Members of the Deep East Texas County Commissioners and Judges Association met last week in Austin. Their main item of business was a briefing on the upcoming legislative session from the Texas Association of Counties Legislative Liaison Rick Thompson and General Counsel for the County Commissioners & Judges Association of Texas Jim Allison.
Legislators who participated in the event include:
Chris Kirkendall; County Commissioner
Jim Lovell; County Judge
Mark Allen; County Judge
Charles Shofner; County Commissioner
Vance Moss; County Commissioner
Roy Parker; County Commissioner
Mike Perry; County Judge
Jerry Don Williamson; County Commissioner
Robin Dawley; County Commissioner
Paul Price; County Judge
Sydney Murphy; County Judge
Tommy Overstreet; County Commissioner
Milt Purvis; County Commissioner
San Augustine County
Samye Johnson; County Judge
Thompson gave the commissioners and judges a quick review of some of the issues expected to come up during the session. He said that Lt. Governor Patrick and senators have been working on a property tax cap which could affect one of the few income sources for counties. Thompson also talked about work that has been done to divert people with mental health issues from the criminal justice system and get them the help they need to help themselves. He also noted efforts to get more people to be emergency service providers in rural areas. Many current trained volunteers are retiring and not enough young people are getting involved.
According to Thompson, “The folks in the big cities think this is just a rural issue until they have a wreck out on the interstate and there are no trained local emergency service personnel to take care of them.” Allison started by complementing the group for their sponsorship of the Deep East Texas Legislative Reception held the previous evening. He told them they were fortunate to be represented by an effective group of legislators and to have a strong ongoing relationship with them. Allison told them the state association would be vigilant watching for any additional unfunded mandates.
“The difference between an acceptable or unacceptable piece of legislation for us is often the use of ‘may’ verses ‘shall’ in the wording,” said Allison.
In wrapping up, Allison urged the commissioners and judges to get to know the new legislators, and their staff, early in the session. “There have been over six thousand bills pre-filed, fifteen hundred of them pertaining to county government,” said Allison. “ They will not have the time to research every one that comes up so they will need to be comfortable reaching out to reliable resources, like you, to tell them how the legislation would affect county government.”