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2009 DALLAS COUNTY LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE DRAFT 732008

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2009 DALLAS COUNTY LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE DRAFT 732008 ...

    2009 DALLAS COUNTY LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE

    Updated on February 20, 2009

1. Appraisal Caps

    Background - Governor Perry and Lt. Governor Dewhurst have expressed concern over the way

    property is appraised in Texas for tax assessment purposes. It is the stated purpose of the Dallas stCounty Commissioners Court to educate the 81 legislature about the intrinsic unfairness

    associated with capped appraisal values. Appraisal values must reflect accurately the purchase

    price of a property if taxes are to be assessed in a fair and impartial manner. Capping appraisal

    values shifts the tax burden from long time home owners to newly purchased homes. It is the

    stated position of Dallas County that appraisal caps will:

     (1) Lead to fiscal problems

    ? impact bond rating and the cost of borrowing

    ? cause government to ignore required service issues

    (2) Create arbitrary inequities by

    ? pushing the tax burden to citizens who purchase new homes and residents of

    slower economically developing areas

    (3) Be a detriment to economic progress

    ? with new development paying a disproportionate share of the taxes and

    government not being able to address minimum infrastructure needs, new

    development will suffer.

County Position Vigorously oppose any legislation that unfairly shifts the ad valorem tax.

    Imposing a cap on the appraisal of real property for any one class of property owners will raise

    taxes paid by other taxpaying citizens.

2. Sales Price Disclosure

    Rep. Mike Villarreal HB 133: Referred to House Ways and Means

    Senator Wentworth SB 444: Background - A more equitable approach to fair appraisals would be

    to have a sales price disclosure document completed at each real estate closing that is filed with

    the local appraisal district. The individuals who are most opposed to sales price disclosure are

    those persons who currently have property on the tax rolls at an undervalued rate.

    County Position - Require all real estate transactions to provide at closing, a document outlining the sales price of the property to be provided to the local appraisal district to be used to property

    appraise and set a fair and just value. Accurate appraisals insure that everyone pays their fair share

    of ad valorem taxes and no more.

3. Revenue Caps

    Background - Each year a county must compute the effective tax rate. This rate is computed by

    calculating the increase of taxable value on the tax roll and then lowering the current tax rate to

    an amount that will produce the same amount of revenue as the previous years rate would

    produce.

New construction is not considered part on this calculation since new construction requires

    additional governmental services. Any tax increase above the effective rate that is greater than 8%

    is subject to a roll back election. This system is a delicate balance that locally elected officials must

    negotiate when they consider the needs of a community verses the taxes it takes to fund those

    Page 1 of 10

needs. Revenue caps will limit government revenue without providing a limit on governmental

    responsibility, service demands and obligations. Revenue caps will have a negative impact on a

    local county bond rating and increase the cost of borrowing money for infrastructure projects,

    even though those bonds are voted on and approved by the local tax payers. When a service

    demand is placed on any level of government it must have a revenue source to pay for the new or

    expanded service.

County Position oppose any legislation that imposes an arbitrary cap on County Revenue.

4. Clean Air Initiatives (Senator John Carona)

    Background Strategy 4.1 of the Dallas County Strategic Plan states that the county should

    “Implement Programs and activities to address Air Quality in Dallas County”.

a. Senator John Carona SB 368: Referred to Senate Transportation and Homeland

    Security

    Rep. Will Hartnett HB 470: Referred to House Transportation

    to amend Article 548.045 of the Transportation Code to require that persons who are

    licensed to conduct vehicle inspections have no felony convictions.

     b. Senator John Carona: Implement High Speed Rail Transportation Service in Texas

    b. Senator John Carona SB 217: Referred to Senate Transportation and Homeland

    Security

     Indexed Gasoline Tax: improve funding for traffic congestion and commuter efficiency

    with an indexed gasoline tax.

Legislation that will give the County the authority to increase the County Road and Bridge fee

    assessed on vehicle registration.

    5. Tax Assessor Collector Recommendations a. Senator John Carona SB 798

    Rep. Jim Jackson: Tax Code 31.11(a) Currently, overpayments and erroneous payments

    require an application to be filed by the taxpayer in order to receive a refund regardless of

    the amount. The tax office recommends amending this section to allow refunds up to

    $5,000 without an application.

b. Senator John Carona SB 797

     Rep. Angie Chen Button HB 1205: Tax Code 31.11(a) 2 Raise the amount of a tax

    refund that must be approved by the Governing Body from $2,500 to $5,000 for large

    counties. This change will allow the taxpayer to get a refund 4-5 weeks faster than they do

    now. The current process requires the Auditor‟s Office a week or more to review claims

    before sending the paper work to Commissioners Court. This requires the Refund

    Department to handle the claim five times before the checks are mailed to the taxpayers.

    6. Sheriff’s Department Recommendation a. Civil Service: If an employee of the Sheriff‟s office is disciplined or dismissed, that employee

    can appeal that action to the Sheriff‟s Civil Service Commission. If the Commission comes

    back with a ruling that does not please the employee, the employee can appeal that decision

    to a civil district court. The Sheriff can not appeal a decision of the Sheriff‟s Civil Service

    Page 2 of 10

    Commission. The Sheriff has requested to amend the Sheriff‟s Civil Service statute to grant

    the department or the County the authority to appeal a ruling of the Sheriff‟s Civil Service

    Commission to a civil district court using the same method now used by the employees.

    This appeal will only be authorized when it is shown that the employee knowingly made a

    false statement during the civil service investigation or hearing.

b. Rep. Rafel Anchia: Purchase of service weapon: Section 263.152 Local Gov. Code to

    allow commissioners court to establish a policy allowing a retiring peace officer to

    purchase their service weapon

    7. County Auditor Recommendations

    a. Senator John Carona SB 365: Referred to Senate Criminal Justice

    Amend article 45.051 C.C.P to require a judge to charge an expense equal to the fine that

    would have been levied if a traffic case had not been dismissed for taking a defensive driving

    course.

b. Increase the warrant fee from $50 to $90. This fee was last increased in 1999. Over the last

    nine years the cost of warrant service has greatly increased.

    8. County Treasurer and District Judges Recommendation Senator John Carona SB 397: Referred to Senate Intergovernmental Relations

    Rep. Jim Jackson: The County District Judges and Treasurer have requested statutory

    authorization to pay citizens with a payment system approved by the Commissioners Court and

    the County Auditor on the same day they serve as juror. This new system can use any efficient

    means such as a County issued check, automatic debt card and or cash.

    9. Truancy Courts

    Senator Florence Shapiro SB 407: Scheduled for a hearing in Senate Jurisprudence next

    Wednesday

    Rep. Jim Jackson HB 659: Changes in the statutes are needed to allow the County Truancy

    Courts to appoint part-time judges who will preside on an “as needed” basis during extended

    illness or absence of the full-time judge.

    10. Park and Open Space Program

    The Dallas County Open Space Program and The City of Dallas are joint owners of a parcel of

    land operated as a nature center by the Audubon Society. Statutory authority is required for this

    facility to charge an admission fee. This fee would supplement the managing organization‟s

    existing funding and ensure that adequate resources are available to maintain the property‟s

    acreage and its‟ many trails. This legislation will not provide primary revenue for the operations and management of the center, instead it will ensure that funding is available to provide

    adequate levels of maintenance for the safety and comfort of the many visiting children and

    adults.

    11. County and District Clerk Recommendation

Rep. Allen Vaught HB 1350: Referred to Senate IGR

    Sen. West SB 490: Local Government Code (LGC) Section 117 governs the policies and

    procedures of District and County Clerks in Texas with respect to the operation of court stregistries. The County and District Clerk are petitioning the 81 Texas Legislature to amend Chapter 117 of the LGC Subchapter E “Special Provisions Applying to Funds Paid into Court

    Page 3 of 10

Registry in County with Population of More Than 2.4 Million” substituting every occurrence of

    „2.4 Million‟ to „2.0 Million‟. The effect of such an amendment would be to include Dallas

    County, Texas.

The purpose of Subchapter E is to allow the department to streamline the selection of the

    depository, provide for electronic payment of funds, and give greater latitude to the clerk for

    the transfer of funds into interest bearing special accounts consistent with Section 2256 of the

    Government Code. To provide additional safety, Section 117.123 of the subchapter also

    mandates an annual outside audit in addition to the regular auditing procedures.

Currently, all funds deposited with the Dallas County District Clerk‟s registry are held in a non-

    interest bearing accounts unless the court has ordered otherwise. More than $10 million in

    funds do not have attached orders for investment. As a consequence, recipients of those funds,

    which may be held up to and beyond 5 years, are not being paid in current dollars. In addition,

    the Dallas County is only paid costs on those uninvested funds up to $50 taken from the

    principal at disbursement. The County is paid 10% of the interest accrued on all invested funds

    at the point of disbursement.

Both the Dallas County District and County clerks have professional Trust and Accounting

    departments. The primary benefit of the amendment is the latitude it will provide to the clerks

    to transfer registry funds into interest bearing accounts without a prior court order. The

    amendment would effectively shift the burden of preparing a court order from the attorney who

    wants the funds invested, to the attorney who does not want the funds invested. Consequently,

    all funds held by the registry for extended time periods will maintain constant value and provide

    additional revenue for Dallas County at the time of disbursement.

    12. County Efficiency a. Senator Wentworth SB 312: Public hearing held 2/18/2009. Dr. Bernard testified.

    Cremation Permit Fee: Chapter 49.25 (10) of Criminal Procedure Code requires a facility to

    obtain a cremation permit from the medical examiner before performing a cremation. Staff

    recommends a fee as determined by the Commissioners Court be placed in the C.C.P. This

    fee will be used to reimburse the County for the cost of issuing a cremation permit.

    Estimated cost recovery $100,000 per annum.

b. Senator John Carona SB 387: Referred to Senate Criminal Justice HB 1060 by Miklos

    Rep. Miklos: Change references in the Code of Criminal procedure, Chapter 15 from “telegraph and teletype” to “telegraph, teletype, or secure electronic means.” This will allow

    law enforcement to more efficiently transmit warrant information utilizing modern

    technology.

c. Amend the statute that allows a county to charge an incarceration fee to give the county the

    authority to assess the fee for all days incarcerated upon the conviction of a criminal charge.

d. Amend Section 502.185 Transportation Code to simplify and improve the process whereby

    the state or a county may refuse to register a motor vehicle if the owner of the vehicle has

    unpaid taxes, fees, or fines. This issue was addressed in the new Scofflaw Contract with Tex

    Dot. Legislation is no longer required. Fixed by a contract with TxDot.

e. Enact Legislation that states the county is not required to fund a pay increase for the

    employees of an Administrative Judicial Region if the raise requested is in excess of the

    Page 4 of 10

    average of the pay increase granted to that counties‟ elected officials and employees during

    the same fiscal year.

    f. Amend Government Code 51.961(a) the family protection fee to more closely reflect the cost

    of providing family protection services. The current fee was re established last session at th$15.00 as part of the 79 Legislative Package.

    g. Senator John Carona SB 333: Referred to Senate Transportation and Homeland

    Security

    Rep. Jim Jackson: When the statute governing the breath alcohol testing program was re

    codified the authority for a county to retain $22.50 to pay the cost of managing the program

    was inadvertently omitted. A county may not collect the fee until this mistake is corrected by

    replacing this authority in 102.016 Code of Criminal Procedure. Correcting this error will

    return $100,000. A year to the budget of the Institute of Forensic Science.

    SUPPORT ISSUES

    Bills to be filed by other entities that Dallas County will support.

Tax Assessor Collector Recommendations

    1. Transportation Code, Subchapter E, Motor Vehicle Title Service, Section 520.051, Section

    520.063 Exemptions Remove independent motor vehicle dealer from the exemption section. Tax office research indicates the majority of fraud associated with these transactions is perpetrated

    by non franchised independent dealers.

     th2. Resurrect HB2167 80 Session The intent is to restrict companies that prey on citizens by

    obtaining their property tax refunds, applying for and obtaining exemptions, and/or paying their

    taxes and then when the tax payer fails to pay the company‟s fee the company files a tax lien against

    the taxpayer. The fees currently charged for this service are usually 50% of what is refunded. The

    Legislation should enact the following:

    a. restrict the fee to $55.

    b. late payment if not postmarked on or before the due date

    c. instituting some form of certification and/or bonding with the State Comptroller

    d. full disclosure to the taxpayer in full size print prominently displayed on their

    literature and contracts (in English and Spanish) that the services they offer can be

    obtained for free through their local Appraisal District or the Tax Office

    e. in the instance of a foreclosure for tax liens, the same standards applicable to tax

    offices for accepting payments should apply.

    3. Tax Code 31.11(c) states an application for an overpayment or erroneous payment refund must be made within three years after the date of the payment or the taxpayer waives the right to the

    refund. At this point, the Tax Office writes off these credit balances and transfers the money to the

    General Fund of the County. The Code is silent for writing off adjustment refunds issued for

    exemptions, value adjustments, etc. (does not require a refund application) so these funds may sit for

    years without disposition. These should be included in the Code as subject to the three-year write-

    off; however, should the taxpayer come forward claiming the refund then the funds will be debited

    from the County‟s General Fund.

    Page 5 of 10

4. Tax Code 31.01 tax bills have become cluttered and more complicated in recent years revisit

    this section to do a cleanup and streamline information required on tax bills, possibly to allow some

    of the required information (not pertinent to the payment of the bill) to be made available on the

    website prominently identified as information source on the tax bills.

Criminal Justice

    5. Allowing Bail for Technical Parole Violations: The bill passed both the House and Senate, but was vetoed by Gov. Perry on the grounds that it was “soft on crime.” This bill is expected to be

    filed again, and was widely supported by other Counties and Sheriff‟s departments. Estimated

    savings up to $6,734,141 per year depending on how many bonds are granted.

     th6. Funding alternatives to more state prison beds: The 80 Legislature approved significant funding for alternatives to adding more prison beds. Additional substance abuse felony punishment

    facilities (SAFPF), intermediate sanctions facilities (ISF), and a DWI treatment facility were funded

    in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice‟s (TDCJ) budget. To date, none of these additional

    beds have come on-line. The Department recommends that Dallas County should support the

    following strategies:

    ? Additional funding to local CSDS‟s and criminal justice systems to provide out-patient,

    community-based treatment services.

    ? Funding to allow adding locally operated residential treatment programs, such as an

    expansion of the existing Wilmer Judicial Treatment Program to include a secure

    component.

    Accountability from TDCJ to ensure that all funded programs are implemented in a timely manner.

     th7. Mental Health Services: The 80 Legislature authorized an additional $82 million in mental

    health crisis services for the current biennium. The funding allocation was $27 million for FY08 and

    $54 million for FY 09. The entire state and the Dallas area specifically remain significantly under-

    funded for mental health services. The issue of the relationship between the public mental health thand criminal justice system is one of the Interim Committee Charges from the 80 legislature. The

    following specific issues around mental health services should be considered:

    ? Ensure that, at a minimum, the $54 million allocated for FY 09 crisis services becomes the stannual funding baseline, resulting in an 81 session allocation of $108 million. There

    should be strong advocacy for funding above the $108 million level.

    ? Ensure that any additional funds are allocated to local mental health authorities based on a

    goal of achieving equity in funding. The Department of State Health Services should not

    allocate funding in competitive request for proposals, which result in only a very few areas

    receiving additional funding.

    ? The minimum spending requirements for “new generation” anti-psychotic medications

    should be revisited as many medications have now become generic and are no longer

    considered “new generation.”

    ? The capacity at the state mental hospitals should be increased with a goal of defendants

    court-ordered for treatment admitted within ten (10) days of the commitment order.

    ? Excess physical space capacity at Terrell State Hospital should be available to counties in the

    NorthSTAR area for a transitional program for persons discharged from the hospital but

    who are not ready for a return to independent living.

    ? The ability for courts to order persons who are not competent to make their own treatment

    decisions to begin medications while in jail awaiting transfer to the state hospital system.

    Page 6 of 10

8. Funding Homeless Services and Permanent Support Housing: The Bridge, the new

    homeless assistance center, in Dallas recently opened. A similar facility has opened in Bexar County.

    Homeless persons have a direct impact on jail population and utilization of medical and mental

    health services. Additional funding is needed to support these initiatives targeting the homeless.

    Any new funding should not come at the expense of existing services. Associated with

    homelessness is the need for additional permanent supportive housing, which would target:

    ? People with behavioral health disorders re-entering the community and involved with the

    criminal justice system.

    ? People discharged from the State Hospital system and/or referred from acute care

    psychiatric facilities.

    ? People who have been long term homeless because of untreated mental illness, addictions

    and physical disabilities and chronic illness.

    People who are homeless and disabled who are released from local (primarily Parkland's) medical

    and psychiatric emergency rooms.

    9. Funding Re-entry Services: Additional focus is needed to support the re-entry of offenders from both the prison and local jail systems to their community. Funding specifically targeting

    community-based re-entry services is needed. This issue is one of the Interim Committee Charges thfrom the 80 legislature.

Zoning Unincorporated Areas

    10. Support the efforts of the Texas Conference of Urban Counties to obtain the necessary zoning

    authority for the practical development of the unincorporated land in Dallas and other urban

    counties.

Dallas County DWI Task-Force

    11. Sobriety Checkpoints - require the State to write statewide guidelines authorizing the use of sobriety

    checkpoints.

12. KEG Registration require the registration of beer kegs.

    Unfunded and Under Funded Mandates Background - the following are unfunded mandates that have been imposed by our state and federal

    governments.

Indigent defense

    Dallas County spends over $22 million per year for indigent defense. We receive approximately

    $1 million a year in state subsidies. th? Statute- Senate Bill 7, 77 Legislature

    ? Description- Requires counties to provide criminal defense services to indigent defendants

    on a very aggressive time line and with specific requirements.

    ? Cost- $22 million per year

    Juvenile Grants

    ? Description- State and Federal grants assisting counties with the cost of providing Juvenile

    residential placement services decreased.

    ? Cost- $7.4 million

    Visiting Judge th? Statute- 78 Legislature House Bill 3306

    Page 7 of 10

? Description- Funding for visiting judges was decreased. As a result, Dallas County picked

    up the cost to provide a drug court operated by a Visiting Judge.

    ? Cost- $77,000

    Office space and equipment provided Community Supervision and Corrections Department

    (CSCD)

    ? Statute- Texas Government Code Ch. 76.008 ? Description- The state mandates that counties provide the local CSCD with office space

    and general office equipment.

    ? Cost- $500,000 (Does not include the value of office space provided to CSCD in buildings

    owned by Dallas County.)

    Testing of public safety personnel for Hepatitis B and C

    ? Statute- 78th Legislature Senate Bill 401 ? Description- The state mandates that certain public safety personnel must be tested for

    Hepatitis B and C each year.

    ? Cost - $67,500

    Texas Jail Standards

    ? Statute- Texas Administrative Code Title 37 Part 9 ? Description- The Texas Jail Standards mandates counties perform a variety of services for

    inmates and dictates specific staffing levels. In many cases these mandates insert

    inefficiencies in a large urban jail environment with 7,000 inmates.

    ? Cost- Dallas County has spent $168,306,004 over the past three years to bring our jails into

    compliance with standards established by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

    45 Day Inmate Pickup

    ? Statue- Texas Government Code Ch. 499.121 ? Description- The Department of Corrections has to accept inmates in a state correctional thfacility not later than the 45 day after the date on which all processing required for the

    transfer has been completed, but does not provide compensation to counties for this 45 day

    period. This places a financial burden on a county to hold a State inmate for up to 45 days

    without reimbursement.

    ? Cost- $11.7 million

    Parole Violators (Blue Warrants)

    ? Statue- Texas Government Code Ch. 508.282 ? Description - Dallas County is required to detain parole violators who are being held on a

    “blue warrant” up to 40 days without compensation to the county. Further, even though the stlaw requires the state to take action before the 41 day, administrative inaction beyond that

    period adds to the financial impact of housing inmates pending a disposition of the blue

    warrant.

    ? Cost- $15.5 million

    First Administrative Judicial Region

    ? Statute- Texas Government Code Ch. 74.043

    ? Description- Dallas County is required to make an annual payment to the First

    Administrative Judicial Region.

    ? Cost- $149,000

    County Collections Program

    ? Statute- Texas Government Code Ch. 2115 ? Description- The state mandated, through the Office of Court Administration, certain

    counties must implement a Collection Improvement Plan to improve the collection of court

    costs, fees and fines imposed in criminal cases.

    Page 8 of 10

? Cost- $580,000, representing additional clerk and management hours as well as IT

    programming costs for generating reports for the Comptroller.

    Child Protective Services

    ? Description- Dallas County provides funds to help staff several programs including 1)

    Adoption/Permanency Unit; 2) Model Project for the Prevention of Abandoned Children in

    Texas Unit; 3) Family Based Safety Services Unit; 4) Moderate Risk Family Based Safety

    Services Unit; 5) High Risk Family Based Safety Services Unit; 6) Home Study Caseworkers;

    7) Referral and Evaluation of Abused Children Clinic; 8) Bilingual Caseworkers and

    Translators; and 9) Kinship Caseworkers and Relative Assistance. In addition, Dallas

    County provides a supplemental pay program for caseworkers to decrease caseworker

    turnover.

    ? Cost- $2.2 million

    Mental Health Services

    ? Description- Dallas County provides support to the State operated NorthStar System and

    for MetroCare to provide additional Mental Health and Mental Retardation services in

    Dallas County.

    ? Cost- $4.5 million

    Community Health Services

    ? Description- Dallas County provides grant matches each year to ensure that Community

    Health Services provided by Dallas County through contracts with the State are adequately

    provided to Dallas County residents.

    ? Cost- $200,000 per year ? County Position oppose any mandate imposed on local government that does not have a

    funding source.

    Dallas Metrocare Recommendations

    (1) Renew Funds for Mental Health Crisis Services

    ? Some people in crisis lacked access to basic services, and were treated in emergency rooms

    or jails, both of which are more expensive and less effective than mental health services. th? The 80 Texas Legislature appropriated $82 million for the FY 08-09 biennium to address

    this issue.

    ? The Texas A&M Public Policy Research Institute reports, “Crisis funds are improving

    community-based support for people in crisis.

    ? The Health and Human Services Commission and the Department of State Health Services

    have made an $82 million exceptional item request to continue funding for these services

    into the next biennium.

    (2) Restore General Revenue for Developmental Disability Safety Net Services

    ? Two sessions ago, dollars for developmental disability services were reduced as part of the

    budget-balancing process.

    ? Last session, all of those cuts were restored with the exception of dollars for “safety net”

    functions.

    ? The safety net keeps families off wait lists for respite care, habilitation training and

    supported employment for their children.

    ? The Health and Human Services Commission and the Department of Aging and Disability

    Services have a $22 million exceptional item request to restore general revenue funding to

    the Mental Retardation safety net.

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(3) Improve Services to Babies with Severe Developmental Disabilities

    Currently, Texas infants and toddlers with multiple disabilities served by Early Childhood Intervention (ECI)

    average less than 2 services per month.

    ? For the severely disabled, quality care requires 4 services per month, or even more.

    ? The Health and Human Services Commission and the Department of Assistive and

    Rehabilitative Services have made a $50 million exceptional item request to double the

    number of service hours available to the 5,000 most severely disabled babies in Texas.

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