The following resolutions were passed by the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association representing 73 counties in the State of Texas on May 15, 2014, during the Association’s Annual Conference.
1. Thanks to the Host Court
WHEREAS, the Annual Conference of the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association was conducted in Galveston County, Texas, May 12-15, 2014; and
WHEREAS, the Honorable Commissioners Court of Galveston County has hosted the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association in the most entertaining and excellent manner;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association expresses its wholehearted thanks and deep appreciation to the Honorable Commissioners Court of Galveston County, sponsors, contributors, and exhibitors for their courteous and warm hospitality extended to each of us.
2. Thanks to State and Local Associations and Friends of County Government
WHEREAS, the Annual Conference of the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association was conducted in Galveston County, Texas, May 12-15, 2014; and
WHEREAS, the members of the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association wish to acknowledge the expertise of and thank the staff of: James Allison of Allison, Bass & Magee, LLP; the Texas Association of Counties and Executive Director Gene Terry; the Texas Association of Regional Councils and Director Penny Redington; the V.G. Young Institute of County Government, a part of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service; the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agents’ professional associations; County Progress Magazine and editor Julie Anderson; and the many other state and local associations and people who have all been so helpful to county government;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that this Association thanks all of these individuals and their staffs for their past, present and future help on behalf of county government.
3. Memorial to Deceased Officials and Special Friends
WHEREAS, the following highly regarded members and friends of the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association are deceased; and
WHEREAS, the Association desires to pay appropriate respect to these members and friends; and
WHEREAS, since our last conference, the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association has mourned the passing of:
Former Jefferson County
Commissioner Jimmie P. Cokinos
Former Coryell County
Commissioner Kyle Pruitt
Red River County Commissioner
Ben Ray Storey
Sabine County Judge
Charles E. Watson
Former Jasper County
Commissioner and County
Judge Corbit Whitehead
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association members pause for a moment of silence and meditation to honor the memory of these respected individuals.
4. Opposition to Unfunded Mandates
WHEREAS, Texas counties are responsible for the operation and management of many and various governmental programs as required or authorized by state law; and
WHEREAS, some county government programs are fully or partially supported with funds disbursed by the State of Texas pursuant to the state appropriations process; and
WHEREAS, the State of Texas, acting through the Texas Legislature or through a state agency or executive order, may enact laws or promulgate rules that have the effect of imposing mandatory financial obligations upon Texas counties; and
WHEREAS, the State of Texas, through the Texas Legislature or through a state agency or executive order, mandates that counties implement certain governmental programs or perform certain duties and obligations including financial commitments by a county to expend county funds in connection therewith; and
WHEREAS, during each regular session of the Texas Legislature, all state funds that support county programs are reviewed through the state appropriation process and by other state budgetary review systems; and
WHEREAS, the aforementioned review process may result in a reduction, or cessation, of state financial support of county government programs causing an unforeseeable disruption and reduction of the county budget and operations; and
WHEREAS, Texas counties cannot achieve reliable financial planning and the necessary bond ratings sufficient to support county-related obligations when the state mandates a new program that is not fully funded or under conditions where the state reduces or fully withdraws prior funding and disbursement for county government programs;
NOW, THEREFORE, the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association and its 73 current member counties do hereby resolve that for the foregoing reasons, it is in the best interests of Texas counties and their taxpayers to support and favor the passage of legislation in the form of an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Texas that would expressly prohibit the imposition of a mandatory governmental program on Texas counties, whether by an act of the Texas Legislature or a state agency or by executive order, unless the State of Texas has fully funded and disbursed all necessary funds to enable Texas counties to operate said governmental program.
5. Opposition to Appraisal Caps and Revenue Caps
WHEREAS, the Texas Legislature has considered proposals for additional revenue caps and additional appraisal caps on counties; and
WHEREAS, 60 percent of the average taxpayer’s property tax burden is due to school taxes while only 14 percent is due to county taxes; and
WHEREAS, appraisal caps or revenue caps would diminish local control and tie the hands of county officials and limit their ability to provide essential services to address the needs and emergencies of their citizens; and
WHEREAS, county government is already struggling to meet the demands of under-funded and unfunded state mandates such as indigent health care, indigent defense and federal mandates such as the Help America Vote Act and the Clean Air Act; and
WHEREAS, the demands on county budgets continue to increase including motor fuel, road materials, and all other products and services purchased by counties; and
WHEREAS, artificial appraisal caps or revenue caps will result in a shift of taxes from rapidly appreciating properties to those remaining relatively stable in value and to all non-residential properties; and
WHEREAS, appraisal caps or revenue caps will not necessarily result in a reduction of property taxes but will result in a severe impact on county services; and
WHEREAS, undermining a property tax system based upon fair market value is questionable public policy and will result in a distorted, inequitable taxation scheme under which identical homes could be taxed at vastly different amounts; and
WHEREAS, it would be unfair for the Texas Legislature to impose additional revenue caps on local governments without imposing similar caps on state government;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association does hereby express its opposition to efforts to limit local control and does hereby oppose any attempts to impose revenue caps or appraisal caps upon Texas counties, and the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association expresses its deep appreciation to all legislators who oppose these unsound measures.
6. Indigent Health Care
WHEREAS, revisions have been proposed regarding the Texas system of indigent health care; and
WHEREAS, some revisions propose an assessment upon counties to support a regional indigent health care system; and
WHEREAS, such assessment would constitute an unfunded mandate, requiring property tax increases in those counties; and
WHEREAS, such regional systems would not be efficient or responsive to local taxpayers;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association opposes any attempt to impose a mandatory assessment upon Texas counties to fund a regional or statewide health care system.
7. Opposition to Diversion of Dedicated Funds
WHEREAS, the Legislature has committed certain funds for dedicated purposes; and
WHEREAS, unfortunately these funds have been improperly withheld from these needed functions and used to balance the general state budget; and
WHEREAS, the state leadership has proposed to end this diversion of funds;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association expresses its opposition to any state diversion of dedicated funds and supports the state leadership’s commitment to end this practice.
8. Emergency Services Program
WHEREAS, citizens of rural Texas desire access to 9-1-1 emergency services in an efficient manner, as evidenced by approval of the monthly fee on business and residential phone bills; and
WHEREAS, the 9-1-1 emergency services dispatch and response depends on equipment which must function reliably on a continuous basis; and
WHEREAS, older equipment reaches a point of being high maintenance and becomes unreliable; and
WHEREAS, technology continues to improve, necessitating upgrading hardware and software for reverse 9-1-1 services and other needs;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association urges our state legislators to provide full funding to the Emergency 9-1-1 Services Program for maintenance and improvement; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that funds generated by the 9-1-1 surcharge will not be used by the Legislature as money set aside to balance the state budget; and
BE IT ALSO RESOLVED that any such funds set aside that currently exist be fully appropriated for the Emergency 9-1-1 Services Program.
9. Opposition to Granting Powers to Municipal Utility Districts and Special Utility Districts
WHEREAS, Texas is one of the fastest-growing states in the Union; and
WHEREAS, city government and county government should have appropriate authority to regulate growth in their respective counties and cities; and
WHEREAS, special water districts and private water corporations have the means to furnish water and provide for growth in rural areas of the counties; and
WHEREAS, municipal utility districts and special utility districts have been improperly used by certain developers to avoid compliance with county and city infrastructure plans;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association opposes the granting of additional powers to municipal utility districts and special utility districts and requests that the approval of the county be required before any further districts are created.
10. Mental Health Patients
WHEREAS, Texas counties have been forced to hold mentally incompetent prisoners for an average of six months while awaiting court-ordered transfer to a state mental facility for treatment; and
WHEREAS, each of these pre-trial inmates costs the local taxpayer approximately $9,000 during this period of incarceration; and
WHEREAS, the county jail is not an appropriate facility for the mentally ill, and these prisoners pose a high risk of injury to themselves, the jail staff and other prisoners; and
WHEREAS, a State District Court in Travis County has ordered the Department of Health Services to receive these prisoners within 21 days of a judge’s order; and
WHEREAS, instead of accepting its responsibility, the State has appealed this order; and
WHEREAS, this delay by the State is increasing the cost to our taxpayers and continuing this improper practice;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association hereby requests that the State of Texas implement the additional funding for mental health services in S.B. 1, the General Appropriations Act, and implement the state mental health plan approved in H.B. 3793 to ensure the efficient and effective use of these resources.
11. Support for Constitutional Amendment for State Highway Fund
WHEREAS, S.J.R. 1, Third Called Session, 83rd Legislature, approved a proposed constitutional amendment to be submitted to the voters on November 4, 2014; and
WHEREAS, this proposed constitutional amendment will provide additional funding for the state highway fund to be used only for constructing, maintaining, and acquiring right of way for public roadways other than toll roads; and
WHEREAS, this proposed constitutional amendment will provide needed support for public highways without increasing taxes; and
WHEREAS, the county road system will be eligible for assistance from this funding; now
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association does hereby support the constitutional amendment for the state highway fund to be considered on November 4, 2014, and requests its approval by the voters.
12. Uranium Mining Regulation
WHEREAS, uranium mining creates a special hazard for local groundwater; and
WHEREAS, uranium mining places a high demand upon local groundwater resources; and
WHEREAS, groundwater pollution by uranium mining cannot be recovered or rehabilitated and creates a permanent loss of groundwater; and
WHEREAS, county and groundwater conservation districts have very limited power to regulate uranium mining under current law;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association requests that state law be amended to require a due process permit proceeding and approval by the local Commissioners Court and groundwater conservation district before any permit is granted for uranium mining.
13. Fireworks Regulations
WHEREAS, counties currently have limited authority to regulate fireworks; and
WHEREAS, due to the continued drought and the concern for public safety;
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association is opposed to any legislative action that would remove current county authority to regulate fireworks.
14. Repeal of H.B. 259
WHEREAS, H.B. 259, adopted by the 83rd Texas Legislature, cancelled the authority of public entities to prohibit electioneering on the premises of public building being used as a polling place; and
WHEREAS, H.B. 259 limits the authority of public entities to regulations concerning the time, place, and manner of electioneering on such premises; and
WHEREAS, this legislation exposes public property to potential damage and public entities to unwarranted litigation; and
WHEREAS, such electioneering can create a hazard to the public and an interference with the access to public buildings; now
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association does hereby request the repeal of H.B. 259 and the re-establishment of local control over the premises of public buildings.
15. Extension of Chapter 313 of the Texas Tax Code
WHEREAS, Chapter 313 of the Texas Tax Code, the Texas Economic Development Act, has benefitted many North & East Texas counties and school districts by helping to establish wind energy generation as a significant economic development industry in North & East Texas; and
WHEREAS, many North & East Texas counties also possess solar and geothermal resources that fall within the definition of “Renewable Energy Electric Generation;” and
WHEREAS, the job creation by renewable industries is well suited to rural communities that lack the infrastructure capability to support a large work force, but benefit significantly economically by the capital investment created by renewable industry projects; and
WHEREAS, there are several bills concerning Chapter 313 of the Texas Tax Code that will be considered by the 84th Legislature; and
WHEREAS, it is of the utmost importance that this economic development tool remain available to the rural communities of Texas; and
WHEREAS, it is imperative that local school districts continue to have local discretion in approving projects;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association supports the extension of Chapter 313 of the Texas Tax Code and its inclusion of Renewable Energy Electric Generation; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we support increased tax benefit to the local school district and continuation of local decision-making power to approve projects, and urge the State Legislature to show its support of rural Texas communities by only passing bills that include all of the above-stated resolve.
16. County Road Sign Program
WHEREAS, the staff of the Texas Department of Transportation has announced that it will discontinue the county road sign program on state highways; and
WHEREAS, identification of county road intersections on state highways provides important safety information for first responders and the traveling public; and
WHEREAS, the attempt by TxDOT to shift this cost to county taxpayers would result in an uneven, patchwork system of road identification dependent upon the local taxes base; and
WHEREAS, this unnecessary change in policy will actually increase the total cost of these important signs on state highways;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association does hereby urge the Texas Highway Commission to reverse this ill-considered decision and continue the county road sign program on state highways.
North & East Texas County Judges andCommissioners Association 2014 Resolutions Committee
Chairman Everette “Bo” Alfred,
Jefferson County Commissioner
Jasper County Judge
Rockwall County Commissioner
Camp County Judge
Rains County Commissioner
Nacogdoches County Commissioner
Chambers County Judge
Polk County Judge
In addition to the above-adopted resolutions, the North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association Resolutions Committee requests that the following items be recommended for future study and consideration:
- County ownership of mineral rights in county roads.
- County responsibility for cost of transport, autopsy, and disposition of dead bodies.
- County responsibility for drug-resistant tuberculosis cases.
- Recovery of cost of reproduction of clerk’s digitized records.
- Tax valuation of refineries and new oil and gas production facilities, and new oil and gas interests.
- Full funding for school vaccination program.
- State assume full responsibility for transport cost of jail inmates to TDCJ.
- Require vehicles to reduce speed and/or yield a traffic lane to county road and bridge vehicles and equipment.
- Require Commissioners Court representation on regional water planning groups.
- Request legislation to require state reimbursement for court-appointed attorneys in child protective services cases.
- Restore full funding for the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Grant Program.
- Support county authority to prohibit the disposal of human waste and liquid septage in the unincorporated area.