Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Legislation for The Woodlands Township

postscript at bottom added 01/30/09
I don't know about you, but I for one, have been concerned about the ability of the Woodlands Township to fully transition in 2009. There are a few basic legal hurdles that need to be leaped for us to pull through the transition by 2010. Our township board has most of them, if not all, outlined in a legislative wish list and prioritized. 1
  1. Tax Abatement - this is a very important item and is considered essential by the board to proceed as planned. There are about eight businesses with abatement contracts here. What is our contingency if we cannot honor these by law? I have not heard of any. The township must be able to continue to provide the abatement contracts by law. Otherwise, we would not be able to execute our taxation plan. We would be on hold until the next session of the Texas State Legislature. The urgency is quite apparent.
  2. Quorum of the board - in May, 2010, we will fill the last of the elected board members and go to a seven member board. It will be very difficult to have all board members there for every meeting. This is also considered an essential change to be able to operate.
  3. There is another essential item, but perhaps we can manage without it. We cannot directly employ fire fighters because of its union and the legal requirement for a vote among the citizens served prior to doing so. Right now we have a separate legal entity employing our fire fighters (our fire department). There may be federal legislation trumping the state law on this soon, so its importance could be reduced, yet we cannot depend on anything outside of our control. Waiting an additional two years for exception legislation would not be a great idea.
  4. Covenant Administration - The lack of legal definition on this matter will likely force the association to remain in place, yet it is considered to be a non-essential item in the draft documents provided to the board of directors from the Governance and Nomination Committee. The Township will need to take over this function if the association dues are to be levied by the township in the form of an ad valorem tax. It apparently does not have authority to perform this function yet. This could be a sticky issue.
  5. There are a few minor ratifications that would be helpful but not necessary. The one area I wonder about is the conditional exclusion of the Harris County parcel. It is in the non-essential section. I am unsure how this falls out but it certainly sounds urgent.
  6. Also, there are a few financial issues that should be clarified/included, but are probably of minor consequence.
  7. A very important issue is the dissolution of the Township and enabling a replacement government. We know that we should not depend on legislation in any given session. The legislature always has its hands full. One cannot predict where Texas politics will go on any issue. Any one session can be full of politics, and we may not have the leverage to get what we need out of it. We must have legislation to be able to prepare a municipal charter. Without it, we will have to wait until 2011 or 2013. Our political leverage may be over by 2011. This needs to be brought forward now in my opinion. We need to have the option to go forward with planning municipality in 2011 and know that we can do it, before we spend a large amount of time on a final form of government project and discover we cannot get the appropriate legislation passed. We should have learned enough lessons in the current government change, to ensure that we plan far ahead next time, leaving sufficient time to correct issues we find along the way. We also know that the strategy in leveraging our representation in the Senate and House should be to utilize our strength while we have it. The session is short and only comes every two years!
  8. Additional legislative issues include tax exemption authority. This is an important item for certain groups of residents. Shenandoah has asked to play a role also. Delinquent assessment authority by the county has not been settled either. Whether we can legally act on delinquency or not, needs to be settled to avoid the cost of lawsuits and to enforce our covenants.
From my seat, we need all of this taken care of in this session, but then again, I am not a lawyer nor pretend to be. I hope we get all township gears engaged in 2010. The legalities of all this is like spaghetti. It seems to get all tangled up in the pot.

Postscript: What is missing? We cannot levy ordinances nor have a court system. Therefore, we must use county ordinances. Since we have two counties, The Woodlands will live under two sets of legal rules until we become a municipality or we get legislation to be one. This limits what we can do to achieve the quality of life we all expect. For one, we need a noise ordinance for barking dogs, loud cars and trucks. I am sure we can come up with other issues needing an ordinance. Adjoining cities have such ordinances and here we are allowing about anything, as if we were out in the country, and of course we are not. Yes, we can have rules, but that does nothing for the more needful situations.
1Draft 2009 Legislation Agenda for The Woodlands Township

No comments: