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City of Austin intergovernmental relations officer expects 2019 legislative session to be ‘worse’

Wednesday, October 3, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

Brie Franco, the city of Austin’s intergovernmental relations officer, came to the Oct. 1 meeting of the Public Safety Commission to give an overview of what the city should expect in terms of bills that will be on the floor during this upcoming legislative session. The No. 1 thing she noted is that there is going to be a lot of activity with bills regarding city policies. “They are very much interested in having statewide legislation on city topics,” Franco explained. Over the last 11 legislative sessions, the number of bills related to city-level concerns has increased from 1,100 in 1997 to 2,500 in 2017. Of the 2,500 that appeared in 2017, 294 passed. Some of those bills pertained to city budgets, property taxes, and the overturn of the city’s ride-hailing ordinance. This year Franco predicts “a lot of talk of how cities are funded” including discussions on lowering the rollback rate to 2.5 percent. Currently, Texas cities are restricted to increasing revenue by only 8 percent per year without voter approval. Commissioner Ed Scruggs wondered, “Is there anything the city wants from the Legislature that the Legislature will give the city or is (the legislation) primarily defense?” Franco noted that the state Legislature is not set up to pass proactive legislation. “Normally the system isn’t designed for the state to do things for cities,” she explained. With public safety as the No. 1 expense at a municipal level, Franco encouraged the commissioners to pay attention to the bills and votes at the state level as well as get involved with their representatives. “Don’t underestimate your own value in being a lobbyist for the city,” she said.

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