County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas
The following resolutions were passed by the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas representing 254 counties in the State of Texas on October 2, 2014, during the Association’s Annual Conference.
1. Thanks to the Host Court
WHEREAS, the Annual Conference of the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas was conducted in Lubbock County, Texas, Sept. 29-Oct. 2, 2014; and
WHEREAS, the Honorable Commissioners Court of Lubbock County has hosted the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas in the most entertaining and excellent manner;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas expresses its wholehearted thanks and deep appreciation to the Honorable Commissioners Court of Lubbock 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 County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas was conducted in Lubbock County, Texas, Sept. 29-Oct. 2, 2014; and
WHEREAS, the members of the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas 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 County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas are deceased; and
WHEREAS, the Association desires to pay appropriate respect to these members and friends; and
WHEREAS, since our last conference, the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas has mourned the passing of:
Former Young County Commissioner Duane Downey
Ector County Commissioner Freddie Gardner
Former Jeff Davis County Commissioner William Allen Gearhart
Former Roberts County Commissioner Herchel Ronald “Ronnie” Gill
El Paso County Commissioner Daniel Haggerty
Former Hale County Judge William “Bill” Paul Hollars
Former Palo Pinto County Commissioner Allen V. Hudspeth
Former Randall County Commissioner Paul Lindsey
Former Lamb County Commissioner Emil Macha
Wise County Judge Bill McElhaney
Former Palo Pinto County Commissioner George Nowak
Kerr County Commissioner Bruce Oehler
Former Parmer County Commissioner Ellis Powell
Former Hemphill County Commissioner John Ramp
Kerr County Judge Pat Tinley
North & East Texas
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 Wharton County Commissioner Merrill Travis Adamcik
Jim Hogg County Judge Guadalupe S. “Lupe” Canales
Former Refugio County Commissioner Richard Martinez
Former Dimmit County Commissioner Larry Speer
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas 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 County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas and its 254 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 previously considered and rejected 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 County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas 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 County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas 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 County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas 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 County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas 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 County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas 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 County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas 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 County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas 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 County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas 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. 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 a 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, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas does hereby request the repeal of H.B. 259 and the re-establishment of local control over the premises of public buildings.
13. 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 Texas counties and school districts by helping to establish wind energy generation as a significant economic development industry in Texas; and
WHEREAS, many 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 County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas 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 positions.
14. Royalty Revenue from County Roads
WHEREAS, Texas counties are responsible for the vast majority of non-state public roadway miles and are required to pay for the maintenance of the county road system primarily from ad valorem tax revenues derived from the taxation of property within the jurisdiction of each Texas county; and
WHEREAS, as reflected in such legal precedent as Travis County v. Trogden, 31 S.W. 358 (Tex. 1895); Boone v. Clark, 214 S.W. 607 (Tex. Civ. App. –Waco, 1919); Robbins v. Limestone County, 268 S.W. 915 (Tex. 1925); and State v. Hale, 146 S.W.2d 731 (Tex. 1941), and Attorney General Opinions WW-870 (1960), the prevailing legal doctrine has been that despite being burdened directly with the cost of maintaining the public roads within their jurisdiction, Texas counties hold title to their roads merely as a trustee for the state, and that only the state has the power to execute oil and gas leases of such roadway properties held in fee by Texas counties; and
WHEREAS, these oil and gas leases produce truly significant revenue for the State of Texas. For example, between January 2011 and April 2014, the income from Karnes County roads was $7,500,990.80 from 88 producing leases. Another $51,615.26 is unitized along the Karnes-DeWitt border in six more leases. The income from DeWitt County roads was $8,799,596.95 for same period from 88 leases. Another $97,051.04 is unitized along the DeWitt-Karnes border in six leases, and $34,993.34 was produced from unitization along the DeWitt-Gonzales border. The income from Gonzales County roads was $79,169.17 during the same period in six producing leases. Another $43,378.45 is unitized along the Gonzales-Karnes border. Altogether, this tri-county coalition is responsible for $16,606,795.01 of oil and gas leasing bonuses, rental and royalty in a mere 40-month period. When compared to the statewide total of royalty produced from county roadways in all counties for the same period ($28,570,573.50), the percentage is a staggering 58 percent of revenue received in this category by the State of Texas; and
WHEREAS, presently, the allocation of oil and gas lease and royalty payments derived from land situated below land deeded to Texas counties for road purposes is addressed by Article 51.300 of the Texas Natural Resources Code; and
WHEREAS, the Texas Legislature is urged to adopt a revision to the allocation formula contained in Article 51.300 of the Texas Natural Resources Code to redirect this income to the counties generating the lease payments, to be used for repair and expansion of the rural infrastructure damaged by the oil and gas activity, and to permit continuation of the proper maintenance of such county roads for further development;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas supports legislation designed to reallocate the lease payments recovered by the Texas Land Commissioner from county roadways and to return such funds to the counties which generate the revenue from the lease of deeded lands held by the county for road purposes.
15. Resolution to Support Federal Legislation H.R. 1526 to Provide Payments in Lieu of Taxes to Local Governments for Federal Lands
WHEREAS, the United States government established the four National Forests in Texas in 1934, setting aside more than 637,000 acres of forest lands which are located in 12 counties and 58 public school districts throughout East Texas; and
WHEREAS, when these lands were taken off the local property tax rolls, the federal government made a commitment to manage the lands for the benefit of the counties impacted by federal forestland, improve forest health and help prevent catastrophic wildfires; and
WHEREAS, beginning in the 1990s, federal policy changed which resulted in significant reduction in timber harvesting and, as a result, a significant reduction in funding to the impacted counties for public roads and public education; and
WHEREAS, the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act was enacted in 2000 to partially restore lost funding to the National Forest counties and schools, but that funding has been reduced significantly and expired in 2013; and
WHEREAS, the United State House of Representatives has passed H.R. 1526, the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act. This legislation would restore critical funding by extending the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act, and would renew the federal government’s commitment to manage federal forests for the benefit of counties impacted by federal forestland, improve forest health and help prevent catastrophic wildfires; and
WHEREAS, specifically, the legislation would: (1) re-establish the priority of actively managing our forests and promote responsible timber production on Forest Service commercial timber land; (2) improve forest health and prevent catastrophic wildfires by allowing significant state and local involvement; (3) improve forest management by establishing Good Neighbor Authority, which allows state and federal authorities to work together on fire mitigation efforts even when project areas cross ownership boundaries; and (4) allow for a short-term extension of Secure Rural Schools payments to rural counties and schools; and
WHEREAS, enactment of H.R. 1526 would also create new jobs and economic development in the National Forest counties; and
WHEREAS, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that enactment of H.R. 1526 would result in an estimated reduction of the federal deficit of $269 million over a 10-year period;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas that we support the enactment of H.R. 1526, and we furthermore urge the Honorable John Cornyn and the Honorable Ted Cruz to support this important legislation in the United States Senate.
16. 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 County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas 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.
17. Fireworks Regulations
WHEREAS, counties currently have limited authority to regulate fireworks; and
WHEREAS, due to the continued drought and the concern for public safety, such regulations are necessary to protect life and property;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas is opposed to any legislative action that would remove current county authority to regulate fireworks.
18. EPA Definition of “Waters of the United States”
WHEREAS, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the United States Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) have proposed a new rule to define “Waters of the United States” that will vastly expand the jurisdictional authority of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA), entitled Definition of “Waters of the United States” Under the Clean Water Act; and
WHEREAS, USEPA and USACE have chosen to selectively interpret various Supreme Court Decisions related to the jurisdictional authority of the Clean Water Act (CWA) in order to develop a new Guidance which expands their own jurisdictional authority under the CWA to include waters of the state(s) and other waters previously not regulated under either the CWA or judicial proclamation, including some ditches, farm ponds, dry water ways and isolated wetlands; and
WHEREAS, the proposed rule, if adopted will infringe upon the sovereignty of state(s) to appropriately regulate waters of the state(s); and
WHEREAS, the proposed rule, if adopted would require counties and special districts to obtain costly and burdensome Section 404 Permits from the USACE for the construction of small bridges and culverts, and routine maintenance of some ditches, canals, and other such water conveyances; and
WHEREAS, the proposed rule, if adopted would infringe on private property rights, impairing land management activities such as urban development and agriculture production; and
WHEREAS, legislation to expand the jurisdictional authority of the CWA as described in the proposed rule has failed in the U.S. Senate; and
WHEREAS, the U.S. House of Representatives has approved legislation to nullify the proposed rule;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas strongly opposes the proposed new rule to define “waters of the United States” in that it increases the need for burdensome and costly permitting requirements, infringes on private property rights, and circumvents the legislative process, thus, the will of the people.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Congress, not federal agencies, should make the laws and therefore any such change in jurisdictional power of the federal government should only occur as a result of the passage of federal legislation.
19. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Other Medical Treatment/Therapy for TBI and PTSD
WHEREAS, the “signature wounds” of Iraq and Afghanistan are Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and are significant health issues for Texas Veterans returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and Operation New Dawn (OND)); and
WHEREAS, the effects of these conditions are usually long lasting and often life threatening (frequently suicide); and
WHEREAS, other curative therapies are available, including Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT), that offer additional, alternative, curative ways to restore affected veterans’ lives and minds; and
WHEREAS, numerous studies have demonstrated that the untreated, lingering effects of these injuries adversely impact the returned veterans’ lives, resulting frequently in destroyed families, drug and alcohol use, unemployment, mental illness, incarceration, and homelessness; and
WHEREAS, these results show up in society and communities as increased unemployment rates, public health care treatment costs, mental illness costs, alcohol and drug treatment costs, family breakups, and disrupted lives; and
WHEREAS, the effects of these injuries have a negative impact on Texas counties, their budget, and the well-being of their citizens;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas that the Texas Legislature should provide appropriate funding for research to provide results-orientated, evidence-based, proven treatment, including Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, for returning Texas Veterans that suffer the residual, after-effects of TBI and PTSD.
20. Oil and Gas Waste Disposal Facilities
WHEREAS, the Texas oil and gas industry is a vital part of our economy; and
WHEREAS, this industry requires the use of disposal facilities, such as waste injection wells, to operate in an efficient manner; and
WHEREAS, the operation of these disposal facilities can pose a substantial risk to the groundwater supply; and
WHEREAS, protection of the groundwater is also essential to the economy and health and safety of Texas citizens; and
WHEREAS, adequate information should be provided to Texas counties and their citizens to ensure the safe operation of oil and gas waste facilities and protection of the groundwater;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas does hereby request that the Texas Legislature and the Texas Railroad Commission require that Texas counties, their citizens, and groundwater conservation districts be provided all available information concerning proposed oil and gas waste facilities in their area and a full opportunity to participate in the evaluation of any application for additional facilities.
County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas
2014 Resolutions Committee
Wichita County Judge Woodrow W. Gossom, Chairman
Jack County Judge Mitchell Davenport
Calhoun County Commissioner Neil Fritsch
San Patricio County Judge Terry A. Simpson
Taylor County Commissioner Chuck Statler
Polk County Judge John Thompson
Cherokee County Commissioner Byron Underwood
In addition to the above-adopted resolutions, the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas Resolutions Committee requests that the following items be recommended for future study and consideration.
- County responsibility for cost of transport, autopsy, and disposition of dead bodies.
- State responsibility for drug-resistant tuberculosis cases and HIV medications.
- Recovery of cost of reproduction of clerk’s digitized records and e-filing.
- 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.
- Continue funding for the County Infrastructure Fund Grant Program.
- State funding for all state special elections.