaving the responsibility of this level of care to the state hospital system;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas requests that the Texas Legislature increase the capacity in the state hospital system and increase the number of caseworkers and other professionals needed to provide mental health services to adequately meet the needs of the citizens of Texas.
Waste Tire Disposal Fee
WHEREAS, the State of Texas requires the collection of a waste tire disposal fee on all scrap tires left with a tire retailer; and
WHEREAS, the State of Texas does not utilize the full amount of this fee for the recycling or disposal of waste tires; and
WHEREAS, the continued collection of this fee provides incentive to consumers to improperly dispose of scrap tires; and
WHEREAS, many of these scrap tires are being deposited in county road drainage ditches and other environmentally unsafe locations; and
WHEREAS, the cost of removing these scrap tires is being unfairly placed upon local taxpayers;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas does hereby request that the State of Texas expand its program for the proper mandatory recycling or disposal of scrap tires and provide sufficient funding to operate the program.
State Driving License Fees
WHEREAS, the State of Texas has attempted to meet its budget needs by assessing additional fees on driving licenses for certain criminal violations; and
WHEREAS, this program has not produced the estimated revenue for the state; and
WHEREAS, this program has caused a tremendous increase in status offenses, such as driving while license suspended, driving while license invalid, and driving without insurance; and
WHEREAS, this program has resulted in additional pressure on the courts and the county jail; and
WHEREAS, this program is not beneficial to the citizens of Texas;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas does hereby request that the Texas Legislature abolish the additional driving license fees being assessed for certain criminal violations.
Appreciation for Emergency Appropriations for Costs Associated with the Constitutional Amendment Election
WHEREAS, the Texas Legislature has included $5 million in emergency appropriations for costs associated with the special constitutional amendment election conducted in May 2007; and
WHEREAS, the cost of conducting this special election was an unfunded mandate and a burden to counties;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas expresses its appreciation for the $5 million appropriated to provide reimbursement to counties for expenses associated with the May 2007 special constitutional amendment election, and the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas especially commends Sen. Steve Ogden, Sen. Robert Duncan, Rep. Warren Chisum, Rep. Leo Berman, and Rep. Joe Heflin for their efforts to obtain this funding.
County Local Option Sales Tax
WHEREAS, county revenue sources are extremely limited; and
WHEREAS, under current statutes, counties are forced to rely upon property taxes to fund necessary services; and
WHEREAS, county taxpayers should have the option to adopt a local sales tax to reduce property taxes;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas requests that the Legislature should amend the tax statute to allow the adoption of a county local option sales tax for the reduction of property taxes without imposing any additional revenue cap.
Regarding Health Care Needs of Veterans in Texas
WHEREAS, U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, along with Congressman Hinojosa, Congressman Doggett and Congressman Cuellar, have introduced legislation to provide for the health care needs of veterans in far South Texas; and
WHEREAS, the proposed legislation, House Resolution 538, also known as the “South Texas Veterans Access to Care Act of 2007,” identifies that the current and future health care needs of veterans residing in far South Texas are not fully being met by the Department of Veterans Affairs; and
WHEREAS, the Department of Veterans Affairs has estimated that more than 114,000 veterans reside in far South Texas, a number which will continue to rise with current deployments involving members from the Texas National Guard and Reservists from Texas; and
WHEREAS, this issue illustrates the problem that affects veterans in many parts of the state with limited access to service and extreme travel times to existing facilities;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas supports the expansion of services and access to services for Texas servicemen and women throughout the state.
Commemorating the Texas 4-H Centennial
WHEREAS, the 4-H youth program began in Texas when the Jack County Boys Corn Club was founded in 1908 by Thomas M. Marks, who taught 25 farm boys how to grow corn using improved production methods; and
WHEREAS, the Milam County Girls Tomato Club was founded in 1912 by Edna Trigg to teach girls better production and canning methods for homegrown tomatoes; and
WHEREAS, the forerunner of Prairie View A&M University initiated learning opportunities for African-American youth in 1914, whereby boys and girls learned how to supplement their family diet by growing vegetable gardens and poultry; and
WHEREAS, Texas 4-H evolved from these and other outreach efforts in the 1920s and provides the youth of today with opportunities to practice life skills, develop strong character, and improve their readiness for the workplace and college; and
WHEREAS, the 4-H pledge and motto extol wise and productive use of the four Hs, which stand for Head, Heart, Hands, and Health, in order “To Make The Best Better;” and
WHEREAS, the members of 4-H and their families have made many worthwhile contributions to the citizens of Texas and this nation, and continue to do so through programs such as Operation Military Kids, which supports youth who have a parent serving in the military or the reserves; and
WHEREAS, during its history in Texas, 4-H has involved millions of boys and girls in educational and developmental programs, which have contributed significantly to the quality of life for these young people and their families; and
WHEREAS, these programs are conducted by Extension employees and Extension-trained volunteers under the administration of Texas Cooperative Extension and the Prairie View A&M Cooperative Extension Program, both of which are part of the Texas A&M University System; now,
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas recognizes the centennial anniversary of 4-H in Texas and commends Extension educators and some 42,700 volunteers for enriching the lives of almost 659,000 Texas youth who participate in 4-H today, whose own spirit and service enrich every county across the State of Texas.
In Support of Proposition 12
WHEREAS, Sen. John Carona sponsored legislation which is Proposition 12 on the Nov. 6, 2007, state ballot; and
WHEREAS, Proposition 12 amends the constitution by “Authorizing the Texas Transportation Commission to issue up to $5 billion in general obligation bonds to provide funding for highway improvement projects;” and
WHEREAS, mobility is fundamental to Texas’ quality of life and economic vitality, including attracting new businesses and generating new jobs; and
WHEREAS, Texas faces increased congestion, deteriorating roads and bridges, and air pollution