During his State of the State speech on Tuesday, February 8, Governor Perry mentioned some issues of concern to Texas cities, though his primary focus was on state budget items, education, tort reform, health care, and prison issues.  The governor did renew his call for swift action on eminent domain reform, however, saying the legislature “must protect private property rights like Senator Estes and Representative Geren have done in their bills.”   The Senate State Affairs Committee and the full Senate passed Senator Estes’ bill, S.B. 18, by unanimous votes.   A full description of the bill is included in the Recent Floor Actions section, located elsewhere in this issue. 

Governor Perry also proclaimed support for already-filed legislation relating to preventing unfunded mandates on local governments:  “Let’s don’t burden local authorities with unfunded mandates because they are facing their own challenges as well.”   City officials should applaud the governor’s support of such legislation. 

In speaking about immigration and border security issues, the governor called for legislation to “abolish sanctuary cities” by prohibiting city policies that restrict “discretion” during “lawful detentions” by police officers.   So-called sanctuary city legislation remains an emergency item, and several such bills have been filed so far this session. 

It is significant and somewhat encouraging that the governor didn’t call for artificial restrictions on property tax appraisals or tax rates, an issue that has appeared in his State of the State speeches in recent sessions.   While such bills have been filed this session, cities’ budgetary restraint during this recession appears to have been noticed by state leadership.   If and when these bills get a hearing in legislative committee, TML and city officials will argue that cities already accomplished the hard work of passing lean, responsible budgets last fall.  The state government must now focus on the looming state budget deficit and other statewide problems, leaving cities alone to provide essential services like police, fire, streets, and water.   In this regard, the governor’s speech seemed a step in the right direction.

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