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TipSheet: Travis County, 10.23.18

Tuesday, October 23, 2018 by Ryan Thornton

4. Consider and take appropriate action on a charge and membership categories for the Indigent Legal Services (ILS) work group. (Commissioners Daugherty & Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: Last week, the Commissioners Court chose to move forward with a plan to establish a public defender office in Travis County by first creating a working group to oversee the initial planning and budgeting process. There was some remaining question about the terminology concerning the categories that individuals from the community could be drawn from to fill the working group. It appears that will be clarified and modified Tuesday morning to better serve the process. Once the language is clarified, commissioners will probably agree to send the charge out to continue searching for qualified members of the legal community to fill the group’s roles.

5. Consider and take appropriate action on funding in Justice Planning for a substance abuse treatment initiative. (Commissioners Daugherty & Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: The Commissioners Court has already approved $125,000 from the Fiscal Year 2018-2019 budget to be used for substance abuse treatment, but a method for spending the money has not yet been decided on. The Court will discuss three potential methods for doing so on Tuesday. Notably, the third option of working with the Austin Harm Reduction Coalition is likely to be controversial considering Commissioner Gerald Daugherty’s strong criticism of the organization in previous voting sessions. The second option, a supplemental agreement with Intregal Care administered by Health and Human Services, would be easier and less controversial, but of uncertain efficacy. The first option is to send a Request for Proposals and begin a competitive process of finding a suitable treatment provider. As the first option would add a significant amount of time to the process and the third is likely to generate controversy, the second option seems most likely to generate consensus.

6. Consider and take appropriate action in support of designating a behavioral health authority in Travis County. (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: Related to the previous item, the Commissioners Court will decide upon designating a Local Behavioral Health Authority (LBHA) in Travis County that would serve mental health and substance abuse needs of the community. An LBHA would potentially end up saving the county money in the end by reducing the need for outside contracts with substance abuse treatment providers and otherwise managing funding more efficiently. Considering the potential for controversy surrounding substance abuse treatment, a Travis County professional could potentially offer less political risk than relying on non-governmental entities.

15. Consider and take appropriate action regarding Travis County participating in the air quality plan for Central Texas.

Monitor’s Take: If the current trend continues, Central Texas will surpass federal limitations of the eight-hour ozone NAAQS and achieve a “nonattainment” designation, potentially resulting in a total cost for Central Texas of several billion dollars. In addition, the federal government would be able to take over local control of air quality management strategies. The action taken Tuesday will be to send a letter to the Clean Air Coalition outlining Travis County’s strategies at preventing this result, most of which involve encouraging or incentivising emmissions reductions from citizens. While the strategies are necessary, they are also unlikely to achieve the emmission reductions needed to avoid exceeding the federal ozone limit of 70 ppb.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Travis County Commissioners Court: The legislative body for Travis County. It includes representatives from the four Travis County Precincts, as well as the County Judge. The County Judge serves as the chair of the Court.

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