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Eckhardt pulls back from courthouse project nuclear option

Wednesday, November 11, 2015 by Caleb Pritchard

Travis County is weighing its options after last week’s narrow electoral defeat of the proposed $287 million Civil & Family Courts Complex bond. County Judge Sarah Eckhardt told reporters last week that she is willing to take drastic, career-ending action to replace the aging, overcrowded Heman Marion Sweatt Courthouse. The Austin Monitor has learned that the window for what could be considered the nuclear option is still open for several more weeks. According to a new state law, local governments will be banned from voting to issue certificate of obligation bonds within three years of losing a bond election to fund the same project. That law, however, doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1, so Eckhardt could, in theory, try to push the CO bonds through Commissioners Court sometime before that deadline. However, Eckhardt’s chief of staff, Peter Einhorn, ruled out that scenario on Tuesday night. He told the Monitor, “The voters spoke. Issuing COs in the aftermath would be inappropriate.” It should be noted that the new law doesn’t preclude the voters from speaking again during the three-year ban. While the Commissioners Court won’t be able to issue its own CO bonds during the blackout period, it can still schedule a new election to have voters decide on alternative funding mechanisms. The commissioners received a briefing on their options from the County Attorney’s Office during executive session on Tuesday, but there’s no word yet on exactly what was discussed.

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