Some proponents of local involvement in state transportation and infrastructure projects have urged counties to create subregional planning commissions under Chapter 391, Local Government Code. However, these efforts are not supported by the statutes. Here are my responses to some recent inquiries.
1. May political subdivisions create a Subregional Planning Commission, pursuant to Chapter 391, Local Government Code? Chapter 391 requires that boundaries of subregional planning commissions be consistent with geographic boundaries delineated by the governor. Since the governor has not delineated any such boundaries, there is no current authority to create a subregional planning commission.
2. Has the attorney general issued opinions upholding regional planning commissions? The attorney general has issued several opinions upholding the status and existence of regional planning commissions. However, no opinion has supported creation of a subregional planning commission without action from the governor to delineate the boundaries.
3. Is there any penalty for attempting to create an unauthorized subregional planning commission? If officers of a political subdivision expend public funds for an unauthorized purpose, they may be personally liable for reimbursement of the expenditures.
4. Can a subregional planning commission supersede or suspend a state agency action? No. “In carrying out their planning and program development responsibilities, state agencies shall, to the greatest extent feasible, coordinate planning with commissions to ensure effective and orderly implementation of state programs at the regional level.” Section 791.009 (c), Local Government Code. While this provision does support coordination activities between state agencies and planning commissions, there is no statutory authority for a commission to supersede or suspend a state agency decision.
5. Is there any statutory provision to authorize mutual action by political subdivisions on issues of common concern? Yes. Chapter 791, Government Code (Interlocal Cooperation Act) provides authority for counties and other political subdivisions to jointly agree and expend funds to pursue programs and goals on matters of public interest. These agreements do not create a new political subdivision, such as a subregional planning commission.
For more information, please call me at 1-800-733-0699.
By Jim Alison, General Counsel, CJCAT