At a special meeting Jan. 8, the Fort Bend County Commissioners Court discussed legislative priorities for Texas’ 86th legislative session that began Jan. 8.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers, who represents portions of the Katy area and Fulshear, proposed 13 initiatives, which involve the city of Houston’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ, and county assistance districts, among other issues.
“Most of these bills I’ve been working on for quite some time,” Meyers said and later added that other Fort Bend County precincts would also benefit from his proposed bills.
Proposed bills related to ETJs
In regard to ETJs, Meyers and state Rep. Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land, are preparing a local bill that would allow Fort Bend County residents living in Houston’s ETJ to petition to be annexed into an adjoining city, such as Katy; stay wholly unincorporated; or create a new city, Meyers said.
ETJs are unincorporated areas of land beyond a city’s limits. Cities can impose taxes in ETJs, yet those residents have no say in city government: They cannot vote for the Houston mayor or City Council members.
Meyers said he does not believe the city of Houston will annex its ETJ in Fort Bend County. Annexation has been made even more difficult because of Senate Bill 6, which became law in December 2017, he said. For residents who vote themselves out and want to join a neighboring city like Katy, SB 6 makes it so that 100 percent of those residents would have to agree to be annexed into a city.
Meyers and Miller are working on another bill related to Houston’s ETJ in Fort Bend County. Currently, the city of Houston levies a sales tax in unincorporated Fort Bend County and collects about $16 million a year, but it does not spend money on government services in this area, said Precinct 3 manager of policy and administration Robert Pechukas.
This bill—which has been introduced is at least two other legislative sessions, Pechukas said—proposes requiring a portion of the sales tax collected by the city of Houston within the unincorporated Fort Bend County to be spent on public projects within the unincorporated Fort Bend County.
“We believe that taxes that are collected should be spent on the people that pay the taxes, and we’re asking the city of Houston to honor that,” Pechukas said.
Proposed bills related to CADs
Meyers also outlined five bills related to county assistance districts, or CADs. CADs are special districts that levy an additional county sales tax to fund public projects such as roads, law-enforcement facilities and parks within a county, according to the Texas Comptroller. These districts can be enacted only if the local sales tax rate does not exceed 2 percent within the CAD, according to the comptroller.
House Bill 203, authored by Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, would allow CADs to be created or expanded in areas that have reached the sales tax limit but do not collect the tax, according to Meyers’ presentation. Doing so would also allow the CAD to spend funds within the area of the district that had exceed the sales tax limit.
This bill passed in the House and Senate in the 2017 session as House Bill 2182, but it was vetoed by Gov. Greg Abbott because he felt it was unconstitutional, Pechukas said. Meyers and Reynolds have worked with the governor’s office to create HB 203 to address Abbott’s concerns, Pechukas added.
Also with Reynolds, Meyers is working on a bill that would allow a CAD to make loans to state and local governments and other CADs. Under current law, CADs can accept loans but cannot give loans, which creates issues with jointly funded projects, according to the presentation.
With state Rep. Phil Stephenson, R-Wharton, Meyers is proposing a bill that would prohibit cities, such as Houston, from opposing the creation of a CAD within its ETJ.
Meyers and Miller are working on two other bills related to CADS. One will allow CADs to be terminated. Existing law allows CADs to be created or modified but does not provide a legal way to disband the district. The other bill would allow CADs to spend money outside the district so long as the project directly benefits the district.
Other legislation priorities
Meyers is working with other state representatives to accomplish the following:
- ease restrictions on commissioner court meetings during times of disaster or emergency;
- allow counties to enact and enforce park regulations, which counties currently cannot do;
- issue a $500 licensing fee to junkyards in Fort Bend County;
- fund additional training to law enforcement, prosecutors, teachers and parents on identifying human trafficking;
- clarify language in the transportation code related to toll road mobility projects so the Fort Bend County Toll Road Authority does not bear 50 percent of the cost to move utilities on the right of way; and
- create two new flood-control districts for Jones and Bessie’s Bayou.