August 10, 2020 - Shelby County Judge, Allison Harbison joined several county elected officials from the region on July 29 for an online video conference with state Sen. Robert Nichols.
The Texas Association of Counties (TAC) organized the event at the request of county officials from Nichols’ Senate District 3. These luncheons are usually held at a local venue, but because of COVID-19, TAC hosted the event virtually through an online platform.
“We prioritize the safety of our members first and foremost, but we also strive to provide them and lawmakers with timely and valuable information,” TAC Executive Director Susan M. Redford said.
“We know county officials have some common concerns they want to share with their legislators and these kinds of gatherings have proven to be one of the most effective ways of doing that,” said Noe Barrios, TAC’s legislative director.
Judge Harbison said she appreciated the opportunity to hear directly from Sen. Nichols about his position on actions taken by the Legislature during the 2019 session and what Nichols expects to address when the Legislature convenes in January.
The senator shared his concerns about the Legislature’s inability to conduct interim hearings in person due to COVID-19 restrictions. Also related to the pandemic, Nichols said that 70 different federal agencies are currently sending funds into Texas, and the state is attempting to track and account for those various transactions.
He shared that Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar has advised the Legislature to expect a $14 billion loss in revenue to the state with a $4.6 billion shortfall in the current budget. He compared the state’s budget woes to the 2011 session, saying that the current situation is actually worse.
Nichols also advised county officials that there will need to be a special legislative session next summer to take up the Legislature’s mandate to redistrict congressional and state legislative districts. Because of coronavirus-related delays with the federal census, the data necessary to draw new district boundaries will not be available to the Legislature until after the regular session is over, Nichols said.
During their discussion, county officials shared their views with Nichols the implementation of various provisions of the property tax reform legislation that was a central focus of the 86th legislative session. Some of the timelines set out in that legislation are out of sync with timelines in the county budget process, they said.
County officials also conveyed their concerns about the value for county officials and their associations to be able to communicate with legislators. With more than 9,000 bills filed, officials and the senator expressed the necessity for having someone to help county officials monitor the impact of that potential legislation.
The Texas Association of Counties works to unite Texas counties in search of solutions for challenges faced by all counties and to provide services to support county officials in the vital work they do for their local communities.