Legislative Hot Sheet January 9-15, 2017
Greetings WACO members. We have just finished up the first full week of the legislative session, today is day eight of the 2017 legislative session. From here until the first cut-off date (February 17) we will be very busy with hearings and meetings. The first cut-off is the date when bills must clear the policy committee in their house of origin.
Before I tell you about the past week’s activities, and what to expect this week, I would like to take a moment to tell you what to expect in our weekly report – which you are currently reading. Each week in the Legislative Hot Sheet I will be sharing with you our progress on WACO's priority legislation, bills of potential impact to your office and affiliate, important hearings on the horizon, and much more. We want the Legislative Hot Sheet to be a fount of information, so we will also be including weekly news pieces that may affect your office.
The first week of session was primarily devoted to work sessions designed to acquaint new and returning members with the operation and subject matter jurisdiction of the various committees. Some time was dedicated for updates on several major topics that the committees were tracking from the last session and updates on various subject specific work groups. I would like to update you on the progress of two of these workgroups: the public records workgroup and the school funding workgroup.
The public records workgroup met several times over the summer of 2016, and they delivered their results last week. There were four consensus recommendations.
- The creation of a government public records portal where commonly requested documents (meeting agendas and minutes, contracts, etc.) could be posted for public browsing and use.
- A proposal to allow the agencies to charge a modest fee for producing electronic records.
- A proposal for an alternative dispute resolution process to afford folks the opportunity to resolve public records issues without having to resort to a judicial proceeding.
- A recommendation for limited funding to be awarded to local government agencies to update their document management systems to facilitate providing requested documents.
It’s unclear whether any of these will result in legislation but we’ll continue to track newly introduced bills.
The school funding workgroup’s objective was each caucus would develop a proposal to address the financial demands of McCleary. Only Democrats offered a proposal; Republicans wanted more time to discuss this with the members of their caucus. I’m not sure what the next steps will be, but it is apparent that the two sides started and remain miles apart.
Assessors: The Assessors’ bill to remove land from the current property tax classification due to natural disasters has been dropped in both houses (HB 1309 and SB 5188). The bill aligns “timber and forest lands” with the provisions of “open space and agricultural lands” concerning the removal of the compensating tax due to natural disaster. SB 5188 was referred to the Senate Local Government committee, HB 1309 has not yet been referred to a committee in the House.
Auditors: HB 1161, the Auditors' clean-up bill, was introduced and is scheduled for a hearing before the House Local Government Committee January 17 at 10:00 am in JLOB hearing room D. Its companion bill SB 5187 has been introduced as well.
Treasurers: The Treasurers’ anticipated tax bill has also been dropped in the House (HB 1283) and Senate (SB 5189). In the House it was referred to the Finance Committee and in the Senate to the Local Government Committee.