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Posted on: April 20, 2021

City Corner Column: City engages with legislative process to promote residents’ interests

Thomas_Gwodz

In his next-to-last City Council meeting, Mayor McCoy thanked me for working actively with the City Council to recommend positions on legislative issues. Laws passed at the state level can have a tremendous impact on the City and our residents, which is why my staff and I have been working with the City Council to improve the way we engage state legislators on issues that affect our community.

Last fall, I proposed an expanded legislative program for the City. First, we would track state bills that affect Victoria; second, we would communicate with state legislators about issues that matter to our residents; and third, we would educate City staff on how the new laws affect our operation.

The new program has been working. When pre-filing of bills started in November, my staff and I reviewed each bill summary and talked to subject matter experts—City leaders as well as outside partners—about how the bills might affect us. About 1,500 bills have been filed this session. It’s been a lot of work.

By January, we were having biweekly Zoom calls with a City Council committee to review the bills and the expert feedback. The committee made recommendations to the Council for official positions on the most important bills. Then, the council began voting in open session to support or oppose bills that mattered.

For example, the council supported House Bill 633 and Senate Bill 518, both of which would help the City calculate the prevailing wages in our region so we can offer competitive rates to contractors. These two bills were requested by Mayor McCoy (based on his experience as a professional architect) and filed by our local legislators, Representative Geanie Morrison and Senator Lois Kolkhorst.

The council also supported several bills that would keep sales tax in our community. Under current law, the sales tax we pay on some online purchases benefits the city where the warehouse distribution center is located. The council believes sales tax should be allocated to the city where the online purchase gets delivered, not the city where the shipment originated. The taxes our residents pay should be fixing our streets, not someone else’s.

The council also opposed some bad legislation, such as bills that would create caps on franchise fees. Some private businesses pay franchise fees because they use public infrastructure to make money. Creating caps would let businesses avoid paying market rates for the wear and tear they cause to streets and other types of public infrastructure. 

These council resolutions, and all of the positions taken by your City Council, can be found at www.victoriatx.gov/87TXLegislativeSession.

I’ve been sharing the resolutions with state legislators so that they know about the issues that matter to our local community. I’ve found all the state legislators I’ve worked with to be thoughtful and considerate, nothing like the bitter politics we see reported at the federal level. I’ve also been to Austin three times so far, testifying on four different bills. 

And this is just the beginning. After the session is over, my staff and I will be just as active, educating City employees about each bill and how it affects City operations. Then I’ll sit down with my staff and work to improve the process for the next session. Getting an early start on the 2023 legislative session will allow us to get ahead of the curve and to do what Mayor McCoy wanted: be proactive in helping all the citizens of Victoria.

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