Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Homeland Security Figures In Telephone Tariff Rift

Lampasas County Judge: Sounds like "west Texas wind..."

Stand by for blood spatter and feathers on the floor today
at the Heart of Texas Council of Government meeting.

Some columns of the legions will be reading the chicken
entrails for the auspices attached to fighting state
legislators for hundreds of millions in telephone franchise

It's budget crunching time again on this part of the

County Judges are up in arms over a joint House-Senate
scheme in the Texas Legislature to "consolidate" 911
broadcasting sites due to the heightened demands of
"Homeland Security."

How to pay for it? Just hold on to the money they are
expected to apportion back to counties from a massive 911
telephone surcharge collected on every toll call.

The County Judges intend to fight to hold on to their
constituents' money.

Bosque County Judge Cole Word estimates that the slush fund
created by a 50-cent surcharge on all toll calls that is
dedicated to 911 funding now counts as much as $100 million.

"If you're a home rule County - 100,000 or more in
population - then you get to keep your 911 money. We in
smaller counties have to go to Austin and apply to get ours
back," he said.

"Daddy always said 'Follow the money' if you want to know
what's going on with something." Judge Word's father served
multiple terms in the same post in Bosque County, as did
three other ancestors of his.

The truth is, counties with small populations are supposed
to get back .38 cents of each .50 cent state 911 surcharge
collected in the Telephone Interchange Franchise Fee on toll

It ain't always necessarily so, according to the Judge.

Now comes the Senate Finance Committee, in league with their
counterpart on the other side of the rotunda, and proposes
to cause County governments to create yet another unfunded
mandate by requiring all to finance the relocation of 911
radio repeaters and other communications gear in centralized

How will it be paid for? In part, through a dedicated funds
"budget offset," as proposed by the Senate Finance

Said Milam County Judge F. Summers, if the state expects
counties to pay twice, "the real irony is that in this case
it is already funded."

At least one judge accused legislators of "trying to look
like they're balancing a budget."

It's the subject of numerous e-mails flying back and forth
between his counterparts in Milam, Lampasas and Bosque

The conflict: Representative Jimmie Don Aycock of Lampasas,
a member of the House Appropriations Committee, sits on the
joint House-Senate Finance Committee, but claims he has no
vote in the matter. His committee assignment is sensitive
to the issue because he is also a member of the
Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal Justice.

According to Judge Wayne Boultinghouse of Lampasas County,
who called Representative Aycock's office to object to the
state raiding 911 funds, Representative Aycock's aide said
"the decision was made by the Senate Finance Committee to
use monies to help balance the budget. She said the rep does
not get a vote, but I told her that he surely could talk to
senators about our displeasure the way things are done to
make the 'good old boys' look better in capitol city! All
this barking about Homeland Security is beginning to sound
more like the west Texas wind blowing through a mesquite

According to Judge Jerry Bearden, "...Seven out of 8
legislators denied even knowing about the 911 funds issue
when I asked about it...Maybe we need to have a County
Judges meeting before the session starts instead of waiting
until they are all in Austin. Boy Scout motto: 'Be

The agreement has been struck, the consensus is there. Said
James Allison, "Rep. Aycock is a member of the House
Appropriations Committee. Of course, if he does not follow
the recommendations of the House leadership, he may not be
on the committee again. Nevertheless, it is time to call the
legislature to account for this unethical practice..."

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