Travis County Commissioners Court
May 8, 2007
We are now ready for our 11 o'clock item, number 34, considering and take appropriate action on legislative issues and proposed bills before the Texas legislature. A is to the compensation of officially court reporters. Anything on this.
>> no, junk.
>> we think it's going to die in committee.
>> the compromise language that we agreed upon didn't satisfy anybody.
>> that is correct.
>> okay. B is senate concurrent resolution 42 granting maria isabel macdonald and macdonald and associates, hing, permission to sue Travis County.
>> we have nothing new. The bill was withdrawn in the local calendar and that is the last action we have seen.
>> okay. When it's withdrawn from the local kahn calendar, it goes goes--
>> it will go back to the committee to be sent to the general calendar.
>> okay. C is house bill 937 relating to the definition of certain authorized emergency vehicle vehicles and to a shun from the payment of a toll for those vehicles.
>> judge, this is a bill that tnr brought to the court that had asked you to support. The bill was rolling along and came over to the senate and there were some concerns by the senate committee that the language in the bill in reference to what vehicles will be --exempted from the toll is too broad and there were concerns about the impact on the toll road system. You may know that the Texas transportation commission has put forth an order that in effect resolves the issue issue. It does the same thing that the house bill does. But it's in the form of an order. And so, the committee has suggested that we see how the order works, in effect, before we pass legislation.
>> go ahead.
>> I'm concerned about that because of course an agency rule can be change at any time, whereas the statute would solidify our position and give us a great deal more certainty for our future budgeting, if nothing else, in regard to our fleet in law enforcement. I would suggest that we continue to advocate for this bill and use the fact of the agency ruling as an additional tool to advocate for the bill, saying look, even the agency agrees, so let's put it in statute. So we don't have a circumstance where a regional mobility authority can then by contract with their financial document ex exinclude emergency vehicles from this rule. There's a great deal of uncertainty without having statutory authority here. So I would advocate that we continue pursuing passage of the bill.
>> the senate committee is very aware of our support of this legislation, as are our delegation members on the senate side.
>> and being aware of that support, I don't want them, as many inside our own county felt as soon as this tex dot rule came out, great it's done, we don't have to worry about it anymore. I'm the committee members will also feel the same unless we go to them and say this is great, and it is not proof that we don't need the statute. It's evidence that we should move forward with the statute.
>> so the bill is where now ?
>> it's in the senate transportation committee.
>> senate transportation.
>> so if it's there, and the agency has an order that addresses the issues that the bill does, not to our satisfaction but at least addresses it, what do we think the likelihood is that the senate will act on it?
>> judge, our latest word is they are not going to act on it at this point. The best we can tell. I think that the key members of that committee feel like that order is doing it and is is covering it. We have sort of hit a wall.
>> if we were to take the order and highlight what we consider to be deficiencies, would that help? By the way, that order was e-mailed to me yesterday, to one of our managers. I sent it to the court and se of the other m and didn't get a chance to read it yet. I guess logically, if we want movement, what should our next step be ?
>> that will give us some ammunition to go back and get some additional information. That would be helpful. I don't know how they will react, but sure, we can do that. Because the house bill, as t talia said, is already passed. We just need to get a hearing on that bill and get it to the floor or to local, whatever we can do. But yeah, that could move it it. If they are convinced. So that information would be helpful to us and we can take that to the committee and sit down with them and see what we can do for sure. But we probably need that this afternoon. As soon as possible.
>> when did the minute order when was the minute order released?
>> the copy I have is not signed.
>> I have the copy you have probably, and it's in the signed. So, mine is blank also. We could find that out, Commissioner.
>> do we know whether the agency did the minute order, basically, to eliminate the need for this legislation? Was their ate tured-- tured--attitude really, we can address those issues immediately and there by obviate--
>> we don't know the answer to that but I think that is a reasonable assumption on your part.
>> that was just a question.
>> well, I think it's reason reasonable to assume that that probably, that the two are related. Early on in the session, judge, there was some discussion about about the agency wanting to retain flexibility that they might lose if everything was spelled out in statute. So they might prefer this type of approach as opposed to it being in the law. The other bigger picture, junkjunk--judge, is that transportation is one of the areas that the house and senate have had great difficulty finding common ground on in many areas. Of course, with respect to the governor, they have not been able to find common ground with the governor on a number of transportation areas. There have been a series of meetings going on with the key legislators and the governor's office. I do not know the outcome of the meeting last night. I talked to the chairman of the committee before the meeting started. The sense I get is that the transportation, senate transportation committee has kind of focused all of its energy and attention on the big overarching issues that you have been reading about in the newspaper, the moratorium and all those related issues. That is where all their focus, attention and energy is right now. You have probably heard rumors of possible special sessions that might start us over again, perhaps on a better track, on transportation. There's a lot of rumors running around. I don't know if they are true or not but they are certainly being discussed by members of the legislature. So that is where I think the biggest problem at this point in the session on a lot of issues is not the mer mer--merits of the issue, it's that there is a ver short period of time left and the focus of the key decision makers is on the big picture issues that they are trying to find some sort of accommodation on.
>> we are already on record as supporting this bill, I guess. Next.
>> may I ask one other thing thing. Actually a kind of follow-up to this. My concern on this, and I completely hear what you are saying as far as the prioritizing of these these final days of the legislative session. As far as the future f it is likely to turn out that we don't have this in statue, we only have it in rule, I would be interested to know what we are looking at, an inden tour of trust with the financial community on central Texas turnpike system that says we cannot exclude emergency vehicles not under wig wagfrom paying toll. So now we will have a rule rule ante dates that and now we have a rule. I'm curious whether the rule is adequate to undo our in inden tour of trust agreement or the agreement entered into by the ctrma, and whether it's adequate for future contracts, future arrangements with financial institutions for the funding funding. I think that is the big question here. Does this rule really go to where we want to go. And if it doesn't and this is all we have in this session, what do we do for next session? I think these are questions that are very important to our budgeting process, if nothing else. It does create a great deal of uncertainty to us, what is going to be the cost of running our emergency fleet.
>> are you ready for the answer now ?
>> right now.
>> and by the way --
>> next week okay ?
>> for the listening public, the Texas administrative code provision that this minute rule is in cites the inden tour agreement. So it's very much on the minds of tex dot as well. I'm not blowinging smoke out of left field here. They are thinking of this issue too. How do these interplay, which trumps which, and what does it mean in the future in the statutes are silent.
>> the county managers of the dents that operate a significant number departments that operate a significant number of vehicles while on account business should read that order and let us know between now and next week whether we are in good shape we are all right, whether we are in bad shape and why. That is what it boils down to in my view.
>> and the question for court, should we wait for this information to provide that to the committee ?
>> I would in the wait. We can't. Do we have time to wait? We don't--
>> we need some help. We need help over there. But we can, whatever we get otherwise, short of that, we will take over right away.
>> we are on record as supporting the bill. It will take some time to compare the language of the order to the language in this bill and figure out with a we believe the deficiencies are.
>> can we safely say that an agency can contract, can contract out of rules that it itself promulgated?
>> I don't know the answer to that question.
>> that is all I had.
>> let's move to something simpler. D, house bill 3654 relating to the placement of certain release ees of the Texas department of criminal justice and treatment centers, residential facilities or halfway houses houses.
>> I'm not sure this is much easier. Tal icious a icious--talia will take a shot.
>> this is a bill that was brought to our attention a few days ago by conference of urban accounts. It's on the house calendar and there is a clause in the bill that holds counties that don't have treatment facilities or halfway houses liable for the cost of parole ees released by tdcj that have to then relocate to another county other than the one they originated from from. This bill may or may not affect Travis County. We do have, I believe, three treatment transitional centers, and so we are able to provide for those parole ees released back to us. But it was something that we wanted to bring before the court. Kimberly pierce and I brief cynthia finnegan are here as resources to further explain the bill. I believe jim may know a little about it as well.
>> we were promised no un unfunded mandates by the legislature.
>> do you have that in in-- in--in writing, judge ?
>> would this qualified--
>> no, sir.
>> would this qualified as an unfunded mandate? I guess I am not going to need criminal justice up here. When someone is release from prison they are released back to their county of origin.
>> that is correct.
>> and if they are released early with conditions of parole, it's that county's responsibility to provide services.
>> not right now. They can come back to their county of rest dent dense but if we just don't know. This bill, my name is cindy finnegan, by the way, criminal justice planning. We don't know the numbers on this bill. There have been no numbers on the fiscal, no numbers on the bill analysis. We can track numbers. We need to get back into it. But there has been a lot of opposition to this bill, as talia indicated.
>> are there positives? Looking at it just on its face, it appears to be an attempt to create some positive incentives for counties to create aftercare for folks reentering from the prison system. I can also see the devil is in the details and might be a way to the census and move them back to the county.
>> I think it will affect smaller counties more as un unfunded mandate. You don't know how many numbers are going to be coming back. We have talked many tapes about that we would try to get a grasp. You do know how many are am coulding from treatment facilities but some numbers are not known.
>> at one point you could read this thing that it's a little like the hospital district.
>> in the event that small communities don't have these facilities, and many of your small counties don't, then it's just kind of like, well hey, send them to my kingdom get them to Travis County because they have the facilities. So isn't that something that could happen in that? I think you can also, if you read it one way, it's like the state will allow you to not have to pay for that care of you sending your person out of county if you appeal to the state and the state says, I mean, we are not going to pay for your facility. That is where it really gets kind of foggy. The more you read about it, I'm not sure I understand what it says.
>> it's not a clearly written bill. Also there's part that can go to the attorney general's office which is not really clear.
>> the reason I think we ought to oppose, is it makes sense in this area, it should make sense in all the areas.
>> that is correct, judge.
>> it should make sense in the nail justice area. We have blessed with a lot more treatment facilities than most county, including urban county, and I know we have a lot of release ees here that really in the principle of wherever you commit your offense is where you return to, were followed they would not be here. They would be elsewhere. It's an unfunded mandate because the state is mandat mandated certain things without funding it. You know, the unfunded mandate part does not go away simply because they are mandating other counties and not us. The whole principle is if it makes senserb let's apply it across board.
>> correct. You also have vendors who say we have really good services there Travis County so here they come.
>> that's right.
>> is it a requirement (inaudible)
>> no, ma'am.
>> in terms of unfunded mandates, it's been definitive. We will not accept unfunded mandates. On this specific bill, it has to--
>> we will not willingly, we won't go peacefully.
>> we will not go peacefully.
>> but on this specific bill did they come up with, is it in the policy platform? Do you know? I don't believe this spec bill is. I'm mindful of what Commissioner Daugherty is saying, if the county can't provide the services, what is the harm in having them pay for the additional services through the state. But again, it comes back to is this an issue of incentin incenting the to provide that care or an issue of lop lopping off sentence time and pushing them back into the community with inadequate reentry services. I think it's likely that it's probably the former. So I would move that we oppose it in its current form but continue to work with them on the details of the bill.
>> what is the likelihood, where is this bill now ?
>> the author has expressed willingness to do that. Cuc is negotiating. We think it's going to be fixed. We wanted you to be aware of that.
>> where is it right now ?
>> it's been on the house calendar.
>> house calendar.
>> yes, although that calendar is 20 pages long.
>> it may not get reached is the other possibility. But if it does--
>> she is going to.
>> is this likely to be the kind of bill that re recirculates back around next session, considering the immotion that we are having? If -- implosio, in that we are having ?
>> that is exactly the issue Commissioner. Some of these other policies you are considering right now are likely to be this issue that we are talking about and swell the population of both adult and of juvenile.
>> and mental health population.
>> and mental health. That is really what my concern is about. Not really the issue of whatever we have today is what is going to happen as the laws that are being considered right now which generally we support. The general notion that we should be giving people treatment and reentry services and all that is probably a very good thing and will potentially help empty out the adult prison population such that we don't have as many people backed up in the county jail facilities, which does cost you money. But we don't really know what the impact, I think cindy's point s we don't even know today. But certainly after what is happening with the parole ee and probation legislation this session, these numbers are going to change possibly significantly. So that is really where the potential problem is, in my opinion.
>> all in favor of the motion to oppose. That passes unanimously. E, house bill 1886 relating to the procurement methods of certain political subdivisions and certain other entities for the construction, rehabilitation alteration, or repair of certain projects.
>> judge, last week the court voted to oppose this bill and to have amendments drafted to improve it. Sid grimes is here. The bill had already passed the house when you voted and it was in senate committee yesterday.
>> in possibility of moving it ?
>> we are late in arriving and don't even have amend amendments drafted yet. So we are working on the logistics, trying to get all that going.
>> has anyone testified before the senate committee ?
>> I testified before the house committee, whatever committee it went, the house committee. And my an understanding, it was heard by the senate yesterday. I don't know what, if they voted it or passed or whatever they did.
>> what other purchasing agencies across the state, anybody--
>> anybody other than you ?
>> yes, the city group, the school district, we all have sent letters and oh positiv positived it through our association. I mean, they are aware that we are opposed. We just haven't had time, I think, to get hooked up with bob and get them all the information they needed. We are running out of time. Hopefully it won't go anywhere.
>> did they submit anything in writing showing their particular opposition to this bill ?
>> I don't--
>> are we aware of anything additional in writing ?
>> just what I have seen and what some of the association associations have sent. I don't think that boben has had time to get anything together and send over there.
>> we didn't have anything to send. We are waiting for staff to give information on that.
>> I guess the question is, when will it be heard before the senate committee ?
>> was scheduled yesterday. It was not heard, is the information we have. There is a possibility to be heard today. We will have to find out this week yet.
>> we don't think aub saab.
>> we are officially of record against it. And working on amendments that will make it better.
>> right. Anything else today ?
>> go ahead.
>> I was going to say, we might just mention for the court's general information that the rumor mill, as I indicated a moment ago, is kind of running rampant with the suggestion of special session on transportation. There are stories being written suggesting that the budget conference committee is finding difficulty reaching an agreement, and there is talk of the possibility of a special session involving the budget budget. At this point that may be ub founded rumor or be bluff or may actually have some merit merit. But just generally I want to tell the court, in the past when there has been talk like this, that is what has happened. We had social specific sessions where these kinds of discussions started happening. Last night and some previous nights you may be aware that the house in particular has had some difficult moments. And so, I think there is a growing or realistic possibility that we will get to visit with you every week of June or every week in July because the legislature may still be here.
>> may I ask about 2006? I understand just as you predicted it was amended to be even worse for the counties. Can you elaborate on that ?
>> first let's see what 2006 is.
>> the eminent domain bill. Cuc did a very good summary of it last night, which we all looked and. We will provide you of a copy of that, Commissioner. Bob has that.
>> do you want that highlighted ?
>> I think it would be valuable for us to know what is going on with that.
>> let me just say, our official position too today on 2006 is what ?
>> in terms generally, looks like the bill will be more costly to governmental entities.
>> including the county is this.
>> including the county part of that is because of the evidence that we'll be allowed to prove the value of the property. They are now allowed, the special Commissioners will be allowed to consider new evidence of damages that are unlimited and unreliable such as personal sentmentel value, business profit, and including visibility, construction and convenience convenience. There was an amendment adopted on third reading that allows the consideration of relocation costs from the condemned property if the property was habitable to another properties that allows the owner to have a standard of living, used in the amend amendment, col parable to the prompt owner's standard of living before the condemnation.
>> and just for the regular viewing public, what that means is even though we are currently struggling with paying for roads, this is going to drive up our cost to build record infrastructure considerably if we have to use eminent domain authority, it will be very, very expensive.
>> this will encourage substantial increase in litigation, maybe more than any other single factor, Commissioner. Those are issues that, you know, any good lawyer could find the ability to negotiate, compromise or litigation on. That is really where the costs of this bill is, ultimately. This would benefit the legal profession potentially in a significant way.
>> is the cuc taking a position ?
>> they are opposed.
>> they are specifically opposed.
>> their general counsel has been actively involved in all the discussions and providing language and changes.
>> I think the real point of the bill in a sense, , excuse me, bob, is really to discourage the use of eminent domain. That is really the point here. Not to make it necessarily fair or more accurate. It's to try to encourage public entities to use it only when they absolutely have to.
>> where is this right now?
>> it has passed the house.
>> passed the house.
>> so it's on its way to the senate.
>> on its way to the senate.
>> and if the bill is offered by the chairman of the calendar's committee in the house, Commissioner, that would suggest that it will receive serious consideration when it arrives in the senate.
>> and just for the record, we do not use eminent domain unless we absolutely have to to. You would be nuts to use it unless you absolutely have to.
>> correction, it's the third reading today. So it hasn't happened. There is another key mow vision that has been there n there quite a while. If you purchase property and then don't use it for the condemned, the reason that the, the purpose, thank you, Commissioner, within ten years, then the property owner would be able to buy that property back from you at the amount that they paid for it ten years ago, not at the current market value. It also imposes an undefined good faith attempt to purchase standard on counties when negotiating the initially purchase, which would lead to some disputes about whether or not you made a good faith purchase initially. So that could lead to further litigation and costs.
>> that is the law already, isn't it ?
>> no, not--
>> good faith requirement.
>> not the good faiththere is.
>> what he just read is a little different than that.
>> those are the key provisions. There is one other that requires a vote of the Commissioners court for each tract of land that you are condemning versus laying out five or ten or 15 tracts and taking one of those. Have you to consider each separately and vote on each separately.
>> meanwhile our land use regarding impact fees and zoning authorities to the county, for all purposes, is that still in senate committee ?
>> that is right. Questions about any other of the priority bills?
>> the information that you distributed today, were we supposed to, I had more than one but there are multiple copies of the same one.
>> there should be a title that says priority one, priority two.
>> there's three.
>> the bill not out of committee is considered dead.
>> what about sb 1699.
>> the same.
>> 1690 should have been 1689, both the same bill.
>> that is correct.
>> I only got one. I got one-one, one-two.
>> okay, thank.
>> who has more than one priority two?
>> what you all got over there ?
>> I have it.
>> we're still acting like you are gone.
>> don't get me any hint because I will go back. Priority one.
>> you want us to highlight where we are at smat--where we are at ?
>> especially if there are some that we really have emphasized.
>> sure. The gasby 45, h b 2365 on the first page. That is the house bill. Senate bill is 1102. Both of those are set on the calendar in the respective house that means they are look--
>> that means they are looking pretty good ?
>> they are fighting the end of session priorities. Everything is fighting the clock now. As chris mentioned, the house has gotten a little un unpredictable the last couple days. If there is a meltdown there it could--impact a lot of things. So light now it's positioned well to pass under normal circumstances. So, hb 2391, by maden, that is the misdemeanor citation bill, that has passed the houts--the house of it's in the senate and the vice-chairman of the correct nal just--criminal justice committee is going to pick that big bill up. That was good news we just got this morning.
>> that is great.
>> hb 3293 by stroma, the execution, the--writ of excuse, the liability bill. That bill, the one we are going to go on passed the third reading on local calendar today. I think by now it's passed. It will go to the senate. There it will be picked up by senator west. It will go into senator went worth's committee, which is good news and we'll hope that will move right through and pass the senate. We can skip hb 3380 because that we are now pursuing as a senate bill 867 by duncan. That one is a senate bill out of house committee. It's not the calendar yet so we are going to have to work to see if we can find another place for that one.
>> hopefully the senate bills will start being set next week. Since this is the week for house bill deadline there aren't any senate bills on the calendar. Hopefully that isn't a bad sign for any of our sb's over in the house. If we don't get it out next week, we are going to start worrying a little bit.
>> sb 355, which was one of our locally billsbills-- billsbills--local bills has been sent to the governor. Our other local bill on county court allow number 8 is out of committee and that should go on local in the house, senate bill within the next week or so. That one looks on track and fine. Then finally on the next to last page, sb 1622 by watson and that was the warrant fee bill, some clarification of the language that was requested. And that bill is on track also. It already passed the senate and it's waiting to be heard in the house committee and then go on to probably local calendar in the house.
>> our constable bill, that is stuck in committee ?
>> the senate bill ?
>> that had some strange course of events and we were trying to match them up. But for whatever reason, the senate bill did not come out of committee so that it would be eligible and could be substituted for the house bill. So now it looks like the only option we have is to take that house bill and get it through the senate than is what we are going to be doing.
>> it is a difficult time in the session because even a day can make a difference in these things. We are doing everything we can to keep them, check on them every day and keep on track.
>> so the last day the legislature, is the adjourn adjournment date set in law ?
>> practice more than anything.
>> may 28. It's 140 daysdays. We were hoping you would go to the capital with us.
>> should I pray that may 28 arrive earlier than usual this year ?
>> I think prayers is what we can use right now for sure.
>> if they are not success successful, judge, to stimulate the ec my here in Travis County, we can look at that silver lining.
>> I have also been praying that the lord outlaw special sessions.
>> my wife too.
>> any other bills that we need to discuss? Thank you all very much.
>> thank you.
>> keep having fun.
>> thank you all.
>> move that we recess until 1:30.
>> all in favor. That passes unanimously.
The Closed Caption log for this Commissioners Court agenda item is provided by Travis County Internet Services. Since this file is derived from the Closed Captions created during live cablecasts, there are occasional spelling and grammatical errors. This Closed Caption log is not an official record the Commissioners Court Meeting and cannot be relied on for official purposes. For official records please contact the County Clerk at (512) 854-4722.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 9, 2007, 8:00 AM