By Elna Christopher
Director of Media Relations
Three important county-related constitutional amendments successfully passed the Legislature this week and will now go to voters in November.
SJR 37 by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) is important since another bill, SB 100, will move the candidate filing deadline back from January to December. Without SJR 37, the December filing deadline forces county and certain city officials to automatically resign their offices if they announce for a different office, since they would have more than one year of their terms remaining — creating an unlevel playing field for local officials.
SJR 37, sponsored in the House by Rep. Van Taylor (R-Plano) will extend the resign-to-run rule by 30 days, making the resign-to-run rule fairer to local officials, if Texas voters approve it in November. It passed the House 131-14 and had already passed the Senate 30-0.
SB 100 and its House companion HB 2173 by Rep. Raul Torres (R-Corpus Christi), both of which caused the need for SJR 37, are aimed at getting Texas in compliance with the federal MOVE Act on military voting. The MOVE Act requires 45 days for processing military overseas ballots. State officials believed they needed more time to meet that requirement, hence moving the filing deadline to December.
SJR 26 by Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) permits local governments to enter into extended interlocal contracts for joint projects. Under current law, agreements between counties and cities for joint projects are restricted to annual revenues and renewals. Current law prevents local governments from jointly financing and operating extended consolidated services — such as criminal justice buildings, animal shelters and equipment maintenance facilities. SJR 26 would change that to allow such consolidated projects, which could save taxpayers money. By pledging the revenues from these programs, the cities and counties will not need to levy additional taxes to secure these programs. SJR 26 passed the Senate 30-0 and the House 144-0.
The enabling legislation, SB 760, also passed both the Senate and House.
HJR 63 by Rep. Joe Pickett (D-El Paso) would amend the Texas Constitution, Art. 8, sec. 1-g(b) to add counties to the political entities authorized to pledge increased property taxes to bonds issued for redeveloping property in a particular area. This would enhance counties’ ability to designate transportation reinvestment zones, providing an important financing tool to expand and improve transportation options.
The Texas Association of Counties, the Conference of Urban Counties and the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas requested support of the amendments, and county officials rallied to the cause, greatly contributing to their passage.
Now, it is up to the voters in November.