SENATE COMMITTEE ON INTERGOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS RELEASES INTERIM REPORT
The Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee recently released its interim report. Many of the report’s recommendations either impact cities directly, or affect entities that work closely with cities. The report’s city-related recommendations are as follows:
- The legislature should pass legislation ensuring the basic private property rights of individuals residing within homeowners associations, including but not limited to:
- notice of association dedicatory instruments, by-laws, and guidelines;
- descriptions of fees and fines assessed and the ability to cure violations prior to enforcement;
- access to association books and records, including financial documents;
- notice and access to association meetings;
- election procedures of board members; and
- notice and redress in case of foreclosure.
Municipal Utility Districts
- The legislature need not make any additional changes to the municipal utility district (MUD) template developed during the Eightieth Legislative Interim to improve the efficiency and oversight over the creation of MUDs.
- The legislature should add additional language to the existing MUD template to require a two-thirds vote of all members of the Texas Senate and House of Representatives to grant a MUD the authority of eminent domain.
- In order to assist the committee and members of the legislature in evaluating the size of proposed MUDs, a questionnaire will be required to be submitted with a request for hearing on MUD bills. (The questionnaire will request the approximate acreage of the proposed MUD. Proposed MUDs over 3,000 acres, especially those requesting the authority to divide, may need to provide additional justification for creation.)
- In order to assist in the evaluation of proposed MUDs, the committee will require evidence of local support to be submitted when the request for hearing on a MUD bill is provided to the committee.
Development in Rural and Unincorporated Areas – Annexation, Zoning, and Private Property Rights
- Recent statutory changes have created balanced policies related to annexation, zoning, and authority in the extraterritorial jurisdiction and unincorporated areas. Any concerns regarding development and growth are localized and do not warrant a shift in state policy at this time.
Local Government Transparency
- The legislature need not enact any additional requirements or penalties regarding local government transparency due to increasing voluntary efforts by local governments to provide access to public records.
- Local governments should continue to work together and with the comptroller’s office to expand access to records, including online records, and should increase participation in the Comptroller’s “Leadership Circle” program.
Local Government Consolidation
- The legislature should take steps to amend Article 11, Section 7, of the Constitution to clarify that debt resulting from an interlocal agreement for consolidation would not require the city to provide a tax and create an interest and sinking fund to repay the debt.
- The legislature should amend Chapter 791 of the Government Code to clarify that local governments may enter into interlocal agreements for a term of longer than one year.
Municipal Management Districts (MMDs), Emergency Services Districts (ESDs), and Public Improvement Districts (PIDs)
- Proposed legislation to create MMDs should be drafted using standardized language regarding the “powers and duties” of the MMD in the interest of clarity and uniformity.
- The committee will develop a questionnaire to be submitted prior to a hearing on a proposed MMD in order to gather information on both the purpose for which the proposed MMD is being created, and the type of authority, including taxing and assessment authority, that the MMD is requesting.
- Although the vast majority of ESDs are formed under Chapter 775 of the Health and Safety Code and not Chapter 776 of the Health and Safety Code (Chapter 776 applies only to ESDs in counties with a population of 125,000 or less), the standardization of ESD authority should be considered to increase uniformity and the quality of emergency services.
- Because PIDs have gradually evolved into a financing vehicle for major projects that benefit the public, the statute governing PIDs (Local Government Code Chapter 372) should be updated to reflect currently accepted uses of PID financing to provide a greater degree of certainty for cities interested in creating public infrastructure.
Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs Funds
- The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) should build upon its experiences reporting newly-created jobs under the federal stimulus program by potentially incorporating a community-based jobs tracking mechanism to better evaluate the effectiveness of TDHCA-administered programs.
- Legislation should be introduced that would require TDHCA to gather data on the special needs category status of each individual or household served by TDHCA programs. TDHCA’s low income housing report should be amended to include a tracking item that identifies the number of individuals and households that meet these special needs categories, how these populations were served during the previous year, and any recommendations on how to improve the coordination of services for the special needs populations.
The full report is available online here.