The following resolutions were passed by the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association representing 118 counties in the State of Texas on April 29, 2010, during the Association’s annual conference.
1. Thanks to the Host Court
WHEREAS, the annual conference of the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association was held in San Angelo, Texas, April 27-30, 2010; and
WHEREAS, the Honorable Commissioners Court of Tom Green County has hosted the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association in the most entertaining and excellent manner;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association expresses its wholehearted thanks and deep appreciation to the Honorable Commissioners Court of Tom Green 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 West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association was held in San Angelo, Texas, April 27-30, 2010; and
WHEREAS, the members of the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association wish to acknowledge the expertise of and thank the staff of: James Allison of Allison, Bass & Associates, L.L.P.; 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 AgriLife Extension Service, and Director Richard O. Avery; the Texas 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 West 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 West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association has mourned the passing of:
Menard County Commissioner Pete Crothers
Former Llano County Judge J.P. Dodgen
Former Lynn County Judge John Fletcher
Former Taylor County Commissioner Neil Fry
Former Briscoe County Commissioner Terry Grimland
Former Bandera County Commissioner Henry W. “Buddy” Hubble
Former Donley County Commissioner Ernest Johnston
Former Taylor County Commissioner J.T. “Jake” McMillon
Wise County Commissioner Mikel Lee Richardson
Former Borden County Commissioner Eddie Simer
Eastland County Commissioner Bill Underwood
Crosby County Commissioner Billy Bob Wright
Former Cottle County Commissioner Paul Whitener
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the West 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 West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association and its 118 current members 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. State-Imposed Property Tax Increases
WHEREAS,the Texas State Constitution prohibits the Texas Legislature from levying a property tax; and
WHEREAS, indigent health care is the state’s responsibility; and
WHEREAS, indigent criminal defense is the state’s responsibility; and
WHEREAS, the costly voting machines mandated and partially paid for by the federal government will be an added expense for county government from now on; and
WHEREAS, counties can implement some government programs and perform some duties more effectively than the state government, and counties should be reimbursed for their expenses for state responsibilities; and
WHEREAS, while we believe that indigent citizens should be helped and provided for, we do not believe this burden should be the responsibility of only the county property taxpayers; and
WHEREAS, a county’s primary source of raising money is through the property tax, and this is, in effect, the commissioners court levying a property tax to pay for state-mandated programs;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association requests that any and all mandated programs be funded by the state; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we resist, by litigation if necessary, any further state attempts to compel local property tax increases and encourage the Legislature to study and authorize additional alternative revenue sources for counties.
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 West 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. Federal Funding for Indigent Health Care
WHEREAS, Texas has relied upon hospital districts, counties, and public and non-profit hospitals to provide health care to our indigent citizens; and
WHEREAS, the State of Texas has failed to fully access federal Medicaid funds; and
WHEREAS, this failure of the State of Texas has forced local taxpayers to assume this burden through property taxes; and
WHEREAS, these federal funds are being fully utilized by other states;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association requests that the State of Texas expand its Medicaid program to obtain federal matching funds for indigent health care and relieve the property taxpayer of this unfair burden.
8. Opposition to Appraisal Caps and Revenue Caps
WHEREAS, the Texas Legislature has considered proposals for lower revenue caps and lower 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 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 is unfair that the Texas Legislature impose additional revenue caps on local governments without imposing similar caps on state government;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the West 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 West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association expresses its deep appreciation to all legislators who oppose these unsound measures.
9. Indigent Criminal Defense
WHEREAS, indigent criminal defense legislation has required additional county taxpayer expense to provide indigent criminal defense services; and
WHEREAS, indigent criminal defense legislation has added administrative duties and reporting requirements to county offices; and
WHEREAS, the present appropriation is insufficient to reimburse the county for these mandated costs, with 75 percent of the costs being imposed on county taxpayers;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association requests that the provisions of indigent criminal defense legislation be revised to simplify the administrative and reporting requirements and improve the efficiency of the indigent criminal defense program, and that formal criminal proceedings be initiated within 30 days in all criminal cases; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Legislature appropriate sufficient funds to compensate counties for the full cost of implementing the indigent criminal defense program and submit the program to full Sunset Review in 2011.
10. Mandatory Attorney Fees in Child Protective Services Cases
WHEREAS, the 79th Legislature’s Senate Bill 6 was amended in Conference Committee to mandate that counties provide attorneys to represent indigent parents in all Child Protective Services cases; and
WHEREAS, this unfunded mandate was added to this legislation without any notice or public hearing; and
WHEREAS, this legislation provided no funding for these additional services; and
WHEREAS, this mandate has been imposed upon county property taxpayers;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association requests that mandatory representation in Child Protective Services cases be repealed unless fully funded by the State of Texas.
11. Local Option Development Authority
WHEREAS, Texas counties have very limited authority to implement a county development plan; and
WHEREAS, limited county land-use authority to regulate incompatible future uses would benefit Texas property owners; and
WHEREAS, this lack of authority has caused inefficient and inequitable distribution of the transportation and infrastructure costs of new development;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association requests that counties be granted local option authority to adopt county development plans, subdivision density controls, and impact fees to fairly distribute the infrastructure costs for new development.
12. 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 West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association opposes the Legislature granting additional powers to municipal utility districts and special utility districts.
13. County Fees and Fines
WHEREAS, county fees and fines are a traditional source of funding for the support of local law enforcement, county detention facilities, and the court system; and
WHEREAS, counties have no other available sources of revenue except the over-burdened property tax; and
WHEREAS, the State of Texas has invaded these traditional county revenue sources by creating additional fees to be collected at the county level and forwarded to the state comptroller for state purposes;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association requests that all fines and fees collected at the county level be retained by the county for local budget needs.
14. County Local Option Revenue Sources
WHEREAS, county revenue sources are extremely limited; and
WHEREAS, under current statutes, counties are forced to rely upon property taxes to fund necessary services; and
WHEREAS, county taxpayers should have the option to adopt a local sales tax, a local severance tax, and other revenue sources to reduce property taxes;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association requests that the Legislature amend the tax statutes to allow the adoption of a county local option sales tax, a local severance tax, or other revenue sources for the reduction of property taxes without imposing any additional revenue cap.
15. Filing Deadline Conflict
WHEREAS, the current Election Code provisions result in filing date deadlines that occur on national and state holidays; and
WHEREAS, this results in considerable confusion and inconvenience to the public, candidates and filing officials;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association does hereby request that the Texas Legislature amend the Election Code to prevent filing deadlines that coincide with national or state holidays.
16. State Hospital System
WHEREAS, Texas counties are required to provide inpatient psychiatric services to meet the needs of the citizens of Texas; and
WHEREAS, the state hospital system has not been able to service court-ordered confinement and voluntary commitment to these fragile individuals needing care for their mental illnesses because rooms formerly used by patients are now dormant or being used for criminal inmates; and
WHEREAS, the state hospital system is frequently on diversionary status requiring law enforcement and families to transport individuals and loved ones to hospitals far from their home community for care; and
WHEREAS, there has been a substantial decrease in the number of private psychiatric inpatient care facilities in Texas leaving the responsibility of this level of care to the state hospital system; and
WHEREAS, this decrease in mental health facilities and mental health services has forced counties to hold these patients in the county jail;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association requests that the Texas Legislature increase the capacity in the state hospital system and increase the number of caseworkers and other professionals needed to provide mental health services to adequately meet the needs of the citizens of Texas, thus decreasing the transition time from local to state care.
17. State Driving License Fees
WHEREAS, the State of Texas has attempted to meet its budget needs by assessing additional fees on driving licenses for certain criminal violations; and
WHEREAS, this program has not produced the estimated revenue for the state; and
WHEREAS, this program has caused a tremendous increase in status offenses, such as driving while license suspended, driving while license invalid, and driving without insurance; and
WHEREAS, this program has resulted in additional pressure on the courts and the county jail; and
WHEREAS, this program is not beneficial to the citizens of Texas;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association requests that the Texas Legislature abolish the additional driving license fees being assessed for certain criminal violations.
18. 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 West 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 utilized for the Emergency 9-1-1 Services Program as promised to, and expected by, the citizens of Texas.
19. Opposition to Mandated Offices
WHEREAS, local government is the government closest to the people;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association urges that all legislation implementing new programs such as collection departments and drug courts be at the option of each local county government.
20. Texas Youth Commission
WHEREAS, the State of Texas has recently reduced the capacity of the Texas Youth Commission and closed several facilities; and
WHEREAS, the State has not provided sufficient funding for local detention facilities to meet the increased need; and
WHEREAS, the reduced capacity of the Texas Youth Commission has resulted in a lack of services for many delinquent juveniles;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association requests that the State Legislature provide sufficient funding for the Texas Youth Commission to meet the full requirements for secure detention of these juvenile offenders.
21. Livestock Protection
WHEREAS, there has been an increase in the loss of domestic livestock and wildlife due to predators; and
WHEREAS, almost every county in the State of Texas has a high degree of predation on domestic livestock and wildlife; and
WHEREAS, both domestic livestock production and wildlife production are vital to the Texas economy; and
WHEREAS, the costs of fighting predation are becoming greater;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association supports an increase in efforts to protect domestic animals and wildlife from predation.
22. 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 West 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.
23. Fireworks Regulation
WHEREAS, current law creates confusion among our citizens concerning the use of certain fireworks; and
WHEREAS, the determination of local conditions for the sale and use of fireworks should be a local decision; and
WHEREAS, under certain conditions, the use of any fireworks may constitute an extreme hazard; and
WHEREAS, the Legislature has imposed a 60-hour limitation on any local disaster declaration by a county judge to ban the sale or use of fireworks, other than aerial fireworks;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association requests that the Legislature repeal this 60-hour limitation on county disaster declarations on fireworks.
24. Supporting Expedited Development of Competitive Renewable Energy Zones in Texas Including Infrastructure to Export Wind Power From Texas
WHEREAS, the need for the United States to decrease its reliance on foreign sources of energy is widely recognized by the President, and Congressional leaders from both parties have called for increased development of renewable energy and other domestic sources of energy; and
WHEREAS, the cost of energy resources upon which Texas and the United States most heavily depend has increased dramatically during the past 12 months, including a 75 percent increase in the cost of crude oil and a 35 percent increase in the cost of natural gas; and
WHEREAS, the United States benefits from adding renewable resources such as wind energy to its portfolio of electric generation sources, as wind energy consumes no water, produces no emissions, and can provide low-cost electricity at stable pricing, providing a hedge against volatile pricing of fossil fuel-fired generation; and
WHEREAS, the Texas Legislature also recognizes the need for development of new sources of energy to meet Texas’ growing electricity demands, and the desirability of having some portion of such new energy come from renewable resources, which are abundant in Texas; and
WHEREAS, the Texas Legislature adopted Senate Bill 20 in 2005 directing the Public Utility Commission to designate Competitive Renewable Energy Zones in areas throughout the State with strong potential for production of cost-effective renewable energy, and further directing the PUC to ensure that transmission infrastructure gets built as needed to transmit electricity to market from such zones; and
WHEREAS, Texas is blessed with a wind resource ideally suited for wind energy production that ranks Texas among the best regions in the nation for cost-effective production of electricity from wind; and
WHEREAS, citizens of Texas generally welcome large energy and infrastructure projects and the increased property tax base and economic development benefits such projects produce, and have limited alternative opportunities for economic development; and
WHEREAS, the current lack of transmission infrastructure to export wind energy is preventing Texas from taking advantage of this abundant and inexhaustible natural resource, and depriving electricity consumers in Texas and elsewhere in the United States from the savings which can be achieved by tapping into this cost-effective resource; and
WHEREAS, delays in proceeding with the development of needed transmission infrastructure are beginning to diminish wind investor interest in Texas and are beginning to undermine efforts to recruit the wind industry into Texas;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association:
a) supports designation of Competitive Renewable Energy Zones in Texas and requests that state officials act to develop these zones as expeditiously as possible; and
b) supports development of wind energy and other renewable energy projects in the country and in Texas; and
c) supports construction of new transmission lines to transmit wind power to consumers of electricity throughout Texas; and
d) supports construction of new transmission lines being contemplated by the Southwest Power Pool to export wind power throughout Texas to consumers of electricity elsewhere in the United States; and
e) stands ready to help facilitate siting, permitting and development of such transmission lines and wind energy projects in Texas.
25. Supporting Incentives for Development of Renewable Electric Generation Facilities Using Technologies Other Than Wind
WHEREAS, Texas has the potential to develop abundant renewable electric generation facilities using technologies other than wind; and
WHEREAS, renewable electric generation facilities using technologies other than wind can be developed in areas of Texas that do not have limitations on the amount of energy that can be transmitted; and
WHEREAS, renewable electric generation facilities using technologies other than wind represent the potential for billions of dollars of investment in Texas; and
WHEREAS, the citizens of Texas would welcome the development of renewable electric generation facilities using technologies other than wind in their communities; and
WHEREAS, there is the potential for significant construction and permanent job creation to support the development and operation of renewable electric generation facilities using technologies other than wind;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association:
a) supports the development of renewable electric generation facilities using technologies other than wind in the country and in Texas; and
b) supports the adoption of legislation and other measures that encourage the prompt development of renewable electric generation facilities using technologies other than wind; and
c) stands ready to help facilitate the siting, permitting and development of renewable electric generation facilities using technologies other than wind.
26. Under-Valuation of Oil and Gas Properties
WHEREAS, in 2007 the Texas Legislature adopted a severance tax-based interpretation of the Texas Tax Code, Sec. 23.175 (commonly known as the market condition factor) to be applied to the valuation of oil and gas properties in the State of Texas; and
WHEREAS, the Texas State Comptroller’s severance tax-based estimate of the market condition factor results in the under-valuation of oil and gas property to the detriment of all other taxpayers; and
WHEREAS, many counties receive the vast majority of their tax revenues from the county’s oil and gas values; and
WHEREAS, these counties will be adversely and catastrophically affected by the market condition factor as interpreted by the Texas State Comptroller’s office; and
WHEREAS, these counties will be forced to underfund essential county government services or shift approximately $300 million in taxes to other taxpayers;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association requests that Governor Perry, Lt. Governor Dewhurst, and Speaker Straus support legislation to change or repeal Texas Tax Code Sec. 23.175 to bring all Texas taxpayers into an equitable position.
CJCAT Resolutions Committee
Upton County Commissioner Tommy Owens, Chairman
Borden County Judge Van York
Brewster County Commissioner Kathy Killingsworth
Dallam County Commissioner Oscar Przilas
Gaines County Judge Tom Keyes
Lubbock County Commissioner Gilbert Flores
In addition to the above-adopted resolutions, the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association Resolutions Committee requests that the following items of legislative interest be assigned to the Association’s general counsel to be developed as amendments to other legislation:
Ø Remove the Interest and Sinking Fund amount from the General Revenue Tax Levy that is part of the 8 percent levy for indigent health care.
Ø Allow counties to retain a proportionate amount of funds from fine and fee collections when the county collects from its own collections effort.
Ø Oppose the closure of local Department of Human Services (DHS) offices and any further regionalization of human services including mental health and mental retardation (MHMR) and aging programs.
Ø Support additional funding for county transportation needs and local control of overweight trucks on county roads and urge the state to refrain from diverting funds to non-transportation programs.
Ø Support legislation to ensure that homeland security funds remain under local control.
Ø Urge the Legislature to provide sufficient space in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for all state offenders.
Ø Support legislation to exempt courthouse security video tapes from the Public Information Act.
Ø Oppose any legislation to require that a justice of the peace or county judge be a licensed attorney.
Ø Support legislation to determine the taxpayer cost of health care including reporting the value of uncompensated care and the cost of health care provided to undocumented persons.
Ø Support legislation to adequately fund our state schools and MHMR programs.
Category: Conference Close-Up