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TipSheet: Travis County, 11.12.19

Tuesday, November 12, 2019 by Jack Craver

The Travis County Commissioners Court meets every Tuesday at 9 a.m. To help our readers stay informed, each week we offer a selection of interesting items from the voting session agenda. The entire agenda is usually available at the Travis County website, but the website was down Monday night.

19. Consider and take appropriate action on the resignation of the Intergovernmental Relations Officer and related matters, including but not limited to: A. The recruitment process for the next Intergovernmental Relations Officer, including job posting and changes to the job description B. Naming an Interim Intergovernmental Relations Officer and setting a specific effective date. (This item may be taken into Executive Session under the Consultation with Attorney and Personnel Matters exceptions.) (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: Deece Eckstein, who has served as Travis County’s top lobbyist for many years, recently informed the court that he plans to retire at the end of the year. It’s hard to imagine that Eckstein’s successor will face a tougher task than Eckstein faced during the most recent session of the Texas Legislature, which outgoing Speaker Dennis Bonnen proudly described in a recently released secret recording as “the worst session in the history of the Legislature for cities and counties.” However, the fact that Eckstein will even have a successor is one of the few silver linings for the county; GOP leadership pushed unsuccessfully to bar local governments from using tax dollars to lobby for or against state legislation. Although some Democrats are optimistic that their party will take back the statehouse in 2020, the GOP is still assured to control the Senate and governorship in the next session. Even though four of the five county commissioners are Democrats, they may be inclined to find a lobbyist they believe can get along with Republicans.

23. Receive update on the 25th Annual Lake Travis Cleanup community-wide event. (Commissioner Shea)

Monitor’s Take: This will be a recap of what occurred during the cleanup, along with some statistics about participation and the impact of the annual event. It may be an opportunity for commissioners to discuss the performance of the event and ways the county can better support similar civic initiatives.

28. Receive briefing and take appropriate action regarding collecting a hotel occupancy tax under Local Government Code Chapter 334, and related issues.1&2 (Judge Eckhardt)

29. Receive briefing on County real estate portfolio and take appropriate action. 1&2 (Judge Eckhardt)

Monitor’s Take: Both of these items are posted for executive session, but the commissioners are likely to have some public discussion about them. Specifically, the commissioners are likely eager to discuss the implications of last week’s election to the Travis County Expo Center and the Palm School. Voters approved giving the county authority to levy a hotel tax to fund a renovation of the expo center, but the county will not be able to levy that tax until the city of Austin has finished paying off its debt for its 2002 convention center expansion. Meanwhile, voters rejected Proposition B, which would have likely blocked a new proposed expansion of the convention center. Some have argued that the hotel tax the city will levy to fund a new convention center could also be used to buy the nearby Palm School property from the county.

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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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