Legislative Conference Agenda Unveiled

By County magazine

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TAC’s 2018 Legislative Conference, set for Aug. 29-31 in Austin, will help county officials and staff prepare for and get involved in the upcoming 86th session of the Texas Legislature. The conference brings together hundreds of county officials and staff to connect with their public servant peers, legislators, policymakers and key decision-makers for three days this summer. 

Attendees will take advantage of keynotes, breakout sessions, roundtables and networking opportunities with their county counterparts from every corner of Texas. County officials can register for the conference at
www.county.org/legconference.

“In our current moment, a focus on the facts, the know-how and the voice of county government as the most representative level of government is more important than ever. The conference is a can’t-miss opportunity for county officials to focus on real, substantive policy issues and the impact they have on county government and everyday Texans,” TAC Executive Director Gene Terry said. 

An Overview of What’s on Tap

With input from county officials from across the state, TAC’s Legislative Division has put together a slate of valuable breakout sessions featuring experts and policymakers who will discuss the important issues county governments face going into the 86th legislative session. 

The education starts Wednesday, Aug. 29 at 9 a.m. with a pre-conference session on the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

Pre-Conference: National Incident Management System 

NIMS was established after 9/11 to provide a standard, consistent framework for government, non-governmental and other entities to work together to prepare, mitigate, respond and recover from any disaster.

This pre-conference workshop will provide attendees the knowledge and resources to take the exams for the NIMS courses recommended for county officials who have an operational role in emergency response.

• IS 700: NIMS, An Introduction

• IS 100: Introduction to the Incident Command System

• IS 200: Basic Incident Command System

The 10 breakout sessions listed below are the centerpiece of Thursday’s full day of learning. Pick the topics most important to you and customize your conference experience.   

1. The Indigent Defense Mandate: Where Do We Go from Here?

As budgets dwindle, meeting the requirements of the Fair Defense Act and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel remains a challenge for many counties. Learn how we got here, what the Texas Indigent Defense Commission is doing about it, and where we might go from here.

2. Disaster Recovery – A Discussion with the General Land Office 

This session will feature a discussion on the State Action Plan, which includes available disaster recovery funds under the purview of the General Land Office.  

3. Spotlight on Criminal Justice

What’s on the horizon for criminal justice in the 86th Legislature? Join us for a spotlighted discussion on what criminal justice reforms the Legislature might consider in the next session and what it all means for counties.

4. Texas Property Tax and Appraisal System Reform 

Property tax and appraisal system issues have been consistent and contentious issues in the news. This session will look back at the headlines and discuss the most pressing county property tax and appraisal district issues for Texans. Panelists will also discuss possible reforms that may help address those issues.

5. Courthouse Security

The 85th Legislature passed The Judicial and Courthouse Security Act of 2017, named in honor of District Judge Julie Kocurek. No one can predict when a tragic event will quickly unfold in the courthouse. Are you prepared? Join us for an update on the specifics one year after the bill’s implementation.

6. The Plan for Ending Unfunded Mandates

Unfunded mandates remain significant cost drivers for county government. Join us for a conversation on the 2018 Unfunded Mandates Survey. Learn why the survey is an important tool in telling the county story on this issue and how the next Legislature might address these mandates.  

7. Assessing Mental Health in Texas 

The 85th Legislature allocated millions of dollars for grant programs. They also passed several key pieces of legislation relating to mental health and the criminal justice system. The new Judicial Commission on Mental Health, a joint effort between the Supreme Court of Texas and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, held its first meeting this spring. It is charged with making collaborative recommendations for improving the administration of justice for those with mental illnesses. Join us to hear from those in-the-know about the prospective mental health legislation to be considered next session.

8. Understanding the Other Side of the Property Tax Equation: School Finance 

Public school finance is not always easily understood, yet school property taxes make up the largest proportion of local property tax bills. While efforts to provide property tax relief by reforming public school funding failed during the last legislative session, the issue will likely be revisited by the next Legislature. This session will focus on understanding the nuts and bolts of school finance, how the state’s declining share of school funding has placed a significant burden on local property taxpayers, and how the 86th Legislature might address the issue.

9. Perspectives on Disaster Response and Recovery After Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey was one of the most catastrophic disasters in U.S. history, affecting a significant number of Texas counties and residents. In this session, officials will share their perspectives on disaster response and recovery issues in light of Hurricane Harvey. We'll discuss the challenges faced, lessons learned, and potential policy changes to improve emergency response and recovery and better prepare all Texas counties for the next disaster.

10. Transportation Discussion – Where’s the money? What will the Legislature do?

Join us for a discussion about transportation issues, including available funding and policy issues relevant to counties as we head into the 86th Legislative Session.   

Learn Digital Communications Tips at the CommCube 

Social media is the public square of the digital age. The CommCube will be running regular mini sessions on social media. The talks will cover simple best practices for quickly reaching the right constituents with the right message at the right time through Facebook and Twitter.

These 20-minute, bite-sized sessions will take participants through the basics of Facebook and Twitter, and include real-life examples from counties around the state. Attendees will come away with a better understanding of the technology, the reasons why it is so valuable and how their office and their county can make it work for them.

Tell Your County’s Story at the Interactive Story Booth

A story is more than just entertainment — it can persuade, influence outcomes and move people to action. That’s why TAC is providing attendees a chance to record and share short videos about anything they want. 

Participants can record and re-record their video until they’re happy, then a copy will be emailed to them that they can share on Facebook and Twitter to reach their constituents, legislators and news media. 

Officials can share what serving in county government means to them and talk about the challenges, the solutions, their concerns about the coming legislative session, their hopes for the future of their county and much more.

The booth will be near the escalators on the third floor and open from
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday and from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday. With an official’s permission, some of these recordings may run during the closing general session or get posted on the TAC website and social media.

Register today at www.county.org/legconference and book your room at the Fairmont Hotel. Check the TAC website, Facebook and Twitter feed, and watch for emails to get conference updates.