Anniversary Prompts Reflection and Re-Dedication
In 1922, members of commissioners courts organized the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, the first organization of county officials. While the precise motives of those early officials have faded
into history, the constitution and by-laws of the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas (State Association) provide insight into their objectives.
The constitution states the purpose of the State Association in Article II:
Section 1. It shall be the purpose of this Association to create a greater interest in county government and to unite its members to promote better business methods in county government, and to foster the general welfare of county government throughout all counties in the State of Texas.
Section 2. This Association shall encourage active participation in governmental affairs, particularly that pertaining to county government, by all members of Commissioners Courts of Texas.
Section 3. This Association shall uphold the principles of good government in Texas.
Section 4. This Association shall sponsor and co-sponsor educational conferences, seminars and other programs for county officials and county employees to study information relative to county affairs; and assist those officials in need of Continuing Education credits, as required by law.
While the organizers of the State Association recognized the need to present county issues before the Texas Legislature, the by-laws stress the importance of avoiding partisan politics within the organization. By-law No. 1 and No. 2 state this principle as follows:
This Association shall not endorse or recommend any candidate for political office, nor shall politics or political candidates be discussed on the floor of any of its meetings.
No officer or member of this Association shall use the Association as a means for furthering any personal, political or other aspiration for himself or any other person, and the Association as a whole shall not take part in any movement which is not in keeping with the purposes of this Association.
Ninety years ago, commissioners courts were facing issues that are similar to today. Returning veterans from World War I were placing a strain upon the economy and social services. The shift from a rural, agricultural population to a growing industrial, urban society required changes in county infrastructure and county responsibilities.
In their decision to create the State Association, the members of commissioners courts in 1922 were most certainly influenced by a series of judicial decisions that had determined that the powers of the commissioners court were limited to those expressly or implied conferred by the state constitution or statutes. In Mills County v. Lampasas County, 40 S.W. 403 (1897), the Texas Supreme Court held that the constitution does not confer upon the commissioners court any general authority over county business, but merely gives them such special powers and jurisdiction over all county business as is conferred by the constitution itself and the laws of the state as might be thereafter prescribed. During its 90-year history, the State Association has steadfastly remained the strongest advocate for local control and the exercise of discretion by the commissioners court. As we enter another legislative session, commissioners courts and the State Association must renew their opposition to unfunded mandates and their support for strong county government.
For more information, please call me at 1-800-733-0699.