This week's Tuesday Morning Breakfast got underway a few minutes ahead of its scheduled 7:30 start time when several county officials began discussing the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The exchange demonstrated a deep interest in the pandemic relief measure's $5.6 billion in direct, flexible aid for Texas counties. Detailed information about the act, including an analysis and county-by-county allocation estimates, is available from the National Association of Counties.
Breakfast meeting participants continued to focus their attention and concern on efforts to block local governments from having a say at the Legislature. Senate Bill 10, filed March 10 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), supersedes SB 234 as the chamber's primary legislative vehicle for trying to prohibit local governments from using public money to advocate for their interests. Jim Allison, general counsel for the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, gave an overview of SB 10, saying it would silence local government voices at the Legislature by removing associations that represent and serve counties and cities from legislative discourse. The Senate Committee on Local Government, which Bettencourt chairs, is expected to hold a hearing on SB 10 in the next week or two, Allison said.
House Bill 3 by Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) is another source of apprehension for county officials. The measure would change how the state and local governments can respond to future pandemics (it also would put the governor's emergency powers under legislative oversight). The House Committee on State Affairs considered a reworked version of the bill on March 11 that fails to establish a chain of command for local pandemic disasters and potentially freezes tax revenues for one year for counties that require private businesses to close during a pandemic.
What happens at the Texas Capitol affects Texas counties. This week's breakfast meeting included reviews of bills relating to civil asset forfeiture, bail reform and sales tax collections on automobile sales. Keep up by joining TAC's virtual Tuesday Morning Breakfasts each week at 7:30 a.m.
Please register for the next breakfast on Tuesday, March 23, by 5 p.m. Monday, March 22. 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.