Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas with family, friends and loved ones full of endless joy. It always amazes me how quickly the years go by, and this is no exception. I hope 2012 brings good and exciting things as we begin a new year in county government. Let us stay informed on the issues so that we may be able to successfully meet every challenge that comes our way.
As we begin this New Year, I pray we continue to see more rain filling our streams, rivers, lakes and aquifers. All predictions indicate that we will continue to have a very dry winter and coming year. There have been so many devastating fires around our state these past several months. So many of our counties have seen losses of life, homes and precious farmland, and many will be recovering for a very long time. Bastrop County is one that was hit extremely hard. I hope we will continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers. It is so easy to forget when “it’s not in my back yard,” but I know that Judge Ronnie McDonald and the Bastrop County Commissioners Court would greatly appreciate our continued prayers and support.
You may have recently seen where House Speaker Joe Straus released the interim committee charges for the Texas House of Representatives. I want to give a special thank-you to the TAC legislative staff for highlighting some two dozen key county-related charges. As I was reading through these charges, I thought I’d share some with you, along with commentary from TAC, which caught my attention and may be of interest to you also.
- County Development Authority – This charge is another opportunity for counties to expand local control by reviewing various tools that could be available for expanding county authority.
- Property Taxes – House Committee on Ways and Means will be looking at the tax notifications being given to the public and determine whether the process can be made easier and more transparent.
- Elections – The House Committee on Elections will study the implementation and impact of the Federal Military Overseas Empowerment Act (MOVE ACT). The legislation changed election dates to accommodate the requirement to allow 45 days for processing of military overseas ballots.
- Jails – The committee will explore best practices used by counties to manage jail population numbers, inmates requiring additional or extraordinary services, and local operational policies to address inmates with medical concerns.
- Natural Resources – The water infrastructure of the state is a critical issue for Texas counties. This interim charge will look at the promotion and feasibility of building the desalination infrastructure of the state to take advantage of the water in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as brackish groundwater sources.
- Transportation – State and local governments are struggling to meet the ever-growing demands for improved transportation infrastructure. With no new monies, diversion of current Fund 6 and fewer dollars coming from the federal government, this charge will look at ways to solidify funding for current and future transportation projects.
This is not a comprehensive list of charges. There are also other topics of great interest such as health care, mental health, juvenile justice, county structure and more.
If you would like additional information on these or any other issue, please know that your State Association officers and our general counsel, Jim Allison, are here to help in any manner. Please contact us at any time; we look forward to our continued work as we face these and other challenges and issues together.