This past year has been a good year for Johnson County. The Chisholm Trail Parkway (Highway 121) is now under construction and is scheduled to be complete by spring of 2014. After being on the drawing board for some 40 years, this new tollway will bring growth to our county. When complete it will decrease a 40-minute drive to a 20-minute drive to Fort Worth. The North Central Texas Council of Governments estimates the population of Johnson County to grow to 300,000 by 2030; our current population is 153,000, so we have a great deal of growth for which to plan. The Texas Department of Transportation just finished adding two new lanes to our Highway 67 Loop that goes around the north side of Cleburne. The Cleburne City Council and Johnson County recently approved a TIF Zone to help introduce growth to the city. The next big step for Johnson County is to work toward the development of a light commuter rail between Cleburne and Fort Worth. As you can see, planning is very important as we attempt to keep up with all of this new growth. There is an old saying: “If you fail to plan, plan to fail.” I hope we can be successful in our plan.
With that in mind, I’d like to talk about planning for this next legislative session. During our annual State Association meeting in October, the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas passed the following 2012 Resolutions: Opposition to Unfunded Mandates, Opposition to Appraisal Caps and Revenue Caps, Opposition to Diversion of Dedicated Funds, Opposition to Granting Powers to Municipal Utility Districts, Provide Full Funding to Emergency Services Program, Provide Assistance to Texas Counties to Repair and Rehabilitate County Roads that are being Destroyed by Drilling and Exploration Companies, and Provide New Permit Procedures and Approval by the Local Commissioners Court and Groundwater Districts Before any Permit is Granted for Uranium Mining. These are among the main issues before us this next legislative session. I am sure there will be many other items that will need our attention. Please stay in touch with Jim Allison during this session with any concerns you may have.
As I finish writing this I am leaving to attend a symposium in Austin to address legislative concerns. The purpose of this meeting is to participate in an open discussion of concerns shared by the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, County District and Clerks Association, County Auditors Association, County Tax Assessor-Collectors Association, and the Texas District and County Attorneys Association. This symposium represents the first phase of our legislative initiative.
It looks like this may be a very busy year for all of us with changes headed our way. For example, federal mandates concerning issues such as health care will be of concern to counties and may require budgetary adjustments to assure compliance. It will be extremely important for all of us to look at new ways to best run our counties, and our involvement with the State Association will assist us in these efforts. Thank you, again, for the opportunity to serve as president of your State Association. Hope to see all of you soon.