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County officials attend legislative conference

Special to the Courier

Bandera County elected officials District Clerk Tammy Kneuper, Commissioner Precinct 2 Bobby Harris and Tax Assessor-Collector Gwenda Tschirhart were among hundreds of other county officials who gathered in Austin August 24, 25 and 26 at the Texas Association of Counties (TAC) 2016 Legislative Conference.
During the conference, the trio from Bandera County learned about the upcoming legislative session and the common concerns shared by Texas’ local governments and local taxpayers.
“The Legislative Conference is really the one time each year county officials from around the state can get together as peers and as community leaders to discuss common issues and potential solutions to our shared challenges, and to discuss the coming legislative session, the workings of which will undoubtedly affect counties in many ways,” said TAC Executive Director Gene Terry.
“It is also a perfect opportunity to meet and visit with our colleagues in the legislature before the whirlwind of the session, to discuss the interim and what can be accomplished this session.”
During their three days in Austin, county officials heard from their peers, experts and legislators on several hot topics affecting counties, including:
• updates on property tax reform, a central focus of Senate interim hearings
• updates on current issues in emergency management from county officials affected by the numerous recent floods across the state
• examining rising indigent defense costs and best practices
• examining the state’s Driver Responsibility Program and calls to reform or even end it
• discussing the transportation and infrastructure issues counties face.
Tshirhart noted, “Henry Steen and Andy Wells with Steen Law,
also attended the conference with me in order to keep current on property tax law changes. The participated in agenda items that pertained to property tax reform, state mandates and state budget procedures.
Additionally, the conference’s General Sessions included presentations by Paul Smith, author of “Lead with a Story”; Texas State House Representative Larry Gonzales, who discussed best practices for county officials engaging in the legislative process; and Chet Garner of PBS’s “The Daytripper,” who has been collaborating with TAC on a series of educational shorts about county government.
Other notable speakers included Sen. Robert Nichols and Rep. Andrew Murr, who spoke on session panels about transportation issues and indigent defense, respectively.