A new, 7:30 start time didn't stop more than 120 participants from joining this week's virtual Tuesday Morning Breakfast for a quick look at what's brewing at the Capitol.
Usually by Capitol we're talking about the Pink Dome here in Austin, but there was a deep interest this week in what was happening in that other Capitol in Washington, D.C., where as of Tuesday morning the U.S. House was expected to pass the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 on Wednesday (which it did, sending the pandemic relief bill to President Joe Biden for his signature). The U.S. Senate had passed the measure on March 6, returning the bill to the House for final consideration.
The act includes $65.1 billion in direct, flexible aid for counties, with Texas counties set to receive more than $5.6 billion. The U.S. Treasury will allocate the money based on population. Counties will have until Dec. 31, 2024, to spend the money they receive.
More information about the American Rescue Plan is available from the National Association of Counties, including an analysis of the act and county-by-county allocation estimates.
Other topics of note this week:
Jim Allison, general counsel for the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, reported that House Bill 749 and Senate Bill 234 had both been referred to the State Affairs Committees in their respective chambers. He suggested Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants to prohibit local governments from using public money to advocate for their interests, designating the issue No. 10 on his list of priorities. Allison said his group was still waiting for SB 10 to be introduced so they can determine how its language will differ from SB 234 and HB 749. The bill was filed later in the week on Wednesday.
Another bill of concern to county judges and commissioners, House Bill 3, also has been referred to the House State Affairs Committee, Allison said. HB 3 would restrict the ability of local governments to respond to a pandemic.
Midland County Treasurer Mitzi Baker, president of the County Treasurers' Association of Texas, reported that state Rep. Mayes Middleton (R-Wallisville) had filed a proposed constitutional amendment (HJR 120) to abolish the county treasurer's office in Galveston County. She asked other county officials to join her group's effort to oppose Middleton's resolution.
The Texas Supreme Court issued Emergency Order 36 on March 5, revising its pandemic guidance to allow in-person hearings and jury trials. Robert Kepple, executive director of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, briefly went over some of the questions that surround the reopening of courthouses and what safety protocols are allowed to protect people coming to court from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
What happens at the Texas Capitol has a broad effect on Texas counties. Keep up by joining TAC's weekly Tuesday Morning Breakfasts. Please register for the next breakfast on Tuesday, March 16, by 5 p.m. Monday, March 15. Login instructions will be sent with confirmation of your registration.
Please contact Amy Ruedas at AmyR@county.org or (800) 456-5974 with any questions about the breakfast meetings. And stay up to date with the latest from TAC Legislative Services by visiting www.county.org/legislative.