“A lot of the buzzwords out there relating to this is ‘unfunded mandates,’” said Taral Patel, George's chief of staff. “The state will tell the county to do [several things] but do not provide funding for it. The big discussion that is happening in the last couple of sessions is putting caps on the amount of property tax the county can receive and use to carry out the missions of the state.”
One example of an unfunded mandate the county could be facing stems from the state getting rid of straight-ticket voting in which voters could choose which party they would be voting for and automatically select those candidates for all races.
Without the option for straight-ticket voting, voters will spend more time at polling locations resulting in a need for more voting machines, Patel said. A legislative solution would be to create a state fund that provides financial support for voting infrastructure upgrades to the fastest-growing counties in a proportional manner, Patel said.
An additional priority relating to voting includes introducing legislation to create an official website for eligible voters to register online, Patel said. Registration is done through physical avenues costing time and money for the county with processing and data entry.
A final priority for the new county judge involves supporting the state’s opting into expanding Medicaid coverage that would take advantage of taxes paid to the federal government, which has agreed to cover the entire cost of participating states in the first three years and 90 percent of costs afterward, Patel said.
During the special meeting, each district’s county commissioner also presented a preliminary overview of his priorities for the legislative session:
PRECINCT 1: Vincent Morales (Richmond, Rosenberg)
• Legislation allowing the city of Richmond to develop a hotel and convention center
PRECINCT 2: Grady Prestage (Missouri City, Meadows Place, Mission Bend)
• Legislation regarding community colleges
PRECINCT 3: Andy Myers (Katy)
• Extraterritorial jurisdiction detachment
• Strategic partnership agreements
• Open meetings
• County Assistance District spending
• Municipal authority within CADs
• Disbanding CADs
• CAD ability to make loans and grants
• CAD spending
• Local flood control districts
• Human trafficking training
• Junkyard licensing fees
• County regulation of parks
• Utility relocation cost sharing
PRECINCT 4: Ken DeMerchant (Sugar Land, Missouri City)
• Emergency notification system
• Mental health
• Mental health, jail diversion
• Equal pay for equal work
• Trap, neuter and release of stray cats
• Puppy mill regulation