2019 Legislative Conference Recap

September 27, 2019

Legislative News

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The 2019 Legislative Conference is officially in the books! What did you learn during the breakout sessions and through networking opportunities? Here's a short recap to take you through some highlights in case you weren’t able to make the trip to Austin.


The 2019 Legislative Conference brought 675 county officials from 158 counties to Austin for an overview of the 86th Legislative Session and its impact on their county operations.

The conference, held Sept. 4-6, 2019, opened with a keynote address by Evan Smith, CEO and co-founder of The Texas Tribune. Smith previously spent nearly 18 years at Texas Monthly, including eight years as the magazine's editor and a year as president and editor-in-chief. His opening remarks focused on the impact of the state’s political climate through events of 2018, 2019, and into 2020. 

Legislative Discussion Sessions

As a result of legislation enacted during the 86th session, Legislative Conference attendees heard updates on behavioral health, disaster response, the state budget, federal policy issues, transparency and taxes and the 2020 Census. Breakout sessions also featured topics ranging from effective and efficient courts, voting and election integrity, criminal justice reforms, and flood planning and mitigation.

Breakout attendees heard from state agency representatives, several statewide officials, legislators and county officials, including:
Rick Hill, Brazos County Justice of the Peace
Becky Wilbanks, Cass County Judge
Jason Brinkley, Cook County Judge
Clay Jenkins, Dallas County Judge
Heather Hawthorne, Chambers County Clerk
Ro'Vin Garrett, Brazoria County Tax Assessor/Collector
Jeff Branick, Jefferson County Judge

Media Relations 101: Tips of the Trade

The popular CommCube focused on media relations presented by Leslie Rhode, a strategic communications consultant, media specialist and award winning television journalist. Rhode offered officials tips on developing relationships with reporters, pitching stories to news organizations, and messaging during an interview.

Affiliate Meetings

County affiliate organizations met to discuss legislative issues and association business early on Thursday morning, a change from the afternoon time slot from past Conferences. Capitalizing on the opportunity to meet in between regularly scheduled meetings, some associations were able to issue a call to action for items needing immediate attention.

Living Under the Cap

Friday's closing session included speakers Barbara Canales, Nueces county Judge; Daryl Fowler, DeWitt county Judge; Sydney Murphy, Polk county Judge and Joe Shuster, Pecos county Judge. The panel discussed the changes that took place to the property tax system, how counties can best prepare to handle those changes, and how to tell the county story to our citizens, the public, and the Legislature regarding the consequences of the 86th session changes.

For more details, photos and informative stories, look for the next issue of County Magazine.

2020 Conference – Make Plans Now

We hope that all attendees made the most of the opportunity to network with other county officials from every office, plus legislators and other experts about the issues that affect their county and their constituents. Plans are underway now for the 2020 Legislative Conference to be held:

August 26 - 28, 2020
Fairmont Austin Hotel
101 Red River St.
Austin, TX 78701