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Appropriations Considers Bills with County Funding Impact

By Ender Reed
TAC Senior Policy Advisor

As was mentioned in the prior week’s article "Dedicated Funds for General Revenue to be Reclassified," along with the Appropriations Act, the Legislature is considering other legislation that would greatly impact county funds. On Thursday, April 7, the House Appropriations Committee posted the following bills for hearing. Below are the major themes of these bills and the salient features of the specific legislation that will impact county government.

BILL TRENDS

Fee Based Agencies — The Legislature is attempting to make county interactions with state agencies a fee-based process:

  • Attorney general may charge fees for electronic filing or reviewing legal questions such as open records requests.
  • Commission on Jail Standards could be directed to change fees for jail oversight.
  • State agencies are reducing the number of reports that they produce; shifting the responsibility of gathering that information to counties, in some cases.
  • State agencies are attempting to make most reports and communication electronic.
  • Public retirement systems are required to pay 50 cents per person in each retirement system to the State Pension Review Board.

Reducing Funds to Counties from Dedicated Accounts — The Legislature is lessening or eliminating appropriations created by dedicated fees for county operations:

  • Extending the Government Code 403.095 in order to allow the Legislature to lessen dedicated accounts through the appropriations process.
  • Juror Pay, ending the $34 reimbursement, while keeping the fund dedicated to paying for the fee.
  • Shifting payment accounts from the state treasury to the general revenue fund such as the judicial and court personnel training fund and Chapter 19 voter registration funds.

COUNTY RELATED BILLS HEARD IN APPROPRIATIONS

HB 3417 by Darby — Relating to state fiscal matters regarding business and economic development.

  • Bill would require that a peace officer inquire about and report on the race/ethnicity of all passengers in a vehicle stop — not just the driver.
  • Shifts some taxes collected for the state highway fund to the Texas rail relocation and improvement fund.
  • TxDOT will work with local transportation entities to maximize the potential of receiving federal transportation funds.
  • The Texas Department of Rural Affairs would merge with the Department of Agriculture to create the Office of Rural Affairs.
  • Any state agency that receives appropriation under Article VII shall adopt and collect fees or charge to cover any costs the agency incurs in performing its lawful functions.

HB 3418 by Darby — Relating to state fiscal matters related to natural resources and the environment.

  • The attorney general is allowed to charge a fee to toll project entities for reviewing comprehensive development agreements.
  • Requires a county tax assessor-collector to send contributions made when a person registers or renews the registration of a vehicle to the comptroller for credit to Parks and Wildlife Department.
  • Any state agency that receives appropriation under Article VI shall adopt and collect fees or charge to cover any costs the agency incurs in performing its lawful functions.

HB 3419 by Darby — Relating to state fiscal matters related to certain regulatory agencies.

  • Creates the Texas Health Insurance Connector.
  • Creates a Health Care Payment and Delivery System Reform Committee.
  • Any state agency that receives appropriation under Article VIII shall adopt and collect fees or charge to cover any costs the agency incurs in performing its lawful functions

HB 3640 by Pitts — Relating to the remittance and allocation of certain taxes and fees.

  • This bill delays gas tax funds from the county and road district highway fund during the critical months of July and August of the odd numbered years.

HB 3644 by Pitts — Relating to the creation and re-creation of funds and accounts in the state treasury, the dedication and rededication of revenue, and the exemption of unappropriated money from use for general governmental purposes.

  • Government Code 403.095 says that dedicated funds are available for certification and the comptroller is directed to reduce the amounts in dedicated accounts by the amount appropriated by the Legislature.

HB 3648 by Otto — Relating to state fiscal matters related to the judiciary.

  • Agencies directed to consolidate reports, communicate electronically and adopt fees to cover any costs that the agency incurs.
  • Judges and justices are not entitled to a salary, reimbursement for travel, per diem from the state that is higher than what is authorized in the General Appropriations Act.
  • Reclassify the judicial and court personnel training fund as general revenue and mandate that the fund may only be appropriated to the Court of Criminal Appeals for uses authorized in Section 56.003, Government Code.
  • Fiscal Matters Regarding Payment of Jurors: changes the amount reimbursed to counties for paying jurors from a set amount of $34 to an amount appropriated by the Legislature. Also, if the county fails to request reimbursement in a timely manner, the comptroller may now pay the county back at a different rate.
  • A county isn’t required to pay assistant prosecutors longevity payments if funding isn’t received by the comptroller. If there aren’t sufficient state funds to pay those who qualify for longevity supplements, what is available will be divided among counties by percentage.
  • Repeals the part of the statute that required the comptroller to later reimburse the county for funding that may not have been available at the time of the original dispersal of funds.

HB 3649 by Otto — Relating to state fiscal matters related to law enforcement and criminal justice.

  • Sec. 4.02 eliminates the State Aid funding for basic misdemeanor probation supervision even though HB/SB 1 appear to restore the funds. If these funds are eliminated, CSCDs will still be required to supervise misdemeanants; how the supervision is implemented with fewer officers and larger caseloads will be a challenge for the counties.

HB 3665 by Otto — Relating to state fiscal matters related to general government.

  • Attorney general may charge a fee for the electronic filing of a document.
  • Directs state agencies to consolidate reports and deliver them by electronic means when possible.

HB 3666 by Zerwas — Relating to state fiscal matters related to health and human services and state agencies administering health and human services programs.

  • Directing the commission to create more stringent eligibility requirements for Medicaid, TANF, CHIP and other state health care programs.

HB 3790 by Pitts — Relating to state fiscal matters.

  • State agencies may modify eligibility requirements for persons receiving services provided by the state.
  • Counties may not receive supplemental salary or longevity compensation for county prosecutors in an amount that exceeds the amount that has been appropriated.
  • Places the judicial and court personnel training fund into a general fund revenue account under Government Code 56.001.
  • The state will no longer be required to pay for juror pay reimbursement.
  • The state is delaying gas tax money from counties by not depositing one-fourth of the tax for the county and road district highway fund for taxes collected in July and August until September.
  • Public retirement systems are required to pay 50 cents per person in each retirement system to the State Pension Review Board.
  • The attorney general is allowed to charge a fee to toll project entities for reviewing comprehensive development agreements.
  • The Texas Preservation Trust Fund was created to help public and private entities preserve and restore historical landmarks. This fund is made subject purely to Government Code Section 403.095 which says that a fund is only dedicated “to the extent money is appropriated for that purpose or entity,” allowing the Legislature to decrease the money appropriated from this fund.
  • The attorney general may charge for the electronic filing of a document.