Texas Government Insider
News And People

Volume 14, Issue 45 - Friday, December 2, 2016
Texas Mobility Summit focuses on the human factor
Teams from municipalities all over the state are meeting to work on real world solutions to transportation challenges. The Texas Mobility Summit, hosted by the department of transportation's Texas Technology Task Force, opened Thursday in Austin and continues today. 

About 200 people are in attendance. Teams from Arlington, Austin, Bryan-College Station, Corpus Christi, Dallas-Fort Worth, El Paso, Houston, San Antonio and Team R&D (The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M Transportation Institute and Southwest Research Institute) came together to create a consortium to develop a common vision for the future of Texas mobility. 

Austin Mayor Steve Adler helped open the summit with TxDOT Executive Director James Bass. Lessons learned from the national Smart City Challenge, in which Austin was a finalist, was a key topic early in the summit. Industry experts and officials from the competition and the winning city of Columbus, Ohio, joined in the discussion. 

Constitutional spending limit set at $99.8 billion
The Legislative Budget Board on Thursday set the constitutional spending limit at $99.8 billion for the upcoming legislative session. The cap is based on a projected 8 percent growth in the state's economy, down from 11.68 percent two years ago.

"Today's vote will allow the Legislature to produce a balanced, responsible state budget," said House Speaker Joe Straus in a statement. "It will also allow us to make strategic investments in priorities such as education, child protection and mental health care."

Legislators cannot allocate more than the spending limit in all the categories constrained by the Texas Constitution. The state budget is also constrained by the amount of revenue collected. Available revenue will be reported in the state comptroller's biennial revenue estimate in January.
Pension funds face shortfall
Texas public retirement systems include 2.4 million active and retired members with assets totalling $241 billion. The Texas Pension Review Board published a 2015-2016 biennial report this week that said some municipal pension plans face imminent funding shortfalls. 
 
The Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund is one of the most visible examples of a state pension fund experiencing difficulty with some reports of the fund losing $3.3 million a month. This week, Mayor Mike Rawlings requested an immediate suspension of Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) payments to help ease the loss. 
 
Some have called for reform to the pension system. James Quintero is director of the Center for Local Governance and leads the Think Local Liberty project at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. In an opinion column for the Austin American-Statesman this week, Quintero said the pension board's reports reveal unfunded liabilities in Texas have climbed to more than $61 billion. He suggested officials consider switching to a defined contribution model, similar to a 401(k), to secure the funds for future use.

Rainy day minimum set
A state legislative panel approved a $7.5 billion minimum balance for the Economic Stabilization Fund, also known as the rainy day fund, on Wednesday. The select committee was established specifically to set the required balance for state savings for the upcoming legislative session. The rainy day fund currently has a balance of $10.1 billion.
Lt. Gov. announces additional legislative priorities
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has listed additional legislative priorities after previously announcing his top ten list 

SB 11 - DFPS Child Protection Bill 
SB 12 - Protective Vests for Police
SB 13 - Union Dues
SB 14 - Ethics Reform 
SB 15 - First Responder Property Tax Relief
SB 16 - License To Carry Fee Reform
SB 17 - Franchise Tax Reduction
SB 18 - Tuition Set-Asides
SB 19 - Tuition Reform
SB 20 - Prohibiting Abortion Insurance Coverage
SB 21 - Convention of States
SB 22 - Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH)
SB 23 - E-Verify
SB 24 - Sermon Safeguard 
SB 25 - Wrongful Birth
Leadership supports $150M for DFPS caseworkers
Texas legislative leaders announced their support in giving $150 million in emergency funding to the Department of Family and Protective Services to help the agency address critical issues in protecting children. If the Legislative Budget Board approves the funding, the agency will be able to give raises to existing employees and hire 829 new caseworkers.

"The Senate has approved the DFPS request for additional caseworkers and salary increases and we have agreed to add teeth to ensure that the resources invested into this agency are producing results, assuring the safety of our children," said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and senate leaders in a joint statement. "The most important action we can take to protect our children is resolving our caseworker retention issue - and that has been the primary focus of the Senate."
Sunset Commission to meet
Dec. 8-9
The Sunset Advisory Commission will meet at 9 a.m. Dec. 8 and 9. Commissioners will hear public testimony on the Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors, Health Licensing Consolidation Project, Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists, Texas Medical Board,Texas Optometry Board,Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists,Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners and Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). 

Commissioners will report decisions on the Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners, Texas Board of Nursing, Texas State Board of Podiatric Medical Examiners and State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.

SWIFT fund application period opens
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has opened the application period for the 2017 funding cycle of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) program. Applications will be due by Feb. 3, 2017.

"The regional planning groups have developed a diverse portfolio of water management strategies to meet their future water needs," said TWDB Board member Kathleen Jackson. "In the first two cycles of SWIFT funding, we approved projects for transmission pipelines, canal linings, capacity expansions, seawater desalination planning, leak detection systems, water meter replacements, and reservoirs. The strategies vary, but the common goal is developing reliable and dependable water supplies for Texas."

About $500 million in funding is expected to be allocated. Projects must be listed in the 2017 State Water Plan to be eligible for SWIFT program financial assistance. Click here for more information.
TWDB approves $1M for Jefferson County wastewater plant
Texas Water Development Board members approved $1 million in financial assistance from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to the Jefferson County Water Control and Improvement district No. 10. The district will use the funds to finance the planning, design and construction of a new chlorine disinfection system, improvements to the existing wastewater treatment plant and a pilot study of the plant's rock-reed filtering system.
TxDOT eyeing expansion of ports
Texas Department of Transportation Commissioners are discussing expanding ports in this state in anticipation of possible changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement and increased trade opportunities for this state. 

Legislators allotted $20 million from the Texas Mobility Fund to help improve and expand ports after the Panama Canal expansion project was completed in 2014. A Port Authority Advisory Committee created by lawmakers reviewed and evaluated potential port development projects in this state, and identified 27 potential projects expected to cost $217 million in a recently released report. 

Click here for the report.
Longview moves forward on park, event venue, trail project
Longview city officials expect to receive the final design plan in early January for a $1.2 million outdoor park and event venue, The Green, and begin construction as early as April. Officials also plan to seek bids from contractor this summer to begin the first phase of extending Guthrie Trail. The Guthrie Trail project is a three-phase plan to build a trail to connect to Cargill Long Trail to the northeast and the Paul G. Boorman Trail to the southeast. 

The Longview Economic Development Corp. is contributing $400,000 to The Green project and $1.9 million for design and construction of phase 1 of the Guthrie Trail. The city, Gregg County, Keep Longview Beautiful and Texas Parks and Wildlife also are contributing to the project. Bids for the project will be solicited once state and local officials approve the design plan. 


McKinney approves plan for $13M public safety training center
McKinney City Council members approved a site plan for a new $13 million public safety training center in a partnership with Collin College. The agreement between the city and college calls for building the training facility on 25 acres of city-owned land east of US75 with the college providing $11 million of the cost of the facility and the city contributing $2.2 million to the project as well as developing infrastructure such as roads. 
 
The public safety training facility will include an indoor virtual firearms training center; two out-door fire-burning structures, including a burn tower; an outdoor pavilion with classrooms and storage and fire truck apparatus bays.
Trinity Valley Community College to expand in Athens
Trinity Valley Community College (TVCC) officials approved an agreement with Athens city officials to purchase a former National Guard Armory and property known as Central Park to expand services in that community. Both properties are next to the TVCC campus in Athens. 

In the agreement, Athens city officials agreed to lease the front part of the armory that contains the Development Services Center and Emergency Operations Center for up to 18 months or until construction on new city facilities is completed. TVCC will invest approximately $8 million in capital improvements to renovate and repurpose the current facility and will provide 25 scholarships annually for a 10-year period to Terrell High School graduates. 

TVCC officials plan to convert the armory into a fitness center and meeting space and use the Central Park property for future expansion.
Grapeland ISD considers new elementary school
Grapeland Independent School District board members are seeking public comment to discuss the need for a new elementary school to replace or renovate a campus built in the 1950s. One option being considered is to build a new 48,000-square-foot elementary at a cost of between $6.8 million to $7.8 million. Another option is to move forward with a hybrid plan that would require renovation with some new building. 

 Board members plan to discuss plans for the elementary school at their next meeting on Dec. 19.
Plano considers $257M bond for facilities
Plano City Council members are reviewing comments from a public hearing on a proposed $257 million bond package that includes a new training center for first responders and the expansion of several libraries. The bond proposal would go before voters in May.  

The proposal also includes a $3.5 million project to renovate the Collinwood House, a home built in the 1860s. City officials plan two more public hearings in January before voting on a final package to put before voters.
Edinburg to use $1.2M FEMA grant to fight flooding
Edinburg city officials plan to use a $1.2 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help reduce flooding in neighborhoods near Edinburg North High School. City officials agreed to spend $402,000 in matching city funds to help pay for a 60-inch drainage pipe along West Rodgers Road and the east property line of the high school. The drainage project also will help reduce flooding in two neighborhoods that suffered damage from floods in June 2015. 

Officials plan to begin an environmental study in the near future and then seek bids for the construction project. The drainage project will take an estimated one year to complete.
Odessa approves UTPB plans to build nuclear reactor
Odessa City Council members approved a resolution in support of the University of Texas of the Permian Basin's application for a license to bring a $1 billion nuclear reactor to Ector County. The resolution also allotted funding to pay the salary and travel expenses of Dr. James Wright, director of the Office for Regional Economic Development in Energy at UTPB, for a year. 

Wright will be the main liaison between the Maryland-based engineering company proposing to build high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor and the region. 
Tunnels to provide passage for endangered ocelots
In partnership with Cameron County and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Texas Department of Transportation is building 12 underground corridors on two highways in Cameron County to protect endangered ocelots. The project is estimated to cost $8 million.

With only 80 known ocelots found in Texas; federal, state and local officials backed efforts to provide more protection to the rare felines who often travel to and from the Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates 40 percent of ocelots in the area are killed by traffic.
Waco approves $20.3M for Brazos Riverfront improvements
Waco City Council members approved $20.3 million to pay for clean-up, infrastructure and public improvements for the 16-acre Brazos Riverfront Development project. Council members allotted $8 million for site cleanup of the site adjacent to the Brazos River and University Parks Drive. Another $12.2 million was allotted for public infrastructure such as a new sidewalks, street improvements and a parking garage.
Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Cruz Montemayor, Deputy Executive Director, Texas Veterans Commission

Cruz Montemayor
Career highlights and education: I have worked in state government for
over 20 years, I have been the deputy executive director of the Texas Veterans Commission since July 2015. As the deputy executive director, I assist the executive director in leading and managing all agency operations and working closely with each of the agency's eight programs. I have been with the Texas Veteran's Commission since 1999 serving as the chief administrative officer, prior to that, I worked for the Health and Human Services Commission. I have a master's degree in organizational management from the University of Phoenix and a bachelor's degree from West Texas A&M University. I am a credentialed mediator and a 2016 Fellow of the Center for Public Policy and Dispute Resolution at The University of Texas School of Law. 

What I like best about my job is: Working with veterans. Each one has a unique story and each one served in their own way. Some served a single enlistment while others were career military. All are now veterans and we treat them all with the respect and dignity they deserve. 

The best advice I've received for my current job is: Like the military, this job is a series of missions. It is ongoing and never ends. And, like the military, we work together for a greater purpose than ourselves. If you keep that perspective, the job will never get old and always have purpose.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: We have the best job in state government. We get to help veterans and their families and we have the ability to change their lives and improve quality of life.

If I ever left work early, I could probably be found: Looking for the next great, yet undiscovered, BBQ joint.

People would be surprised to know that I: love to participate in independent short film. I support projects when I can and like to be involved behind the scenes as much as I can. 

One thing I wish more people knew about the Texas Veterans Commission: We are not the Department of Veterans Affairs. We are a state agency that has a specific purpose in being the advocate for our state's veterans. We ensure that veterans access all of the benefits they are entitled to. We have been around since 1927 and lead the nation in the variety of services provided to our veterans.
Calendar of Events

Dec. 19-21, 2016
The Clean Air Through Energy Efficiency (CATEE) Conference is an educational conference and business exhibition connecting public and private decision makers and thought leaders. Its purpose is to help communities improve decisions that determine the energy and water intensity of the built environment, learn from examples and seek alternative renewable energy sources - and reduce related emissions. The 2016 CATEE Conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency Riverwalk in San Antonio. Register here.

Jan. 23-25, 2017
The Water for Texas 2017 Conference in Austin, Texas, will showcase innovative scientific, planning and financial solutions to water challenges; interactive data and technology; and compelling conversations on water issues that affect all Texans. Panel discussions, workshops, and exhibits will offer the opportunity to network and engage with industry leaders, elected officials and TWDB Board members and staff. A conference agenda is available. Register here.

Feb. 2, 2017
The Houston-Galveston Area Council's 2017 Election Law Workshop will be held Thursday, Feb. 2, in Houston. The event is designed for everyone charged with conducting elections. Participants will receive detailed updates on election laws and step-by-step procedures for conducting an election; including duties prior to election day, on election day and after election day. Click here to register.

Feb. 27-March 1, 2017
The 2017 Public-Private Partnership Conference in Dallas provides attendees with education, networking opportunities and guidance to help public leaders successfully partner with the private sector to deliver and improve needed infrastructure. Join industry experts and practitioners to explore the advantages, limitations, considerations and opportunities for P3 investment in infrastructure in the United States. Register here.
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.

Rarely does a session of the Texas Legislature end without aggressive advocacy from local government leaders with one unified message - "No more unfunded mandates, please."

State and federal officials all too often push government obligations down to city and county levels and then allocate no funding to pay for the new mandates. As painful as that is for local elected leaders, it may get worse. A bill has just been filed to cap property taxes at the local level of government. This would end an option that local officials have been forced to use in the past to recoup the costs of unfunded mandates.

Senate Bill 2, a bill pre-filed before the 85th legislative session convenes in January 2017, would change the rollback process for local property taxes. Currently, local governments are subject to a rollback if they try to increase property taxes 8 percent or more. Senate Bill 2 would make cities and counties subject to rollback elections anytime a proposed tax increase is 4 percent or more. That is a significant change and one that would be disruptive, to say the least.




Dallas mayor announces five candidates for city manager
The mayor of Dallas announced the names of five candidates selected to interview for city manager. The finalists are:
  • Mark McDaniel, assistant city manager in Dallas;
  • Maura Black Sullivan, chief operating officer in Chattanooga, Tenn.;
  • Jelynne LeBlanc-Burley, a former executive with CPS Energy;
  • Jim Twombly, city manager in Tulsa, Okla.; and,
  • T.C. Broadnax, city manager in Tacoma, Wash.
McKinstry

Wall selected as vice president of Texas A&M Foundation
Ben Wall
Ben Wall was selected as the vice president of investments for the Texas A&M Foundation, where he will oversee $1.4 billion in assets invested by the foundation. Wall will replace Janet Handley, who is retiring at the end of this year. 

Wall joined the foundation in 2008 and has served as the alternative investments director. He has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Texas A&M University.
Two chiefs confirmed in Houston
Houston City Council members confirmed new police and fire chiefs on Wednesday. Police Chief Art Acevedo, previously the police chief in Austin, began his duties on Thursday. Fire Chief Samuel Peña, previously fire chief in El Paso, is scheduled to begin his duties in mid-December.
Denton selects Hileman as city manager
Todd Hileman
Denton City Council members selected Todd Hileman as the new city manager. Hileman is a village manager in Glenview, Ill. He will replace George Campbell, who left the job in July after 10 years as city manager. 
 
During his 24 years in public service, Hileman also served as city manager and assistant city manager in Avondale, Ariz. and city administrator in Delavan, Wisc., and Vandalia, Mo. Hileman has a bachelor's degree from Arizona State University and a master's degree from Northern Illinois University.
Alexander to serve as city manager in Palestine
Mike Alexander
Mike Alexander, who was the interim city manager in Palestine, agreed to serve as city manager. He replaces Wendy Ellis, who left that post in October 2015. 

A retired major for the Austin Police Department, Alexander agreed to serve as interim police chief in Palestine for six months and then agreed to remain as interim police chief for two years before being asked to serve as interim city manager. Alexander has a bachelor's degree from St. Edwards University in Austin.


Scharnhorst named superintendent for Clyde CISD
Keith Scharnhorst
Keith Scharnhorst, currently the superintendent at Grandview Independent School District, was selected as the lone finalist for superintendent at Clyde Consolidated ISD. Once the required waiting period has expired, Scharnhorst will replace Gail Haterius, who resigned as superintendent for the Clyde school district on June 30 of this year. 

Scharnhorst has a bachelor's degree from Texas State University and a master's degree from Texas Woman's University. He completed his certification as a superintendent at Lamar University.
Kerrville ISD selects Foust for superintendent
Mark Foust
Trustees for Kerrville Independent School District selected Mark Foust as the lone finalist for superintendent. He will replace Dan Troxell who resigned to serve as superintendent for Leander ISD. 

Foust now serves as chief of schools for Fort Bend ISD, where he manages five assistant superintendents and more than 70 campuses.


VanMatre selected as superintendent of Premont ISD
Steve VanMatre
Steve VanMatre, currently superintendent of Freer Independent School District, was selected as lone finalist for superintendent at Premont ISD. Once his contract is finalized following the required 21-day waiting period, VanMatre will replace Eric Ramos, who was placed on administrative learn in September. 

VanMatre began his career in public education in the 1980s as a custodian for Corpus Christi ISD. He also was a teacher, coach, principal and administrator before joining the Freer school district as superintendent in 2014.
Austin ISD planning new schools, consolidations
Austin Independent School District officials are considering plans for consolidating and replacing several schools. Consultants working on a 25-year master plan have identified 10 schools in poor condition for possible closure. The district is working with consultants and the community to prepare a bond package proposal for a possible vote in November 2017. Up to six new school campuses could be built.


Cain to retire as superintendent at Waco ISD
Bonny Cain
Superintendent Bonny Cain of Waco Independent School District notified board members she plans to retire at the end of the school year. Cain joined the Waco district in 2011 after serving 11 years as superintendent for Pearland ISD.
Volkswagen to pay Texas $50 million for deceptive practices
Volkswagen (VW) executives agreed to pay the State of Texas $50 million in civil penalties and attorney fees to settle a lawsuit filed by the Texas Attorney General for violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA). The suit alleged that the auto company marketed and sold diesel vehicles as environmentally clean even though the company equipped vehicles with software designed to cheat on emission tests.

The company also is required to create a $2.7 billion trust fund to pay for projects to mitigate the excessive emissions caused by the vehicles altered to cheat emissions tests. Texas is expected to receive $191 million from that fund to mitigate damage from excess emissions from rigged VW vehicles.
Toll 183A extension moves forward
Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority officials approved a $1.2 million work authorization to start designing the Toll 183A extension from Hero Way in Leander to SH 29 near Liberty Hill. The project will include three tolled lanes in each direction along the 5.5-mile segment. 
JOB BOARD
Dozens of public-sector jobs are available. New jobs added this week:  
Click here to view more. Send postings to editor@spartnerships.com.

On Our Website 

 
Tolling technology becomes more interoperable

GOVERNOR'S APPOINTMENTS
Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointments:  
  • Jeremy Wiseman, Austin, State Board of Acupuncture Examiners;

  • Michael P. Henry, Austin, Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners;

  • Mark Daniel, Fort Worth, Texas Forensic Science Commission;

  • Dennis "Pat" Johnson, Austin, Texas Forensic Science Commission;

  • Sarah Kerrigan, The Woodlands, Texas Forensic Science Commission;

  • Jarvis Parsons, Bryan, Texas Forensic Science Commission;

  • Jeffrey Barnard, Dallas, Texas Forensic Science Commission;

  • Bruce Budowle, North Richland Hills, Texas Forensic Science Commission;

  • Nancy Downing, Bryan, Texas Forensic Science Commission;

  • Jasmine Drake, Conroe, Texas Forensic Science Commission;

  • Sheree Hughes-Stamm, The Woodlands, Texas Forensic Science Commission.
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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: Priscilla Loebenberg 
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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