We hope all of you had a safe, joyful, wonderful, holiday season celebrating Christmas and welcoming in the New Year with your families and friends. As we attempt to relax from the holiday season, it is time to plan for the challenges and opportunities that face our counties, state and nation.
There will be many newly elected county officials in the courthouse across the state, and we wish to express a special and sincere welcome to each of you. We want you to know that your thoughts and needs are important to this organization. We urge you to take advantage of the services and support that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas can provide as you take on the challenges of your office. We also will call on you to assist us in solving critical problems that face our citizens and yours.
The 79th Legislature will convene on Jan. 11, 2005. Our respective regional County Judges and Commissioners Associations, the Conference of Urban Counties, the Texas Association of Counties, and Jim Allison, our legal counsel, have been in contact with the legislators and their staff members on the critical issues facing counties. We, the county officials, need to be informed on these issues and communicate our comments, concerns and possible solutions to critical issues and proposed legislation. Write or call your legislators concerning these proposals. Lets not fall asleep behind the wheel and let these pass without an all-out struggle.
Unfunded mandates, revenue caps, and appraisal caps are some of the very critical county issues that will be addressed by the 79th Legislature. Revenue caps and appraisal caps will impose a real hardship on your county and mine. Local control of our citizens monies is a necessity. Local government officials know exactly what our citizens want and need. Citizens should have a say as to how their money is spent through their own local officials and not through unfunded mandates. Unfunded mandates will eat to the core of local revenues. The government demands that we place costs of unfair mandates on our local citizens.
Restoring funding to the agencies that provide services to those with mental illness and mental retardation is critical. Some of these patients are becoming a part of the prison system because there are no funds to treat them. Most have no families to come to their rescue, so they are either on the street or housed in jails and prisons with criminals. We have got to try to do something for these people. It is our official and moral duty.
The funds that the Childrens Health Insurance Program (CHIP) needs to provide low-cost health insurance for the disadvantaged children of Texas must be restored. Without this insurance, thousands of children in Texas are without health insurance and will end up in our county hospitals emergency rooms, thus straining our county budgets. This is an extreme hardship on single mothers and families trying to make ends meet.
We greatly appreciate your assistance as our Association faces the many important matters that the 79th Legislature will present that will affect our counties. Van L. York, Association President