Volume 17, Issue 1- Friday, January 4, 2019Optional Link
86th Texas Legislative session begins January 8
Lawmakers will convene in Austin Jan. 8 for the 86th Texas Legislature and during the course of the 140-day session, legislators will tackle several issues. Before the session begins, the Texas Constitution requires the Comptroller of Public Accounts to provide an estimate of the revenue that the state of Texas expects to receive through the next two-year budget period. The Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE) forms the basis of Texas' budget by setting out a limit on revenue available for general-purpose spending. Comptroller Glenn Hegar will discuss the BRE for the 2020-21 biennium at 10 a.m. on Jan. 7 in the Capitol Extension Auditorium. 

One of the first items of business for the Texas House of Representatives will be to elect a successor to Speaker Joe Strauss. Strauss served five terms in that leadership role but did not seek re-election to the House in November. Some important dates to be aware of during the session include Jan. 15, when the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) general appropriations bill is delivered to the governor and the 86th Legislature. March 8 is the deadline for the unrestricted filing of bills and joint resolutions other than local bills, emergency appropriations and emergency matters submitted by the governor. The last day of the 86th Legislature is May 27. Other important dates to note during and following the session can be found here.
Shorter and Gonzales to join Austin's management team
Christopher Shorter
The city of Austin has gained two new assistant city managers. Christopher Shorter and Rodney Gonzales will join a recently reorganized executive team. Shorter and Gonzales were selected from a field of 162 candidates from 32 states after City Manager Spencer Cronk announced he was requiring the existing assistant city managers to re-apply for their jobs. Shorter, who previously was the director of public works in Washington, D.C., was selected as the assistant city manager overseeing efforts on health, culture, environment and lifelong learning. 

Rodney Gonzales
Gonzales, who served most recently as director of the city's Development Services Department, will become the new assistant city manager and will oversee departments and projects covering economic opportunity and affordability. These include planning and zoning, telecommunications, neighborhood housing and community development, programs for small and minority-owned businesses and the Austin Convention Center. Gonzales previously worked in Austin's economic development department and was also the director of finances in San Marcos and Luling. City officials are still searching for an assistant city manager to oversee mobility and safety. There are plans to begin a search this spring for a new deputy city manager.
Houston approves pact to release $1B in federal housing funds for Harvey victims
The Houston City Council approved a contract with the Texas General Land Office (GLO) that will release about $1.17 billion in federal block grant funds to upgrade housing that was damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Harvey. The $1.17 billion deal between Houston and the Texas GLO represents the city's share of more than $5 billion in federal block grants. 

City officials plan to spend more than $392 million to fund homeowner assistance programs that will repay eligible applications for some completed home repairs and another $321 million will be used to pay for a multi-family rental program. Another $200 million is earmarked to build single-family homes for low- and moderate-income residents. The goal, according to a spokesperson for the Housing and Community Development Department, is to build between 1,500 to 3,000 affordable housing units by 2025.
Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Allison Vordenbaumen Benz, Executive Director, Texas State Board of Pharmacy
Allison Vordenbaumen Benz

Career Highlights and Education:    
I graduated from the University of Texas, College of Pharmacy in August 1988 and completed a Master's of Science degree in Pharmacy Administration at the University of Texas at Austin in December 1994. Following graduation, I worked as a community pharmacist in California and Texas. I have been an employee of the Texas State Board of Pharmacy (TSBP) since August 1994. I served for 6 years as Senior Enforcement Officer, 3 years as Assistant Director of Enforcement, and 14 years as Director of Professional Services before being appointed to my present position of Executive Director on December 1, 2017. As Executive Director, I serve as the chief executive officer of the agency and an ex-officio member and secretary of the Board. TSBP is the state agency responsible for licensing, regulation, and discipline of pharmacies, pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians in Texas. The mission of the Board is to promote, preserve and protect the public health, safety and welfare by fostering the provision of quality pharmaceutical care to the citizens of Texas through the regulation of the practice of pharmacy, the operation of pharmacies, and the distribution of prescription drugs in the public interest.

What I like best about my public service is: I have always enjoyed helping people which is what public service is all about. In addition, I have had the privilege of working with so many dedicated and hardworking people who provide me with inspiration and continued support.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: No matter how difficult a situation appears, always stay focused on the positive and approach it with perseverance and grace. And embrace change and diversity.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Communication is a key component of your job, but listening is just as important; be respectful of others; and it is okay to say "I don't know."

If I had the opportunity to leave work early, I could probably be found: Enjoying time at a spa.

People would be surprised to know that: Although I am an avid Longhorn, people are often surprised to find out that I have a daughter who is a sophomore at the University of Oklahoma. And my oldest daughter, my mom, my sister, my sister-in-law, and my two nephews are all red-heads.

One thing I wish more people knew about the Texas State Board of Pharmacy: The agency is fortunate to have lots of amazing employees who take the job of protecting the public seriously and do a wonderful job of enforcing the law while still being polite and helpful.
Houston proposes $50M project for Lake Houston Dam
The city of Houston wants to add 10 gates to the Lake Houston Dam. The city submitted a grant application for around $50 million to fund the project. The Texas Department of Emergency Management approved the application and is awaiting final approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). If approved, an engineering study for the project could begin in the first quarter of 2019. FEMA reimburses local entities for 75 percent of the total cost of approved projects, while the local entity pays the remaining 25 percent. Part of the city's share of the Lake Houston Dam project cost could be funded by the $2.5 billion Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) bond voters approved in 2018. 

The dam currently has four gates and an additional 10 gates will allow the city to release water at a higher rate prior to potential flooding activity due to heavy rainfall. The project is one of four the city plans to fund using the $257 million the city anticipates it will receive from the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. The federal program is funded and administered by FEMA, but the state of Texas determines where and how funding is allocated. In addition to the dam project, the HCFCD began work on a drainage improvement project in Huffman in the fall of 2018 and will begin similar projects in Kingwood and Atascocita in 2019. The HCFCD has $10 million of bond funds allocated for each drainage project.
Environmental plan approved for proposed Oak Hill Parkway
Federal Highway Administration officials approved the proposed environmental protection plan for a project to build the proposed Oak Hill Parkway with an estimated $440 million price tag to improve mobility along US Highway 290 and State Highway 71 in west Austin. Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials began the environmental study in late 2012 to analyze the impact of the upgrades from State Loop 1 to Ranch-to-Market 1825 and from US Highway 290 and Silvermine Drive on US Highway 71. The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) can be viewed online

The plan calls for beginning construction on the non-tolled roadway as early as 2020 and complete the project in about four years. Plans for the Oak Hill Parkway project include building a roadway with three main lanes for traffic in each direction, three frontage-road lanes in each direction as well as bicycle and pedestrian accommodations such as a seven-mile long path, sidewalks and a trailhead at a creek on William Cannon Drive. More information is available here.
HCC approves $12.5M for land near Katy
Houston Community College (HCC) officials approved $12.5 million to purchase 24-acres of land near Interstate 10 and the Grand Parkway to build a new and larger campus that is expected to cost about $62 million. The campus will replace the existing college in Katy-Foxlake. 

The facility, expected to be completed in 2019, will be close to the new University of Houston campus in Katy and will accommodate a growing population in that area. HCC officials plan to list the existing Katy-Foxlake campus early this year and transfer students to the new HCC campus off Colonial Parkway by 2021.
San Antonio transportation group releases draft of transportation plan
ConnectSA, a non-profit organization created by Bexar County officials and the mayor of San Antonio, released a draft transportation plan recommending 25 multi-modal transportation initiatives to begin by 2025 to improve traffic flow in the metropolitan area without relying on rail systems and new toll roads. The proposals in the transportation plan include using more dedicated lanes for bus transit, creating new lanes for bicycles and electric scooters and upgrading the timing of traffic signals, according to Mayor Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio. The plan includes the construction of 40 miles of protected lanes for bicycles and scooters, 200 miles of sidewalks, a universal app to pay for all transportation fares, adaptive street signal timing and the construction of more electric-vehicle charging stations. 

Other strategies being considered to provide realistic options to improve transportation include building an advanced rapid transit corridor from the south to the north side of the city to connect Loop 410, downtown and the airport and establishing pilot programs for autonomous vehicles. The group plans to begin seeking public opinion soon on the proposed transportation initiatives. Around $2.7 billion will be needed in additional funds by 2030. The plan has several options on how to pay for it through fees and taxes, along with reallocation of existing taxes and funds.
Comptroller continues promotional outreach for Texas ABLE
Enrollment and contributions for 2019 has begun for The Texas Achieving a Better Life Experience (Texas ABLE) program, an investment account designed to provide investment funds with tax advantages to provide income for certain Texans with disabilities. 

Texas ABLE accounts were authorized in 2014 by federal law and upgraded in 2017 in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The accounts are like 529 college savings accounts that may grow tax-free over time and possibly provide income for living expenses for those with disabilities determined by the Social Security Administration or provable with a written diagnosis from a physician. Texans, whether disabled or a relative or friend of a disabled person, can open an account for as little as $50 to contribute or receive funds. Contributions to a Texas ABLE account are limited to no more than $15,000 annually, according to Linda Fernandez, director of the Educational Opportunities and Investment Division of the comptroller's office. Other restrictions are that ABLE accounts have a $370,000 lifetime limit and beneficiaries of the account must have received their designation as disabled by the age of 26. 

Funds up to $100,000 in the account will not count against the disabled person's eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid as opposed to the past when those with disabilities were required to prove they owned no assets to receive SSI or Medicaid. As of May 2018, 300 accounts with approximately $850,000 in funds have been invested, according to the comptroller's office. Those opening an account have the option of choosing aggressive, moderate or moderately conservative accounts that will be invested in a blend of index funds managed by investment firms.
Laws that go into effect in 2019
Following the 85th Texas Legislative Session, several bills were signed and went into effect immediately. Other bills were provided with future dates, some in 2019. One of those is House Bill (HB) 505, which puts limits on the use of campaign funds by a former officeholder or candidate who became a registered lobbyist. Lobbyists can't knowingly make or authorize a political contribution to other candidates or officeholders from the political contributions they received when they were in office. That part of the law applies during a two-year period that starts with the end date of their last term. 

HB 501 will take effect Jan. 8, expanding the financial activity a public officer or candidate must report in a personal financial statement filed with the Texas Ethics Commission. The candidate must report certain business associations if they own, acquired or sold five percent or more of a business and information on written contracts with government entities. Under certain conditions, they'll be allowed to amend their personal financial statement. The bill provides information on certain issuances under the Public Security Procedures Act for members of the legislature who provide bond counsel services. 

Senate Bill (SB) 463, which takes effect Sept. 1, prevents school districts from administering the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test. The exam was replaced with end of course (EOC) exams in 2007. The bill develops a procedure under which a public school may award a diploma to eligible students who entered ninth grade before the 2011-2012 school year based on the completion of alternative graduation requirements. The bill requires the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, in coordination with the Texas Education Agency, to collect certain data relating to the post-graduation pursuits of each student who is awarded a diploma based on the determination of an individual graduation committee and requires the coordinating board to provide a report to the legislature that includes a summary compilation of that data. 

Portions of SB 1329 - human trafficking and prostitution - and HB 29 - court caseloads - went into effect in 2017 and 2019.
CAMPO seeks public input on regional arterial plan for Austin
Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) officials are asking for more public input on a proposed regional arterial plan for the greater Austin area. Regional arterial roads are larger than neighborhood streets but smaller than major highways. The proposed arterial plan focuses on roads such as State Highway 21, Farm-to-Market Road 969, Parmer Lane and adding new arterial roads to ease traffic congestion on major highways in the Austin metropolitan area. 

The population in the greater Austin area is expected to more than double by 2045. Citizens wishing to comment on the proposed regional arterial plan can submit emails to comments@campotexas.org.
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Hospitals required to publish prices for services
To meet the requirements of a new federal rule that went into effect on Jan. 1, hospitals throughout the nation must post a master list of prices online for the services they provide to the public. The requirement was included in the Affordable Care Act of 2010 and must include the prices of items such as casts, anesthesia, drugs, organ transplants and other medical procedures. 

The federal rule, developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, requires the prices to be posted in a machine-readable format that will permit consumers to download the information in a spreadsheet. The price list must be updated at least once a year.  
TxDOT hosting workshops for truck parking study
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is conducting a Statewide Truck Parking Study and assessing current highway design and how it impacts the movement of freight in the state of Texas. As part of these studies, TxDOT is holding statewide workshops to gather input from freight shippers, drivers, logistics professionals and facility operators to assess truck parking and freight infrastructure design needs, challenges, opportunities and solutions. 

Texas' transportation system was built over multiple decades, and as a result, many highways were not designed for today's freight vehicles and transportation requirements. In addition, significant technological advances are changing the way freight moves. The study will be looking at how to make improvements to pavement, bridges, rail crossings, intersections, tunnels and access points to better assist freight mobility. These meetings are open to public and those who work in the freight industry.
LCRA accepting applications for grants
The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), during one of its most recent grant cycles, awarded $478,053 in grants for community projects in the LCRA wholesale electric and water service areas. Applications for the next round of grants were accepted Jan. 1 with continued submissions through Jan. 31. 

Grants up to $50,000 are awarded twice a year to local governments, emergency responders and nonprofit organizations. Applicants requesting $5,000 or more in grant funding must supply matching funds of at least 20 percent of the grant amount. Grants larger than $25,000 are intended for particularly impressive and noteworthy projects with a far-reaching impact on a broad community. Learn more and apply for a grant here.
Calendar of Events

The 7th Annual Public-Private Partnership Conference & Expo will be held March 4-6 at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel. Texas Government Insider readers can use promo code 100TGI to receive $100 off their registration. Register for the event here

Join over 1,250 senior representatives from governments, higher education institutions and leading firms in the global construction and financial markets. The conference attracts professionals from all corners of the industry and provides a valuable opportunity to facilitate new partnerships with industry peers and public sector partners. Attendees will discover new alternative project delivery methods, strategies for implementing successful P3 projects, the nuts and bolts of how deals work, and how to manage risks associated with legal and financial frameworks. 

Attendees will participate in interactive panels, workshops, and conversations specifically tailored to the needs of public agencies evaluating P3s. The conference is designed for all levels in the market including those beginning to explore P3s and seeking to better understand where alternative and accelerated project delivery methods can be applicable.

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

While thousands of road projects languish for lack of funding, 2019 promises to be a banner year for new transit projects. Big changes are coming, funding is available and contracting opportunities will be abundant. 

Successful bond issues, federal grant programs and keen interest from private-sector investors are contributing to the increased availability of funding. That's good news for public officials and users of public transportation because a recent report notes a $90 billion backlog of needs among transit systems nationwide. 

The transit industry, however, is larger than one might think, and it extends beyond buses and trains. It includes autonomous vehicles, dockless scooters, bicycles, shuttles, trolleys, electrical vehicles and streetcars, which are making a comeback. 

Transit projects generate new opportunities for various industry sectors. Construction, technology and architectural services are almost always required. Transit projects will also include opportunities for the development of mobile apps, data analysis, professional services, digital signage, smart technology (IoT), electric vehicle charging stations and other ancillary facilities for a variety of travel modes. 

Economic development leaders love transit projects because they generate economic stimulus. Oklahoma City's streetcar project has been credited with generating $1.6 billion in investments since it was completed. The project, funded by a sales tax, was part of a larger initiative to revitalize the downtown area while overhauling public transit.   



Eltife named as chairman of UT System Board of Regents
Kevin Eltife
Regent Kevin P. Eltife, appointed in 2017 by Gov. Greg Abbott to a six-year term on The University of Texas (UT) System Board of Regents, was unanimously elected chairman of the board at a special called meeting. The board of regents oversees 14 academic and health institutions. 

 A native of Tyler, Eltife served as a member of the Tyler City Council, mayor and a state senator representing District 1. He also served as a member of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board as well as serving in various roles for the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce, East Texas Communities Foundation, UT Tyler and the UT Health Science Center at Tyler.
Longo chosen as CIO for Dallas County's hospital system
Joseph Longo
Joseph Longo has been appointed senior vice president and chief information officer  (CIO) of Dallas County's Parkland Health and Hospital System. 

Longo began his information technology (IT) career in Wisconsin and joined Parkland in 2006 as a consultant. He left to work for a Health System in California but returned to Parkland in 2012. Longo most recently served as vice president of IT enterprise technologies and interim CIO at Parkland after Matt Kull left earlier in the year.
Miga promoted to director of information technology
Jesse Miga
Jesse Miga, who has served as interim director of information technology for the city of Bastrop, was appointed Dec. 17 as the new director of information technology. He replaced Andres Rosales, who resigned in September 2018 to serve as the new fire chief. 

Miga has more than 11 years of experience with municipal data systems and 14 years of experience in server/PC administration and maintenance. He previously worked for the cities of Lewisville and Marshall.


Artis to lead Dallas Fire-Rescue
Dominique Artis
Dominique Artis was selected as the new chief of Dallas Fire-Rescue. He replaced David Coatney, who resigned to serve as director of the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service. 

Artis joined the department in 1995 and has served as a lieutenant overseeing fire control and rescue, a captain for EMS administration and deputy chief of operations. He was promoted to assistant chief over administration and training in 2016.
Meade selected as Pharr city manager
Alejandro Meade
The city of Pharr in December announced Alejandro "Alex" Meade as its new city manager. The former Pharr City Manager Juan Guerra resigned in October to take the same position in the city of Edinburg. Deputy City Manager Ed Wylie was appointed as  Pharr's interim city manager until the permanent position was filled. 

Meade was the former CEO for the Mission Economic Development Corporation. He was most recently appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to the Texas State Technical College System Board of Regents and was previously appointed to the Texas Economic Development Corporation.
Moore tapped as director of economic development
Jason Moore was chosen as the new director of economic development in Lewisville. He will replace Nika Reinecke who is retiring in April. 

Moore previously worked as the assistant city manager in Richland Hills and as a manager and planner in North Richland Hills before joining Lewisville in June 2018 as the manager of economic development.


Guthrie named Sunnyvale town manager
Susan Guthrie
Susan Guthrie was selected as the new Sunnyvale town manager following a six-month search. 

Currently the city manager in South Padre Island, Guthrie also worked as the communications director and assistant city manager in Tyler during her 15 years in city government.
Carrollton names  new economic development director 
Robert Winningham
Robert Winningham began his new position Dec. 17 as the director of economic development in Carrollton. 

During his 25 years in the field of economic development, Winningham served in Allen, Greenville and Prosper as the executive director of those economic development organizations. He also worked as a consultant for a private development firm.  
Hughes resigns from city of Marshall job
J.C. Hughes
City of Marshall Public Works and Water Utilities Director J.C. Hughes resigned from his position on Dec. 13. Hughes first served the city of Marshall for 18 years as an assistant city manager before leaving the city briefly and then coming back for nine more years as the public works and water utilities director. 

Hughes also submitted his name in 2018 to be considered for the city's interim city manager position, but Mark Rohr was chosen as the new city manager in December.


GOVERNOR'S APPOINTMENTS
Gov. Greg Abbott has announced the following appointments/reappointments from Dec. 21-Jan. 3

Office of the Texas Governor- Special election announced for Jan. 29 for House District 145
RECENT REPORTS and DATA
Texas State Auditor's Office- Audit Report on Selected Capitol Complex Project Contracts at the Texas Facilities Commission
Texas State Auditor's Office- Report on the Audit of the teacher Retirement System's Fiscal Year 2018 Financial Statements
Texas State Auditor's Office- Summary Report on Senate Bill 1289 Provisions Related to the Water Development Board's Financial Assistance of Construction Projects
Texas State Auditor's Office- Report on the Audit of Employees Retirement System's Fiscal Year 2018 Financial Statements
Texas State Auditor's Office- Report on the Audit of the Department of Housing and Community Affairs' Fiscal Year 2018 Financial Statements
JOB BOARD
Dozens of public-sector jobs are available. Click here to view all job openings and guidelines for job submissions to SPI. New jobs added this week: 
  • Texas Animal Health Commission- Staff Services Assistant
  • Texas Facilities Commission- Program Specialist VI
  • Texas Commission on Environmental Quality- Planner IV
  • Texas Department of Motor Vehicles- Customer Service Representative III
  • Texas Department of Public Safety- State Coordinator for Emergency Management
  • Texas Department of Insurance- Network Specialist V Customer Support Telecommunication Analyst
  • Texas Military Department- Administrative Assistant III Military Records
  • Alamo Area Council of Governments- Full-time IDD Services Health Information and Records Clerk
  • City of Houston- Senior Procurement Specialist Public Works
  • City of El Paso- City Development Program Manager
  • City of Abilene- Zoo Director
  • City of Georgetown- Airport Manager
  • City of College Station- Assistant City Internal Auditor
  • City of San Antonio- Marketing Manager Parks and Recreation
  • Ector County- District Court 161st Bailiff
View our Texas Government Insider and Government Contracting Pipeline newsletter archives

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, the SPI Team has developed a national reputation for partnering public and private sector entities.   
To learn more about SPI services, click here or contact our sales department at 512-531-3900. 
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