Greetings! The year 2013 is now off and running. I just returned from Austin where I met with Jim Allison, our general counsel, and Brooks County Judge Raul Ramirez, the first vice president of our Association. Jim had us go over to the Capitol and meet with our representatives and senators to express some of our concerns with legislative issues that may affect county government. We were well received by both legislators and their staff, and they seemed to be responsive to our needs and concerns. I know it is early in the session, but we do not want to let our guard down.
I also attended a reception sponsored by the Texas Association of Counties. I have attended similar receptions in the past, but I believe that this one was attended by more of our legislators than any of the others. I hope this response will continue during this session.
On another note, I would like to commend DeWitt County Judge Daryl Fowler on his hard work in regards to looking for new funding during this legislative session for the damages caused by all of the oil and gas exploration in our counties. The additional revenue that some of our counties have received has been good, but in many counties the revenue does not cover all of the damages that have been inflicted on our county roads. Judge Fowler has put in many hours working on this; Jim Allison also has helped Judge Fowler with this important task. Thank you to Judge Fowler and Jim. On a related note, I served alongside Judge Fowler on the Task Force on Texas’ Energy Sector Roadway Needs, which released its final report in December of last year (see page 56 of this issue).
As I was writing this column, I received notice of House Bill 958 filed by my state representative that would lower our guaranteed interest rate on our county retirement from 7 percent to 5 percent. I hope that this does not pass, as most counties use this benefit to retain and hire new employees. We all need to talk with our representatives and senators to let them know how we feel in regards to this bill. I do know that Jim is aware of this, and he will be discussing the effects of the bill on county government. In the meantime please call your legislators and express your concerns with this proposed legislation.
I know I have said it before, but I cannot express enough the importance of each of us talking with our lawmakers regarding proposed legislation. Please stay in touch with Jim, as he is working closely with the Legislature on a daily basis. If we stay silent about our concerns, it may appear as though we support “problem” bills that are filed.
By the time you read this column, the V.G. Young Institute School for County Commissioners Courts in Austin will be over. The education that we receive from this conference and future meetings will be of great importance to us in governing our counties. The next conference will take place in Midland County, courtesy of the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association. Hope to see you there!
– Roger Harmon