TAC's virtual Tuesday Morning Breakfasts resumed this week, picking up where they left off after February's winter storm and TAC's Counties at the Capitol Legislative Day. With the Legislature showing signs to hitting an accelerated pace after a sluggish start, TAC has decided to push the start of our weekly breakfast meetings up a half hour to 7:30 a.m. starting March 9.
This week's breakfast opened and closed over the course of an economical 30 minutes. Some highlights:
Designated an emergency legislative item by Gov. Greg Abbott and occupying the fifth spot on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's list of 31 priority bills, broadband internet expansion enjoys strong bipartisan support. Joining several proposals already filed, both chambers saw the speaker and lieutenant governor’s reserved low-number priority broadband expansion bills filed, Senate Bill 5 and House Bill 5. As TAC Legislative Consultant Rick Thompson noted during the discussion, a primary difference between the two bills is administrative: SB 5 would establish a State Broadband Development Office attached to the University of Texas System, while HB 5 would create a Broadband Development Office under the direction and control of the comptroller.
Jim Allison, general counsel for the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas (CJCAT), said his group was awaiting language for Senate Bill 10, which would prohibit counties from using public money to advocate for their interests. Once filed, SB 10 is likely to become the primary legislative vehicle for what currently are Senate Bill 234 and House Bill 749, he predicted. Despite how some legislators have benignly described it, Allison said the bill as written would stop all nonprofit associations from receiving any dues or other type of financial support from counties.
Allison also said CJCAT was working to identify unfunded mandates in several bills. He pointed specifically to House Bill 277, which would require counties to appoint lawyers for all defendants at all times. He thanked county auditors for the essential role they're playing in compiling fiscal notes for how much various bills will cost county taxpayers.
TAC Legislative Consultant Nanette Forbes discussed three bills supported by the County and District Clerks' Association of Texas. House Bill 1365 would streamline the process of transferring certain cases and proceedings between courts. House Bill 1831 would change the number of continuing education hours clerks may carry over from one year to the next. And House Bill 2131 would make official public records held by county clerks permanent.
Brazos County Justice of the Peace Rick Hill, president of the Justices of the Peace and Constables Association (JPCA), said his group was tracking more than 300 bills. He said JPCA supports Senate Bill 690, which would allow remote court proceedings to continue after the pandemic ends. Hill underlined that bail reform (Senate Bill 21) remained at the top of JPCA's watch list.
TAC's Tuesday Morning Breakfasts are a reminder that what happens at the Capitol has a broad effect on Texas counties. Please register for the next breakfast on Tuesday, March 9, by 5 p.m. Monday, March 8. 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.