Texas Government Insider
News And People

Volume 15, Issue 20 - Friday, May 26, 2017
The discovery of oil in Texas dates back much further, but the first economically significant discovery came in 1894 in Navarro County near Corsicana. According to the Texas State Historical Association, the Corsicana oilfield developed gradually and peaked in 1900, when it produced more than 839,000 barrels of oil. The first relatively modern refinery in Texas, operated by the J. S. Cullinan Company, opened at the field in 1898. The major importance of the Corsicana field lay in establishing the potential for commercial oil production in Texas. With the construction of a carbon black (a raw material derived from natural gas) plant in Stephens County in 1923, the Texas petrochemical industry was born.

Products derived from oil and natural gas are the backbone of the Texas petrochemical industry, mostly concentrated along the Texas Gulf Coast and in the Permian Basin. The need for synthetic rubber and synthetic chemicals for explosives during World War II prompted the development of the highly specialized petrochemical industry in Texas. After 1952 the state's share in the American petrochemical industry increased dramatically, and during the 1960s Texas played an increasingly diversified role in all phases of the petrochemical industry: furnishing and processing oil and gas, producing petrochemicals, and manufacturing commercial commodities.

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With just hours left in the 85th Texas Legislative Session, things could change but at the moment here's where some of the most-watched bills are in the process.

Bills intended to make legislative changes to ethics and open government laws fizzled out and didn't have much of a chance to resurface. Senate Bill 502, authored by Sen. Van Taylor, states that registered lobbyist must report their spending on transportation, lodging, food and drink, or entertainment for a member of the legislative or executive branch if that expenditure exceeds 60 percent of the legislative per diem (currently $190). The bill also addresses the issue of "ticket splitting," where multiple lobbyists collaborate to make payments below the reporting threshold for a larger expenditure above the reporting threshold. SB 502 will not pass.

Senate Bill 500, authored by Sen. Van Taylor, would remove elected officials from office and strip their pensions if they are convicted of felonies including bribery, embezzlement or theft of public money, perjury, and tampering with a government record. SB 500 is headed to the Governor's desk for signature.

Final vote on the 2018-2019 Texas budget 
It's the only bill in the 85th Texas Legislative Session that had to pass, and Texas budget negotiators have reached a compromise. The House and Senate signed off on a two-year, $216.8 billion budget, up $352 million from fiscal year 2016-2017.

One of the biggest sticking points has been whether to tap into the state's savings account to help fill a $2.5 billion budget gap, or delay dollars from the state's highway fund. The ten member committee tasked with merging the two chambers' ideas decided to do both. Defer $1.8 billion of a constitutional highway fund transfer until fiscal 2020. This means that $1.8 billion can be counted as General Revenue available in 2018-2019.

SB 1 proposes using less than $1 billion of the state's $10 billion Rainy Day Fund, the largest such state reserve fund in the country. That means the balance will grow to almost $11 billion by the end of the 2018-2019 budget cycle. The Rainy Day Fund is specifically designed to help prevent sudden, massive cuts to essential services like health care and higher education.

To solidify the budget for fiscal year 2018-2019, the final vote from the House and Senate will take place on Saturday. 

TxDOT approves $8.9M to purchase land for new office space in Austin
Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials approved spending $8.9 million to purchase 49 acres of land near East Stassney Lane and Burleson Road in Austin to house employees now working in mostly leased space at four locations in Austin. Texas Transportation Commission members, however, must approve the purchase of the property before the sale is finalized, according to James Bass, the executive director of TxDOT. Legislators also tentatively approved a two-year budget allotting $30 million to develop the new office site. 

The goal is to have the new TxDOT facility ready for employees in about four years, according to Bass. Employees currently located in East Riverside offices, which is under lease through 2022, will be relocated to the new facility. Also relocating will be employees from the Camp Hubbard site along North MoPac Boulevard and at a warehouse on Centimeter Circle. TxDOT property that is housed in a rented warehouse on West Braker Lane will also be moved to the new site. TxDOT officials plan to transfer ownership of much of the 15.6-acre Camp Hubbard site to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicle once the new office is completed.
Texas Parks and Wildlife falls short in budget
While Texas legislators agreed to allot $13 million to fund border security activities by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) personnel, the state agency received only $17 million of the $75 million requested for performing overdue maintenance during the next two years, according to Carter Smith, the executive director of TPWD. Lawmakers, however, approved $49 million to make weather-emergency repairs in all of the state parks affected by fires, floods or hurricanes. The state agency also requested an additional $23.9 million to operate state parks in the next two years, but received no additional funding even though state parks are attracting a million more visitors each year than visited in 2011, Smith said. 

Legislators also approved only $1 million of the $31.5 million requested to replace aging boats and other equipment used by its law enforcement division. Current plans are to use the $17 million allotted for maintenance of all state parks to pay for projects already underway rather than funding any new repair projects, Smith said. Projects to develop two new parks will be postponed until further funding is available. The future parks, Kronkosky State Natural Area and Powderhorn Ranch, would be located southwest of Austin and on the Gulf Coast. Other projects that will have to wait include rebuilding visitor facilities at Inks Lake and improving water and wastewater facilities at all parks, including Colorado Bend State Park and Pedernales Falls State Park. The parks department is waiting to see what will happen with House Bill 78, unfortunately HB78 never made it out of committee.  
Lake Travis ISD to move building schedule for new middle school
Lake Travis Independent School District board members are weighing a proposal by an architect to seek qualifications for a construction manager at risk in order to begin the design process to build a new $73.9 million middle school a year earlier than previously planned. The new middle school is one of the projects included in a recommendation by a bond advisory committee for trustees to schedule a $251.7 million bond election in November to pay for the new middle school and an elementary school that's expected to cost about $31.5 million. 

Other propositions in the bond recommendation include $30 million to upgrade technology throughout the district, $19 million to buy land for new district facilities, $12 million for transportation and $4 million for athletic facilities. Working with a construction manager on designing the new middle school this summer could help the district open the campus in the fall of 2019 rather than fall 2020 by beginning construction as early as November of this year. The construction manager would assume the risk if voters reject the November bond proposal and would have to wait for the next bond election for the new middle school to be approved and construction to begin.
Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Rodney Ellis, Harris County Commissioner, Harris County Precinct 1

Rodney Ellis
Career highlights and education: Commissioner, Precinct 1, Harris County Commissioners Court, Texas State Senator, District 13, Member, Houston City Council, Chief of Staff, US Congressman Mickey Leland. He holds a bachelor's degree from Texas Southern University, a master's degree from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, and a law degree from the University of Texas School of Law. Commissioner Ellis also studied at Xavier University in New Orleans and the London School of Economics.

What I like best about my job is: I love the number of people that I can help and how we can have a very positive impact on people's lives in Houston and across Harris County. In this job you can help people directly, right where they live, taking care of the issues that affect them most in their day-to-day lives - health care, roads and bridges, parks, you name it - and often can do it much faster than at the state or federal level.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: The devil is in the details. Also, remember that you have some very big shoes to fill.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Be ready to work hard and learn, "I don't know" is a better answer than making something up and remember you are working for tens of thousands who need a champion.

If I ever left work early, I could probably be found: On my bicycle, zipping across town and Harris County.

People would be surprised to know that I: That I went to TSU on a football scholarship, or that I am the father of the Texas sales tax holiday.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency:
What it does and how large of a job it is. More people live in Precinct 1 than in 6 states. For instance, about the same number of people live in Precinct 1 as in all of Montana.
Dallas receives response on $800M bond proposal
Dallas city officials held two public meetings this week to gather input on projects supported by citizens to include in a proposed $800 million bond election in November. 

The bond proposals recommended by the Citizens Bond Task Force, who reviewed almost $1 billion in proposed capital improvement projects, are divided into five separate areas that include $120 million for parks and recreation projects, $80 million for flood control and drainage projects, $60 million for upgrades to housing and economic development projects and $120 million in improvements to critical facilities such as libraries, buildings for fire and safety personnel and State Fair facilities in addition to funding for streets. After hearing public comments, bond task force members are planning to make a recommendation in June on which projects to include in a proposed $800 million bond election in November of this year.
Texas A&M University releases 2017 campus master plan
Texas A&M University officials released the 2017 campus master plan adopted to set the direction for long and short term development of their campus that includes adding 4.8 million square feet of space in new construction on the West Campus. The goal is to increase density and provide the same services and amenities to students, faculty and staff on the West Campus that is currently available at the older campus across the railroad tracks, said President Michael K. Young. These new additions include a quadrangle and pavilion as well as the new Research Park to be located in the West Campus, he said.  

Other campus improvements listed in the 460-page master plan include a new teaching hospital, expanding the health science center and building several multi-level parking structures. The additional parking will allow the university to convert some of the surface parking lots into green spaces bordered by mixed-use developments offering retail, dining and administration buildings, Young said. The plan also includes more hike and bike trails to reduce vehicular traffic and improvements to roads.
Texas Tech University makes plans for $8.4M VA clinic 
Following legislative approval of a bill allowing Texas Tech University to transfer land from its main campus to the Texas Tech University Health Science Center (TTUHSC), university officials are preparing to grant use of that land to the Veterans Administration (VA) to build a new $8.4 million VA Clinic on that campus. Once the legislation is finalized, Texas Tech University officials are working with VA officials to build a two-story facility across the street from TTUHSC that will partner with the health science center and the University Medical Center (UMC), to offer improved health services to more than 30,000 veterans in the Lubbock area, said Ryan Henry, the vice president for federal and state relations for TTUHSC. 

The VA clinic will provide primary care, mental health care, physical therapy, dermatology, podiatry, orthopedics, dental and special care services. Around 30,000 of the 94,000 square feet in the new facility will be dedicated to treating traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress syndrome. Maj. Gen. Walter Huffman, one of a team of retired generals in West Texas who led efforts to establish a partnership between Texas Tech and VA officials, said that the clinic will provide physicians and other medical professionals in training more experience in treating veterans' medical issues. The goal is to begin construction on the new VA clinic in 2018 and open it in 2020.
Dallas looks at three options to fix $4.5M wave
Dallas city officials are reviewing three options costing from $2 million to $7.5 million to remove a standing wave feature that was built at a cost of $4.5M. The wave was closed in May 2011 before it officially opened to the public after two boaters almost drowned in one of the bypass channels built for use by those who did not want to enter the wave feature. Removing some of the wave has become necessary after city officials agreed to make the Trinity River navigable again after a three-year disagreement with the Army Corps of Engineers that ended in 2016 when the corps officials threatened to shut off the city's water supply, noted Willis Winters, director of parks told council members. 

Demolishing the entire wave would cost $7.5 million and correcting the problems with the bypass channel would cost $4.2 million. Council members would need to find additional funding to pay for the more expensive options. Along with park board members, city staff recommended the city use $2 million from the city's Trinity Watershed Management Department funding to remove most of the water feature, but leave some foundation beams in the river and some "armoring" materials along the bank, Willis said. Council is expected to vote on the $2 million option recommended by staff and park board members in June.
Calendar of Events

June 7-8
The 6th Annual Eagle Ford Consortium Conference will be held from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on June 7 and 8 at The University of Texas San Antonio, Buena Vista Building Theater, 501 W. Cesar E. Chavez Blvd. 

Find out what's working, what's not and what's next for the Eagle Ford Shale region. This two-day event will provide participants a front-row seat for important discussions on the Eagle Ford Region. Register here.
June 18-20
SelectUSA Investment Summit will be held June 18-20 at the Gaylord Hotel - National Harbor in Washington, D.C. During the event, Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI), with assistance from the Association for the Improvement of American Infrastructure (AIAI) will facilitate a 3-hour symposium covering the basics of Public-Private Partnerships. Experts from throughout the U.S. will be on hand to provide hands-on assistance to attendees.
June 22-23
The Texas K-12 Chief Technology Officers (CTO) Council will hold its annual CTO Clinic on June 22-23 at the Marriott Riverwalk in San Antonio. Keynote speakers will be Will Richardson and Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). 

There will be numerous breakout sessions, an exhibit hall and great networking for chief technology officers and their technology staff members. For more information and to register, click here. To secure a special hotel rate at the San Antonio Marriott Riverwalk, book online by May 26 to make your reservation.
June 25 from 1-5 p.m.
On June 25 between 1-5 p.m., Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI) will be facilitating a workshop with assistance form the Association for the Improvement of American Infrastructure (AIAI). Join President and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc. Mary Scott Nabers for this workshop: Financing Smart City Projects- What you need to know about public-private partnerships and alternative funding options. 

The workshop will provide insight on how to evaluate P3 projects, how to attract private investors, how to tie revenue generating initiatives to large public projects of all types...and much more.
2017 Aging in Texas Conference
July 12-14

Please visit the conference website to register. 

If your organization is interested in being a conference sponsor or exhibitor, please contact Texas Association of Regional Councils today!
Sept. 17-20
The Institute of Internal Auditors Southern Region Conference will take place from Sept. 17-20 at the Hilton Austin Hotel, located at 500 E 4th Street in Austin. The conference program offers attendees in the technology, state and local government, and medical industries cutting-edge, relevant information on core competencies and general audit, with new information on audit activities and industry hot topics. 

Attendees will master the newest technical audit skills and enhance interpersonal soft skills, vital to the growth and success of both the audit department and the organization. Register early, before July 17, and save $100.
Nov. 13-15
The 14th Annual Texas Energy Summit-Clean Air Through Energy Efficiency Conference (CATEE) will be held November 13-15 at the Dallas/Plano Marriott at Legacy Town Center, 7121 Bishop Road. This premiere educational conference and business exhibition provides a venue to learn about state-of-the-art energy innovations with a focus on energy in Texas, and by reaching out to energy partners throughout the state. 

The Texas Energy Summit will provide you the opportunity to engage with industry experts, state and local policy makers, community and business leaders, researchers, facility and energy managers, design and development professionals, utility and energy service experts, and more in a lively conversation about cleaner air, a better built environment, and a new energy economy! Register here.

By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.

President Trump's proposed federal budget for 2018 is causing heartburn for many members of Congress. That's because it lays out at least $1 trillion in cuts from welfare programs. In spite of that, the budget plan includes some interesting provisions related to infrastructure spending. 

Without doubt, the president's proposed budget redefines the federal government's role in infrastructure projects at all levels of government. It outlines "key principles" that Trump wants used to determine projects that will qualify for federal dollars or incentives. It also sends a clear message to elected officials throughout the country that public funding will not be adequate in the future and private-sector investor must be embraced. 

The president wants to allocate $200 billion in direct federal funding to be infused into a funding mix of public- and private-sector investment over a 10-year period. Trump, and most members of Congress, want to incentivize public-private partnerships (P3s) and private-sector investment of capital.




Corpus Christi approves $700M project for wastewater system
Corpus Christi City Council members decided to adopt a $700 million, 20-year plan to repair and upgrade six existing wastewater treatment plants operated by the city, which should save an estimated $201 million. This decision was made after the city manager and staff presented plans to build a new wastewater treatment plant. 

The plan prioritizes "flood-proofing" the Greenwood Wastewater Treatment Plant on Greenwood Drive near Saratoga Boulevard, which was a common concern among council members. The decision was based on the ability to have funding for other infrastructure needs such as drinking water quality and street repair.
Mansfield ISD begins work on projects from $275M bond vote 
Trustees for Mansfield Independent School District plan to begin construction in 2018 on several projects to improve schools and upgrade technology after voters approved the issue of $275 million in bonds earlier this month. 

Improvements to two high schools, two middle schools, an intermediate school and The Phoenix Academy along with updating science labs, installing playground equipment and replacing or renovating heating and cooling systems at elementary and intermediate schools are among the projects to be funded with the bond issue, said Donald Williams, assistant superintendent for communications. The capital improvement projects address enrollment growth, safety and security for students, as well as student equity and a variety of infrastructure upgrades, Williams said.


San Marcos receives additional $7.7M in federal flood relief
San Marcos city officials plan to improve drainage and help repair some homes with an additional $7.7 million in flood relief funds announced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The additional money will supplement the $25 million in federal flood relief funding already awarded to the city and bring the total to $32.5 million. 

A majority of the $7.7 million will be used around flood prone neighborhoods to help prevent water from pooling by allowing it to drain faster during flood events. A smaller portion of the HUD funding will also be used to help rehabilitate homes. Projects announced by the city include installing a $5 million storm drain system in Blanco Gardens, a new $2.5 million storm drain system and building an $11.5 million overflow channel from the Blanco River to River Road that will also be used as a hike and bike trail.
North Central Texas COG seeks bids for study in midtown Dallas
North Central Texas transportation planning officials are seeking proposals from engineering firms to analyze the use of automated technology and alignment options to improve mobility within the Dallas Midtown area and connect to a regional rail system. The study will be under the supervision of a Study Review Committee that may include members from the North Central Texas Council of Governments, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit, the city of Dallas and developers from the midtown area of the city.  

The study will provide a ridership estimation tool, recommended technology, alignment, station locations and options for financing implementation of the study. The Regional Transportation Council is interested in advancing automatic transportation technology within an area to serve local circulation needs within and between major developments in addition to acting as a collector/distributor for a regional rail system to reduce the use of automobiles in that region. Deadline for submitting proposals for the study is June 1.
Smith County allots $48,500 to fund study on facility 
Smith County Commissioners approved a $48,500 contract with a Fort Worth-based architectural firm to evaluate county buildings and facilities to assist county officials in developing and approving a five-year capital improvement plan. While commissioners previously approved work on 17 capital improvement projects to work on in 2017, the study will help identify repair, maintenance and other unanticipated facility costs for the next five years. 

While five of the projects planned for this fiscal year are complete, seven are in progress and four projects are still on the to-do list. A couple of those projects include a $320,000 replacement and repair of the roof on the county building that houses offices to register vehicles and pay property taxes, a $125,000 project to expand and improve several parking lots, a $75,000 to replace the roof on the animal shelter and other county offices. A $41,700 project to improve seating at the courthouse is in progress and the county plans to spend $100,000 to update courthouse restrooms.




Ector County to issue $25M in bonds for expanding jail
Ector County Commissioners agreed to issue $25 million in certificates of obligation to pay for expanding the county jail in addition to approving an $1.8 million contract with an architectural firm to design the jail expansion and provide cost estimates for the project. 

The jail expansion is needed in order to save about $3 million annually now paid to house prisoners in jail facilities outside of the county and improve safety by eliminating the need for deputies to transport prisoners on busy highways, according to Sheriff Mike Griffis. Commissioners agreed to maintain control of costs for expanding the jail by closely monitoring the design process in order to reduce construction costs and future operating costs for the expanded jail.


Mansfield allots $97,700 for office at Oliver Nature Park
The Mansfield City Council agreed to pay $97,700 to design a new, 9,100 square-foot building at the Oliver Nature Park to provide office space for 20 parks and recreation staff members, a community meeting room, two conference rooms, a work room, a break room and storage space. 

The Mansfield Park Facilities Development Corporation will pay for designing the new facility. The goal is to complete the design plan this summer and begin construction this fall, city officials said. The new parks facility will replace an aging, former fire station located on four acres of land owned by the city that is part of a downtown development project planned to begin later this year. City officials expect to release a request for proposals in late July from architects and engineers for ideas for using the land.
Waldrip selected as Frisco ISD superintendent
Mike Waldrip
Mike Waldrip, currently superintendent at Coppell Independent School District, won selection as lone finalist to serve as superintendent of Frisco ISD. He will replace Superintendent Jeremy Lyon who is retiring in June once the required 21-day waiting period expires. 

Before becoming superintendent in Coppell in 2014, Waldrip was a principal, assistant superintendent and deputy superintendent for the Frisco school district. Waldrip holds a bachelor's degree from Texas Tech University, a master's degree from Sul Ross University and an Ed.D. from the University of North Texas.
JOB BOARD
Dozens of public-sector jobs are available. New jobs added this week include:  
Click here to view more. Send postings to editor@spartnerships.com




Check out these story headlines of the week on our website


 
GOVERNOR'S APPOINTMENTS
Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointments from May 18- May 25:
  • Kevin Lilly- Houston, Chair of Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission;
  • J.B. Goodwin- Austin, Chair of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.


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Texas Government Insider is a free weekly newsletter detailing important happenings throughout the state and summarizing current political issues relevant to individuals interested in government.   
Publisher: Mary Scott Nabers
Editor: Kristin Gordon
TGI is published by Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI), a research and consulting firm. Founded in Texas in 1995 by former government executives and public sector experts, SPI has developed a national reputation as the premier marketing partner dedicated to helping companies secure contracts in the $1.5 trillion state and local government marketplace.   
To learn more about SPI services, click here or contact our sales department at 512-531-3900. 
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