Leander ISD, counties issue legislative priorities

The 84th Texas Legislature convenes Jan. 13. Commissioners in Travis and Williamson counties and Leander ISD board members have stated their highest priorities for new or revised laws.

Williamson County

Williamson County Commissioners Court discussed the first draft of the county's legislative agenda Dec. 3 during a joint meeting that was attended by State Rep. Tony Dale, R-Cedar Park; State Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock; and State Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown. Among the items included are:

Property tax appraisals: Commissioners said they want to participate in dialogue about capping property appraisal increases. They said they want to keep county property tax rates stable, not raised or lowered based on property value assessments that fluctuate from year to year.

Transportation funding: Commissioners said I-35 badly needs improvement in Williamson County and the Austin area, and they suggested drawing funds from new revenue diverted to the State Highway Fund by Proposition 1.

Water: Commissioners support state-level explorations for alleviating drought symptoms.

Mental health: Commissioners said they are concerned about dwindling funds for mental health programs and the state's plans to consolidate health agencies.

Student health: Commissioners said they believe state law should allow school nurses to give students medications during emergency situations such as allergic reactions.

Juveniles' legal status: Commissioners said juvenile suspects who receive tickets for minor offenses such as speeding often become enmeshed in lengthy legal processes and mounting offenses, whose costs to the county exceed revenue the county receives.

Travis County

On Nov. 18, Travis County Commissioners Court adopted a set of guiding principles and priorities for the upcoming legislative session. Commissioners said they support collaborative efforts on legislative issues with other counties.

Program funding: Commissioners said they oppose any laws that would shift costs of state-funded programs to local governments because of state budget shortfalls. Commissioners said growing counties need flexibility to address their needs before they fund state mandates.

County authority: Commissioners said Texas counties need greater authority and tools better suited to address local challenges of rapid growth and urban expansion.

Transportation funding: Commissioners want more state funding to improve countywide mobility, including rail and public transit programs.

Unfunded mandates: Commissioners oppose state budget decisions that would create unfunded mandates or divert county revenue.

Local programs: Commissioners support funding for programs benefiting county residents. These could include more funds for mental and physical health care in the criminal justice system, and management tools and quality-of-life programs for unincorporated areas in the county such as extraterritorial jurisdictions.

Tax clarification: Commissioners want a state law that will clarify where a county can enforce ad valorem tax liens on businesses' property.

Leander ISD

Leander ISD school board members approved their list of state legislative priorities Dec. 4.

Testing standards: The board supports streamlining the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards for students. The board also wants more funding for the Student Success Initiative in light of rising standards for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness.

English standards: The board prefers not counting English language learners' or limited English proficient students' first three years of standardized test scores toward district ratings. The board said state educators should be allowed to propose definitions of failing schools and other labels.

Bond funding: The board wants to maintain LISD's ability to issue capital appreciation bond debt to build schools if the district must build within existing state debt limits. However, board members said they believe Leander ISD should be allowed to levy higher taxes for current interest bond debt instead.

50 cent debt restriction: To keep up with growth, the board said it supports updating the 50 cent debt law passed in 1991, which limits a district's debt repayment property tax rate to 50 cents per $100 of property valuation.

Instructional Materials Allotment: The board wants the State Board of Education to raise the Permanent School Fund payout, boosting funds for the Instructional Materials Allotment that supplies textbooks and other materials. They said funding has dropped from $313 to $71 per pupil per year.

Mental health: The board wants more legislative funding of mental health services and supports legislation that would make more mental health resources and training available to schools and youth support agencies.

By Stephen Burnett
Stephen Burnett has been a community journalist since 2005. He joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in November 2013. For the cities of Cedar Park, Leander and northwest Austin, he covers city and county government, business, development, events, transportation, utilities and more.


Travis County has added 3,069 new confirmed cases over the past week from July 6-12. (Community Impact Staff)
Travis County adds 3,069 new coronavirus cases over past week

Travis County has added 3,069 new confirmed cases over the past week from July 6-12.

A sign directs voters inside Ridgetop Elementary School in North Central Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
11.8% of voters in Travis County have voted early since June 29, exceeding 2018 primary numbers

More than 97,000 Travis County residents have voted in person or by mail. The turnout far surpassed the combined early and Election Day totals in the 2018 primary run-off election.

A photo of the potential Tesla property
Travis County updates Tesla incentive package, pushing for $1 billion-plus investment from the company

Poised for a possible July 13 vote, Travis County has released a refined incentives structure proposal with electric carmaker Tesla.

The Williamson County and Cities Health District confirmed 37 additional coronavirus cases July 10, bringing the total to 3,654. (Community Impact Staff)
37 new cases of coronavirus, 1 death confirmed in Williamson County on July 10

Currently, 103 patients are hospitalized, 32 are in intensive care and 16 are on a ventilator.

The species that tested positive for West Nile Virus is Culex quinquefasciatus, or the southern house mosquito. This species has a flight range of about one mile. ​(Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Mosquitoes test positive for West Nile Virus near southwest Williamson County Regional Park

There have been no reported human cases of West Nile Virus in Williamson County since 2017.

Williamson County sees 844 new coronavirus cases this week

Between July 4 and July 10, Williamson County also reported 9 additional deaths.

Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath announced in a June 30 State Board of Education meeting that students will be taking the STAAR in the 2020-21 school year. (Courtesy Pixabay)
Education organizations call for STAAR requirements to be waived another year

Gov. Greg Abbott waived the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, testing requirements in March of earlier this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

With a clinical background in internal, pulmonary and critical care medicine, Corry has been with BCM for 20 years. He now focuses primarily on inflammatory lung diseases, such as asthma and smoking-related chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. (Graphic by Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Baylor College of Medicine's Dr. David Corry discusses immunity, vaccine production amid COVID-19 pandemic

Rapid development and distribution of a vaccine worldwide and successful achievement of herd immunity will be key players in determining the lifespan of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. David Corry, a professor of Medicine in the Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology Section at Baylor College of Medicine.

The new partnership will provide on-site, same-day testing and results for assisted-living facility staff and their residents. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
State announces partnership for increased COVID-19 testing for patients, staff at assisted-living facilities, nursing homes

These test sites will help the state work toward the goal of processing up to 100,000 tests in the first month.

DATA: Leander sales tax revenue jumped 40% in May; Cedar Park stayed steady

Leander sales tax revenue spiked 40% in May 2020 compared to May 2019 data.

Cedar Park OKs $61.5M in 3 ordinances for bonds, certificates of obligation

The bonds and certificates of obligation will fund the planned library, parks, street improvements, drainage projects and the Brushy Creek wastewater plant expansion.