Hopkins County Judge Robert Newsom was among more than 700 county officials, county staff and legislators from across the state attending the Sept. 4-6 for the Texas Association of Counties 2019 Legislative Conference in Austin.
The three-day event was a chance to discuss new legislation that affects counties and local taxpayers following the 86th legislative session.
“As a result of the last legislative session, Texas counties are facing some interesting new challenges,” said TAC Executive Director Susan M. Redford. “The Legislative Conference offered opportunities for county and state officials to share solutions to these challenges. As always, county leaders are committed to service and focused on the future.”
Topics of interest to counties and county operations at the conference included:
- Texas court structure: Members at all levels of the state’s judiciary, heavily funded and supported by counties, collaborated to create new policy.
- Disaster response: Texas General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush shared how local communities will be better equipped with new procedures to handle major events in the post Hurricane Harvey era.
- Federal policy: County officials and state lawmakers discussed a wide range of federal policies affecting Texas counties, including those targeting infrastructure, disaster mitigation and recovery and county jail inmate health care.
- Voting in Texas: Officials discussed new voting requirements and how local governments will protect the integrity of elections.
- Transparency in setting tax rates: Taxing entities have new reporting and public notice requirements.
Keynote speaker Evan Smith, CEO and co-founder of The Texas Tribune, moderated a panel of legislators discussing, among other topics, health care and infrastructure. Panelists were Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas; Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo; Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin; and Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches.
Several county officials, legislators, professionals and state agency staff led discussions in various breakout sessions. Those presenters included Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar; Director, Texas Tech Mental Health Institute Keino McWhinney; Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt; Barbara Hervey, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals; Brazos County Justice of the Peace Rick Hill; Cass County Judge Becky Wilbanks; Administrative Director, Office of Court Administration David Slayton; Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham; Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria; Cooke County Judge Jason Brinkley; Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins; National Association of Counties CEO and Executive Director Matt Chase; Chambers County Clerk Heather Hawthorne; Staff Attorney of Elections Division, Secretary of State, Christina Adkins; Williamson County Elections Administrator Chris Davis; Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht; Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston; Brazoria County Tax Assessor-Collector Ro’Vin Garrett; Travis County Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler; Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont; Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick; Texas State Demographer Dr. Lloyd Potter; Robert T. Bass, attorney; Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales; DeWitt County Judge Daryl Fowler; Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy; and Pecos County Judge Joe Schuster.
TAC unites, supports and provides services to Texas counties so they can more effectively serve their local communities.