Week in Review

This past week at the Capitol:

Now that they are organized, there’s no telling what they can do – On Thursday, Speaker Joe Straus announced House committee assignments, including the chairs of the committees. Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) remains chair of the Committee on County Affairs, which includes several new members.  Other appointments include: Rep. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound) as chair of the Committee on Corrections; Rep. Abel Herrero (D-Robstown) as chair of the Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence; Rep. Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria) as chair of the Committee on Elections; Rep. Allan Ritter (R-Nederland) as chair of the Committee on Natural Resources; Rep. Larry Phillips (R-Sherman) as chair of the Committee on Transportation; and Rep. Harvey Hilderbran (R-Kerrville) as chair of the Committee on Ways and Means. Click here for a full list of committee appointments organized by committee. Click here for a full list of committee appointments organized by member.

The State of the State is we are not in such a state as we were in 2011—there is a little revenue this time – On Tuesday, Gov. Perry spoke to both chambers of the Legislature in his biennial State of the State address. In the speech, Perry expressed his support for utilizing $3.7 billion from the Rainy Day Fund for a one-time investment in infrastructure programs. The governor also called for an end to diversions of the State Highway Fund, which would result in an additional $1.3 billion every biennium for road maintenance and construction. Additionally, he expressed the need to end the practice of using dedicated funds for purposes other than which they were intended. Gov. Perry’s entire address can be read here.

“Always desire to learn something useful” (Sophocles)--Two useful county development authority bills were filed recently, HB 738 by Rep. Myra Crownover (R-Denton) and SB 170 by Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas).  The House bill directs commissioners court to review a petition to create a municipal utility district (MUD) all or part of which is to be located within or outside the extraterritorial jurisdiction of a municipality and then submit a written opinion to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) stating whether or not the county would recommend the creation of the proposed MUD. This opinion would include any findings, conclusions or other information that the court thinks might assist TCEQ in making a final determination on the petition. Current law allows the commissioners court to review a proposed MUD only if all or part of a proposed district is to be located outside the ETJ.  Our old and valued friend Sen. Royce West’s bill would allow a county using the residential building inspection authority found in Subchapter F, Chapter 233, Local Government Code to require the issuance of a certificate of compliance as a precondition to obtaining utility services under the subchapter. Rep. Marisa Marquez (D- El Paso) has filed an identical bill in the House (HB 761).

Hearings continue on the only bill they have to pass – The Senate Finance Committee continued its hearings on the state budget, considering the articles of the budget relating to education and health and human services. Next week, the committee will consider the appropriations requests of agencies relating to the judiciary, including the budgets of the Office of Court Administration and the Texas Indigent Defense Commission. The committee is also scheduled to consider budget matters relating to general government, natural resources, and public safety and criminal justice, which includes the Department of Criminal Justice, the Juvenile Justice Department, and the Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education. The Finance Committee’s updated hearing schedule can be viewed here. With the membership of the House Committee on Appropriations named, budget hearings in the House will start next week. The latest House Appropriations hearing schedule can be viewed here.

Bills Filed -- Below is a list of filed bills of interest to counties:

HB 117 by Larson – decreasing the number of members on the Texas Transportation Commission from 5 to 3 and replacing the appointment power of the governor by making the commissioner position a statewide elected office.

HB 233 by Guillen –allowing a private process server, while serving process, to have the same protections against obstruction or retaliation as a constable or sheriff.

HB 738 by Crownover – requiring that proposed municipal utility districts located all or partly within a municipality’s extra-territorial jurisdiction be reviewed by the commissioners court. Current law allows a county review only for those proposed MUDs all or part of which are outside the ETJ.

HB 780 by Farias – requiring the Legislative Budget Board to study the cost and impact of ad valorem tax exemptions for certain veterans and their surviving spouses and children on property tax revenues and local government services.

HB 790 by Turner, Sylvester – repealing the Driver Responsibility Program, which imposes surcharges on certain offenses.

HB 827 by King, Ken ­– authorizing the Department of Public Safety to enter into an agreement with a county clerk in a county of 50,000 or less to issue renewal and duplicate driver’s licenses, election identification certificates, and personal identification certificates at the county clerk’s office.

SB 170 by West/HB 761 by Marquez—allowing a county to require the issuance of a certificate of compliance as a precondition to obtaining utility services for those counties that have adopted the residential building code authority found in Subchapter F, Chapter 233, Local Government Code.

SB 247 by Carona – proposing reforms to the property tax lending industry, including requiring those holding property tax loan instruments to be licensed by the state and ending expedited foreclosure processes for these loans.

SB 262 by Huffman – requiring a county to certify, before the distribution of funds from any federal or state criminal justice grant program, that the county’s average disposition completeness percentage (which relates to its criminal history disposition reporting) is equal to or greater than 90 percent as determined by the Department of Public Safety, and imposing certain reporting requirements on certain counties.

SB 287/SJR 20 by Nichols and HB 782/HJR 68 by Phillips – incrementally dedicating motor vehicle sales tax funds to the state highway fund.