Texas Government Insider
News And People

Volume 14, Issue 46 - Friday, December 9, 2016
Texas Association of Business (TAB) members warned lawmakers of severe losses to the state's economy if legislation discriminatory to LGBT individuals is moved forward. Business leaders presented a report that estimated the impact from such legislation. The state could lose between $964 million and $8.5 billion and up to 185,000 jobs, according to the association which functions as the state's chamber of commerce.

"Discriminatory legislation is bad for business. Our economic study points to the dire and far-reaching impact of discriminatory legislation on Texas businesses, our communities, families, jobs and the larger state economy," said TAB President Chris Wallace.

The studies included in the report were completed by researchers at St. Edward's University and seek to gauge the economic repercussions of state legislators advancing anti-LGBT legislation. One of the subjects of the report is a "bathroom bill," the Women's Privacy and Business Protection Act, championed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and designated as one of his top ten legislative priorities in the upcoming legislative session. The bill could prohibit transgender individuals from using the restroom matching their gender identity.

"A majority of Texans in both political parties and in every ethnic and demographic group believe that women and girls should have privacy and safety in their restrooms, showers and locker rooms. Unfortunately, legislation is necessary to assure that they do," said Patrick when introducing the legislation as one of his priorities and designating it as Senate Bill 6.

Dallas pension fund suspends withdrawals
The Dallas Police and Fire Pension System trustees suspended lump-sum withdrawals from the pension fund Thursday. The system was set to pay out $154 million in withdrawal requests before officials stopped the payments. 

More than $500 million has been withdrawn from the fund since the board proposed benefit cuts in August. Another flood of withdrawal requests came after Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings filed a lawsuit Monday to stop the payments.

City officials announced a plan to save the $2.1 billion fund which is approaching insolvency. Eliminating interest from the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) was seen as an important component in saving the fund. The city has published a website, savethepension.com, with details on the rescue plan.

Trustees will discuss a new withdrawal policy at January's meeting. Until then, the only withdrawals allowed will be annual minimum required distributions.

Faithless elector legislation filed
A bill requiring presidential electors in Texas to support the winner of the statewide vote was filed in the state House on Thursday. The bill would fine electors $5,000 for casting a vote for another candidate and make the elector ineligible to serve in future elections. 

The legislation followed an announcement by a Dallas Republican elector that he will not vote for President-elect Donald Trump, who won the statewide vote. The legislation is modeled on similar laws in 29 states.
TWDB releases 2017 State
Water Plan
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has released the 2017 State Water Plan. Regional water planning groups throughout the state developed the regional water plans that would form the basis for the 2017 State Water Plan.

The plan concludes that Texas faces significant water shortages over the next 50 years if steps are not taken to conserve and develop additional water supplies. Rapid population growth is expected, increasing more than 70 percent between 2020 and 2070, from 29.5 million to 51 million people. Water demands are projected to increase by approximately 17 percent between 2020 and 2070, from 18.4 million to 21.6 million acre-feet per year.

In the same 50-year period the state's existing water supplies are expected to decline by approximately 11 percent, from 15.2 million to 13.6 million acre-feet per year. Texas would need to provide 8.9 million acre-feet of additional water supplies to meet all its demand for water in 2070.

About 5,500 water management strategies recommended in the 2017 plan would provide 3.4 million acre-feet per year in additional water supplies in 2020 and 8.5 million acre-feet per year in 2070. Conservation is by far the most frequently recommended strategy found in all regional water plans.

The estimated capital cost to design, construct, and implement approximately 2,500 recommended water management strategy projects by 2070 is $63 billion, including over $4 billion in costs associated with conservation projects.

The TWDB offers financial support programs to fund state water plan projects, including the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas program (SWIFT). The application period for the 2017 funding cycle of SWIFT is open through Feb. 3.
Pablos selected as Texas Secretary of State
Rolando Pablos
Gov. Greg Abbott today announced the appointment of Rolando Pablos as Texas Secretary of State, effective Jan. 5. He is currently the chair of the Texas Racing Commission. He will replace the current Secretary of State, Carlos Cascos. 

"Rolando's extensive record in public service and breadth of knowledge inspires confidence that he will be committed to the constitutional duties of the office and ensure the dispassionate application of election law," said Abbott. "Rolando's impressive background and diverse experience make him uniquely qualified to serve our increasingly dynamic state and further fortify our international partnerships."

Pablos is a former public utility commissioner and co-founder of a renewable energy company. He is CEO of the Borderplex Alliance, a US-Mexico economic development organization. Pablos is also a licensed attorney.

"The Secretary of State is trusted with the solemn duties of protecting the integrity of our election system and promoting Texas' unparalleled business environment at home and abroad," said Rolando Pablos. "I am humbled and honored that Governor Abbott has placed confidence in me to faithfully execute those duties."
Most traumatized foster children will be part of $8M pilot
Gov. Greg Abbott's office announced an $8 million program to provide specialized care and services for 500 foster children in Texas. The children selected for the High Needs Conservatorship Pilot Project will be the most traumatized in the state's foster care system. 

Department of Family and Protective Services officials plan to issue a request for proposals to find organizations to put services in place for the children. The program has a two-year funding commitment and officials hope to begin the program in spring or summer of 2017.
Pharmaceutical company settles state lawsuit for $1M
Ken Paxton
Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the state will receive $1,015,420 in a settlement from the pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS). The award is part of a total $19.5 million settlement with other states. The settlement comes from claims that the company violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act by improperly marketing the antipsychotic drug Abilify.

"BMS put Texans' lives at risk when it marketed Abilify for uses not approved by the FDA," said Paxton. "The integrity of our healthcare system depends on patients and doctors being able to trust the representations made by pharmaceutical companies. Our Consumer Protection Division will continue to prosecute vigorously any company, like BMS, which chooses exploitation over the safety of their consumer."
Belgium delegation on mission to strengthen trade with Texas 
Princess Astrid
Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid of Belgium and dignitaries of the Belgian economic delegation are in Texas on a seven-day economic mission that ends Saturday. The visit is to promote trade opportunities between Texas and Belgium. The princess is representing 117 Belgian companies, and her trip includes stops in Austin, Houston, San Antonio and College Station.

"The long historic ties between Texas and Belgium have forged an impressive economic bond," Belgium Deputy Prime Minister Didier Reynders said. "The close partnership between the ports of Houston and Antwerp are the backbone of our trade relationship, which includes considerable investments in logistics and chemical clusters. But our relations have diversified significantly over the past years to include such sectors as clean technology, life sciences and biopharmaceuticals, as well as close cooperation between our universities."
State veterinary board members resign after Sunset report
Three top members overseeing the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners announced their resignations Thursday after the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission recommended that current board members' terms end Sept. 17, 2017. 

Roland Lenarduzzi, board president, of Alvin; Joe Mac King, vice president, of Dallas; and Dan Lee Craven, secretary, of Crockett, will vacate their positions on the nine-member board. The Sunset Commission recommended the new board have six veterinarians and three public members. The commission also recommended veterinarians with shelter and large-animal experience and a veterinary technician be included on the board.


Comptroller distributes $628M in monthly sales tax revenue
The Texas comptroller's office announced cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts will receive $627.6 million in local sales tax allocations for December. The figure is 0.2 percent more than in December 2015. These allocations are based on sales made in October by monthly filers. 

Cities will receive $408.1 million, up 0.2 percent from last year. Counties will receive $36.4 million, down 2.9 percent. Transit systems will receive $143.5 million, down 0.3 percent. Special purpose taxing districts will receive $39.6 million, up 5 percent. Details on sales tax allocations are available here.
Transportation chair calls for increasing gas tax
Joe Pickett
Rep. Joe Pickett, the chairman of the Texas House Transportation Committee said new money needs to be found if the state is to ease congestion in its fast-growing cities. 

Voters passed a proposition last year dedicating $2.5 billion of sales tax revenue to transportation and added about $1 billion a year in oil and gas taxes the previous year. However, the funds still do not meet the additional $5 billion analysts called for to meet transportation needs in 2013.

Lawmakers have sought to avoid raising taxes in past years by issuing debt and building toll roads, said Pickett. The 20-cent a gallon gas tax in Texas hasn't gone up since 1991 and Texas registration fees are some of the lowest in the country.

"We're all afraid that people won't accept a 5-cent-a-gallon increase in the gas tax," said Pickett. "I think the public would."

A 5-cent increase would add about $650 million a year to transportation, he said.
Hutto bond panel recommends $53.6M in projects
A Hutto bond advisory committee has recommended that city council members ask voters to approve $53.6 million in capital improvement projects that include a new $6 million police headquarters and an $8 million fire station in a proposed bond election in May. 

The 33 projects in the recommendation include three city facilities expected to cost about $17.2 million, 24 transportation projects expected to cost about $18.6 million and six parks and recreation projects expected to cost $17.8 million. The largest project on the wish list is a new $10.1 million athletic field complex.

Bond committee members also recommended a $3 million maintenance storage facility and a $5.7 million family aquatic center with six swim lanes and a water slide be included in the proposed bond vote.
Clarendon kicks off fundraising for $2M water recreation facility
Clarendon city officials are planning to build a $2 million water recreation facility if they can raise the necessary matching funds. Officials have raised $128,000 of the $500,000 needed to match an anonymous contribution to the project. Once the $1 million is raised by the city, officials can apply for a match from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. 
 
Current plans call for the facility to feature 4,345 square feet of water surface areas, four lap lanes, a diving area, climbing wall, a shallow area for children, a slide and equipment for playing volleyball and basketball in the pool. Designed to be accessible to people with disabilities, the aquatic facility also will feature water sprays, floatable play devices, a concession area and bathhouse.
San Benito moving forward on $1.7M cultural heritage museum
San Benito City Commissioners approved the use of a $1 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to build a cultural heritage museum at San Benito Plaza. Commissioners plan to spend an additional $700,000 from the city's general revenue fund for the museum's construction. 

The new, 4,000-square-foot facility is planned to house the Freddy Fender Museum, the Texas Conjunto Hall of Fame and the San Benito History Museum which now share a 1,000-square-foot area in the city's community center.
Lubbock approves feasibility study for new civic center hotel
The Lubbock City Council approved a market feasibility study for a proposed hotel next to the civic center. If the feasibility study recommends the hotel project, city officials expect to use some revenue from the hotel occupancy tax to bond and fund an anticipated $16 million for the first floor common area of the hotel. 

Plans also call for the hotel owner to lease that common area from the city for an estimated $75,000 per year. The feasibility study could be completed as early as March.
Deer Park to build $7.4M city hall in early 2017
Deer Park city officials plan to award a construction contract in January for a new $7.4 million, 20,000-square-foot city hall. Construction on the two-story city hall facility should begin in February or March and be completed in about a year. 

The new city hall will be in compliance with the American With Disabilities Act, include several security features, high quality audio and visual technology in the meeting space for city council and provide more conference rooms and a commons area.
Carroll ISD eyeing bond vote for facility, technology upgrades
Officials of the Carroll Independent School District are seeking public input on a facilities plan that includes asking voters to approve bonds in May 2017.

The funding is needed to pay for technology upgrades, replace aging equipment, performing long-term maintenance and construction of new facilities. The proposed projects include a new $24 million fine arts center near the campus of Carroll High School and about $4.5 million in renovations and upgrades to the Carroll Aquatics Center built 15 years ago.

District officials are staging public meetings and conducting an on-line survey to seek public comment on the bond proposal. Board members must decide in February whether or not to schedule a bond election in May.
Harlingen approves design for convention center
City commissioners in Harlingen approved the design for a new $14.8 million convention center that will feature a hotel, accompanying pavilion, retail space and a parking lot with 623 spaces. 
 
City officials are working with a private developer from San Antonio that is building the 150-room hotel attached to the convention center to ensure the exterior design of the 43,700 square-foot convention center and hotel are compatible. A corridor will connect the two sites.

The new convention center, designed with a capacity of 1503 people, will feature a 17,100-square-foot ballroom and a pavilion near the entry way to host weddings and outdoor entertainment events. Commissioners plan to begin construction on the convention center project in late March of 2017.


Mart approves $2.7M for water system, streets
The Mart City Council approved a $2.7 million federally-backed loan to pay for engineering and design for a $12 million project to upgrade the city's water system and some streets.
 
Plans include upgrading water lines to prevent water leaks in addition to upgrading the transmission line that supplies water to the community. As part of the project, several streets also will be improved.
Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Wayne R. Roberts, Chief Executive Officer, Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas 
 
Wayne Roberts
Career highlights and education: Networking that began at UT's LBJ School of Public Affairs led to my career as a state budgeteer - first at the Legislative Budget Board, then with Lt. Gov. Bullock and finally as state budget director for Gov. Bush and Gov. Perry. After a policy spell at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, those connections led to my being recruited to help CPRIT when it had problems in 2012 after ramping up too quickly, a common problem with new agencies and programs.
 
What I like best about my job is: The people-interacting with, pound for pound, the smartest staff with which I've ever been associated, our committed volunteer board, the cancer advocates who inspire and support us, and the legislators and their staff who facilitate our mission.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: From the late great Jim Oliver, former director of the Legislative Budget Board: don't take things personally, don't hold grudges, and grow additional layers of skin - "this, too, shall pass". Can't say I've always followed his advice, but it is sound.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Periodically stop your daily routine and reflect on what you're doing and what it means to people. Cancer affects everyone. Texans and their legislature pinned big hopes to this historic endeavor. What you do matters.

If I ever left work early, I could probably be found: Puttering around my property assisted by three Great Danes, depressed over the current plight of Longhorn athletics or cursing my fate as a fan of the Astros, Texans and Rockets.

People would be surprised to know that I: Was a collegiate enthusiast of the Early Romantic Poets and still quote Coleridge, Blake and Wordsworth on demand. Don't ask...

One thing I wish more people knew about the CPRIT: Actually two things: basic research and product development take years to get from the lab to the bedside, however amazing advances are being made daily. And in prevention we're helping people every day get needed lifesaving services. Don't get discouraged - Texans are conquering cancer, one discovery and one service at a time. It's not just a slogan - it's a fact.
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.

Just mention the word "cybersecurity" and chief information officers (CIOs) shudder. In governmental agencies, the shuddering may be even more pronounced.

Fears of cyber attacks during last month's general election, an increasing number of ransomware incidents, data breaches in governmental agencies and cyber hackers with unbelievable skill sets - that's what keeps CIOs on edge. The task of keeping their networks and their highly sensitive data safe gets harder each week, and there is no relief in sight.

Government agencies have some of the most attractive and lucrative data to be found anywhere - Social Security data, credit card information, health records and driver's license numbers.




Texas Central names Aguilar CEO
Carlos Aguilar
Board members of Texas Central Partners announced Carlos F. Aguilar will be the new CEO of Texas Central and its subsidiaries, effective Dec. 12. The change in leadership reflects a switch in focus for the company building a high-speed passenger train connecting North Texas and Houston. The project has moved from the development stage to the planning, engineering and construction phase. 

 Aguilar previously served as a senior vice president at a global engineering company, and has a background in industrial and infrastructure work. He replaces Tim Keith who served as CEO during the development phase of the project. Keith will continue with Texas Central as the company's president.
Texas Tech puts vet school on hold
The Texas Tech University System has put plans to build a new veterinary school in Amarillo on hold. The project was planned to help West Texas address a shortage of large-animal veterinarians. 

Texas A&M University System officials have said that expanding their school's reach would be a more efficient way of meeting the state's needs. On Wednesday, A&M System Chancellor John Sharp said the system's veterinary school is already expanding its services to West Texas through its West Texas A&M University campus.


Handy tapped as director of aviation in San Antonio
Russell Handy
Lt. Gen. Russell "Russ" J. Handy was appointed director of aviation in San Antonio. He begins his new duties on Jan. 9. 

Handy served as commander of the Alaskan Region of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, Commander of Alaskan Command and Commander of the Eleventh Air Force. He has a bachelor's degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a master's degree from Central Michigan University.


Smith to chair Lone Star College board
Alton Smith
The board of trustees for Lone Star College selected Alton Smith as chairman. He represents District 3 in the Lone Star System. 

Trustees also appointed Kyle Scott as vice chair, Ken Lloyd as secretary to the board and Myriam Saldivar as assistant secretary.
Purchasing cooperative to return $6.9M to members
Board members of the Local Government Purchasing Cooperative announced plans to distribute about $6.9 million to 994 members of the cooperative. The organization was created in 1998 to increase the purchasing power of government entities by using an electronic purchasing system. The cooperative has returned a little over $33.5 million to members since 2006. Membership includes cities, school districts, counties, utility and hospital districts, colleges and universities and non-profit organizations.

Rinehart named city manager in Carrollton
Erin Rinehart
Carrollton City Council members promoted Assistant City Manager Erin Rinehart to city manager, effective Jan. 16. Rinehart will replace Leonard Martin, who announced plans to retire in March after serving 15 years as city manager. 

Rinehart previously worked in the city manager's office in Lubbock. She came to Carrollton in 2003 as a budget analyst, served as an assistant to the city manager and director of workforce services and civil services before becoming the assistant city manager in 2013. She has a master's degree from Texas Tech University.
Waco to study new bus system
Waco city council members approved $468,000 to fund a study on the feasibility of creating a new routing system for buses using a 10-mile express route fed by 10 to 14 buses circulating through neighborhoods. The proposed new bus rapid transit system could cost more than $70 million. 
 
The system would require the city to build an estimated 12 sheltered bus stops that are accessible to transit passengers with special needs and make modifications in traffic lights to provide priority for four express buses. The system could be ready for passengers as early as 2022 if funding is made available, officials said.



Musick selected Navasota ISD superintendent
Stu Musick
Stu Musick was selected as the lone finalist for superintendent for Navasota Independent School District. He begins his new duties on Jan. 3, once the required 21-day waiting period expires.

A public educator for 26 years, Musick currently is superintendent at Hubbard ISD and was previously superintendent at Oakwood ISD. He also was a teacher and principal for Waskom ISD.

Musick has a bachelor's degree from Stephen F. Austin University, a master's degree from Sam Houston University, and a doctorate. from Lamar University. He earned his superintendent certification through Stephen F. Austin University.
Kyle receives grant to improve drainage
Kyle city officials received notice of a $975,671 grant from the Texas Capital Fund to pay for installing an interceptor on Bunton Creek to filter and remove debris from storm water runoff. Some of that award also may be used to identify funding sources to pay for upgrading the wastewater treatment plant.




Mineral Wells creates new utility district
Mineral Wells City Council members created a new utility district, the Municipal Drainage System, that will collect fees for specific drainage-related projects to help control flooding. Council members agreed to a $2.50 per month surcharge on all 6,700 utility accounts beginning in March 2017 to fund a drainage and storm water study.  
Once sufficient funding accrues in an account managed by the utility district, that funding will be used to hire an hydrological engineer to perform a citywide drainage and storm water study expected to cost between $150,000 and $200,000.
Huntsville approves $650,000 for new animal shelter
In an emergency appropriation, Huntsville City Council members authorized $650,000 for the construction of a new animal shelter. The vote followed a decision by the local humane society in November to discontinue its contract with the city and no longer accept animals captured by the city's animal control officer. 
 
Until further notice, the animal control officer is only picking up animals in emergency situations such as bites, scratches or when an animal is suspected to have rabies, city officials said. Requests to animal shelters in surrounding communities to take in some of the animals captured by animal control officers were denied because all those shelters also had very limited space>




Friendswood plans activity center expansion
Friendswood city officials are seeking bids for a consultant to conduct a feasibility study on expanding the Friendswood Activity Center to serve all senior citizens interested in programs, events and classes. The activity center, built in 1970, was designed to accommodate about 450 participants and staff members, but now has 800 members. 
 
The feasibility study should be completed in about a year. If the city does not have sufficient money in the general fund to pay for upgrades to the activity center, city officials are considering asking voters to approve bonds to pay for the project.
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.

GOVERNOR'S APPOINTMENTS
Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointments:
  • Allan P. Bloxsom III, Kendalia, Nueces River Authority Board of Directors;

  • Amy Clark, Three Rivers, Nueces River Authority Board of Directors;

  • Gary Moore, Portland, Nueces River Authority Board of Directors;

  • Travis Pruski, Floresville, Nueces River Authority Board of Directors;

  • Eric Burnett, Portland, Nueces River Authority Board of Directors;

  • Tommy Ramirez, Devine, Nueces River Authority Board of Directors;

  • Jim Lattimore, Graford, Brazos River Authority Board of Directors;

  • Courtney Gibson Bechtol, Rockport, Texas Emergency Services Retirement System Board of Trustees;

  • Pilar Rodriguez, Edinburg, Texas Emergency Services Retirement System Board of Trustees;

  • Virginia "Jenny" Moore, Lake Jackson, Texas Emergency Services Retirement System Board of Trustees;

  • Elizabeth "Besa" Robison Martin, Boerne, Real Estate Research Advisory Committee;

  • Maj. Gen. Kevin Pottinger, USAF (Ret.), Keller, Texas Military Preparedness Commission;

  • Faith Johnson, Cedar Hill, Dallas County District Attorney;

  • Brig. Gen. Tracy Norris, Austin, Deputy Adjutant General for the Army;

  • Jeremy Wiseman, Austin, Texas State Board of Acupuncture 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 
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