Did any meetings concerning implementation of HB178 (Ch. 41 Subchapter D, Government Code) ever take place or come up with any answers? As far as I can tell the AG is still waiting to weigh in. Will the counties have to make an amendment to their budgets for the current fiscal year (increasing a line item) if this was not dealt with prior to October 1? Should the district attorney make a specific request for such amendment, either in the certification (for supplemental pay) or otherwise? I presume the bill does not create an "emergency" in this respect. cf. 111.010(d), 111.0415 and 111.0709, Local Gov't Code. It also appears any such amendment may need to be in place before January 1. See Tex.Atty.Gen.Op. JC-0147.
[This message was edited by Martin Peterson on 12-03-01 at .]
OK, it is good (no, in this instance, make that great)to see the AG favors unfunded mandates, but aren't we still a long ways from getting this bill implemented? Will the comptroller pay out the $100,000 on a first-come first-serve basis? Doesn't that automatically favor the biggest counties (who will seek more reimbursement faster)? How many counties included this expense in this year's budgets (before they received any certifications as to who to pay what)? Won't a separate line item in the budget be required for the supplemental pay (since not all ADA's will be receiving it)? Will that not require an emergency finding in support of the budget amendment? And, of course, the big question, does the county pay the employer's share of the employment taxes (a la county judges'/county attorneys' supplements)? Who would have thought the $20 question was so much more complex than the old $64,000 questions?
Actually, I don't think the comptroller ever certified the funds the Legislature had allocated for the mandate. So there is absolutely no state reimbursement coming to any offices regardless of when or how they file for reimbursement. It will be completely funded by the counties.
Posts: 30 | Location: austin, tx, usa | Registered: January 10, 2001
Was nice of the Legislature to take at least one issue off the table. How many other appropriations evaporated? I know about the Judge/DA salary increases. Is the legislature going to make a new practice of enacting the real budget and the maybe/wish list? Is the comptroller the one who determines what items on the wish list get funded (assuming some funds become available)?
Actually, Martin, funny you should call it a wish list. That is exactly what the legislators call Article XI of the budget bill. All appropriations requests that find their way into Article XI of the proposed budget -- items that may be funded, depending on whether the bill passes and if the comptroller says the money is available. It is for those contingency riders that support bills that aren't yet passed. then, when the bill passes, someone on House Appropriations or Senate Finance -- usually a conference committee member by the time they get to this -- make a motion to "advance" the rider to the appropriate article of the final bill.
So, once the bill passes, you still have to see if the state has the money to fund it, and see if you can't get a member to push the contingency rider out of the wish list and into the bill.
That happened with HB 178; they pushed the rider one night, but amended it to cap it at 200K and to cut it down a bit. Senator Duncan is the one who made the motion to move it.
But, as you know, the state's $ is low, and the comptroller never certified that the $ is there. But that doesn't mean we won't find the $ at some point....
and another thing....the law as it stands requires the counties to pay the longevity, and then seek reimbursement.
The comptroller's office called yesterday; if they do get the 200K certified, then they want to know who is likely to request reimbursement and how will it come to them...we don't have a lot of these answers, either. there are no rules for "first in time," or everyone gets a cut, or something like that.
More importantly, we have heard that the counties are veyr unhappy, and are grumbling about a repeal of this bill at the next leg. How hard do assistants around the state want to fight to keep it?
I understand Article XI of HB1 never becomes law, or at least it doesn't appear as part of chapter 1589. Since I do not have the contingency language before me, I have to ask, assuming the "wish list" has items a, b, c, d and so forth, who determines which parts of the wish list ever get funded during the budget year and what is the mechanism for determining the funds have become available. Being a political science major, I'm sure some of this was covered in that wonderful course called "Legislative Process", but I must have forgotten a few things along the way.
If the supplement was significant in amount, I suppose some assistants would be tempted to fight for its continued existence, but its not. That, however, is why its difficult to understand why county commissioners would be so upset though too. Its a token gesture, that at least says career prosecutors don't have to run for office to make their time worth something extra. You stay at this work for reasons other than the money, but its still nice to hear someone say, "we're glad you stayed", even if they are grumbling it.
I disagree on the significance of the supplement. an assistant gets an additional $80 a month starting in year 5, up to a max of $5,000 a year after about 22 years. $416 a month extra is not chump change, and a lot of people will qualify for the max amount. I'd fight like you know what to keep it.
The appropriations process is a real black hole. There is no book on how it works (I looked for one). You need to get over there and learn by watching and by oral history.
Towards the end of the session, the leg. has the budget pretty well ironed out, using financial projections that are continually provided by the Comptroller as to how much money will be available. but sometime in the early part of may the Comptroller will come out with the final projections for the next biennium. As you can imagine, a lot of folks are holding their breath until those numbers come out, because everything in Article XI is stuck there until the Comptroller says whether there is any money to fund "wish list" stuff. If there is some money, then the fight is on to get some of it, in the form of endless meetings in which contingency riders are advanced by a member of the conference committee and voted on, one by one, until all the money is gone.
But, as time change, so do the numbers. Although the comptroller may have predicted X amount of money in May, the projections changed by June. so the comptroller holds off funding certain items until it is clear the money is there. That is where the HB 178 money got stuck.
I guess I was looking at the issue from the standpoint of who actually stays at a particular job because they are promised $240 more the following year in pay? Certainly if I were one of those suddenly entitled to a $5000, or even $3000 raise in pay, I would not want to lose it without a good reason. Even if the cost is 1.8 million, its a reasonable expenditure, and the counties that will be paying the bulk of that can probably pretty easily afford to do so. Of course, my guess is the ADA's getting the greater supplements have probably maxed out on the county pay scale to begin with, i.e., all they ever anticipated was perhaps an adjustment for the devaluation of our currency. How can any of us really fight to keep Subchapter D in place? I hope the association or someone comes up with some answers.
From the association standpoint, the legislative committee will be meeting shortly after the new year to shake out priorities for the upcoming session. I imagine this will be pretty high up.
But more importantly, this is the "off season," so it means that your legislators are at home. a perfect time to talk to the folks who will be making the decisions in 2003. Those kind of early contacts are important if this is something you think is important. Heck, lots of bills get filed and passed because the DA/CA went to the local guy...not because it went through some TDCAA committee deal.
And, I agree that an extra $80/month may not mean much, but it seems that it will always be a struggle to find ways to better fund our work....