Who is TSCA?

 

What is TSCA proposing - 2009 Legislative Agenda?

By: Pat Hunter

December 9, 2008

 

Who is the TSCA and what does the TSCA and TCCA do? The Tennessee County Services Association (TSCA) was formed in 1954. This powerful association is comprised of county mayors, county highway officials and county commissioners, statewide. This association lobbies for laws on behalf of their membership.

 

Every year taxpayer monies go for membership dues, which are paid to associations such as the TSCA and TCCA. County commissioners, county highway officials and mayor's visit state officials on a yearly basis with a long wish list of issues but the TSCA and Tennessee County Commissioners Association (TCCA) lobby behind the scenes to enacts these issues into law.

 

The TCSA delegates, 300 members strong, had its 2-day annual meeting on June 3-4th at the Glenstone Lodge in Gatlinburg for it “Post-Legislative Conference.

  

The TSCA will lobby the Tennessee General Assembly, your state representatives and senator, for new legislation in the upcoming 2009 legislative calendar. Here are a few highlights of other proposed laws:

 

·       Open Records Liability - The Tennessee County Services Association (TCSA) and the Tennessee County Commissioners Association (TCCA) is proposing to further weaken the Open Records Law with a safe-harbor clause that releases custodians of open records at the local level of any legal liability. 

 

·       An increase in the “per diem” cost of housing state prisoners in local jails above the current $35 per day to better reflect actual costs of providing this service to the state.

 

·       State provide financial incentives to build regional jails and upgrade/expand existing facilities.

 

Learn more about the issues and how these proposed issues may impact your quality of life or pocketbook if enacted to law.

  

If you have concerns about any of the proposed legislation – write or contact your county and/or state officials.  

 

SOURCE: TCSA 2009 Legislative Platform Approved By Board

 

The board of directors and, subsequently, the full membership attending the association’s annual fall conference in Shelby County (Memphis), has approved the legislative platform for the Tennessee County Services Association (TCSA). The platform offers an outline of significant legislative initiatives and issues impacting Tennessee’s 95 counties. The platform comes in part from various regional meetings and input throughout this fall from the TCSA members and its affiliates. The platform, as approved on Oct. 31, during the TCSA business session, states: General Legislative Policy Statement The Tennessee County Services Association, and its affiliates, the Tennessee Association of County Mayors, Tennessee County Commissioners Association and Tennessee County Highway Officials Association, generally oppose legislation which has the effect of imposing additional unfunded mandates on Tennessee’s 95 county governments, or which further erodes the narrow tax base currently available to Tennessee counties. Further, the association and its affiliates will defend against intrusions into the limited local autonomy vested in county governments. TCSA will support the legislative platforms of its affiliates when they promote the mutual missions of all county official associations.

 

Education Funding

TCSA will continue to support full funding of the Basic Education Program (BEP), including the annual inflationary growth in both state and local match portions of the BEP formula as well as further implementation of BEP 2.0. We will support an increase in the unit cost for the teacher salary base and completing the restoration of the state share of teachers’ salaries back to 75 percent. We support mechanisms like circuit breakers to protect any school system that might be subject to dramatic shifts in revenues brought on by changes in fiscal capacity. We support ways to ensure that already limited local revenue sources are distributed as equitably as possible. We will look for ways to protect local education funding from the effects of any special tax financing for regional industrial prospects and the effect of certain tourist development zones. In order to acknowledge the existing effort in funding of K-12 education by local governments, TCSA will work to further help the Administration and state legislators realize the funding commitment of all 95 Tennessee counties that continually exceed their BEP local funding match requirement. This long-term county government funding commitment includes hundreds of millions of dollars budgeted annually above and beyond the BEP for teachers and administrators deemed necessary by the local school system and county legislative body, as well as capital projects and related debt service payments that are outside of the BEP formula. Furthermore, TCSA opposes any effort that effectively discourages local governments from funding above and beyond the minimum local requirement. We support inflationary increases within the existing BEP formula. We oppose mandatory inflationary requirements beyond the BEP formula components, because of the detrimental effect it would have on local governments and it would serve as a disincentive for local governments to fund beyond minimum requirements.

 

Jails and Correctional Facilities

TCSA will continue to support the findings of the TCSA Jail Cost Management Committee. The committee is designed to search for ways to save money and more efficiently and effectively manage and operate county jails. As part of that committee’s recommendations, TCSA supports an increase in the “per diem” cost of housing state prisoners in local jails above the current $35 per day to better reflect actual costs of providing this service to the state. It is hoped that the Administration and General Assembly will further realize that counties are covering the costs of housing state probation violators for an average of 75 days without being compensated for this service local governments are providing to the state. Further, TCSA continues to urge the Administration and General Assembly to develop and authorize new cost saving measures to help reduce the financial burden that counties face in dealing with the cost of housing prisoners, particularly rising inmate medical costs. TCSA encourages the state to provide financial incentives to build regional jails and upgrade/expand existing facilities. Meanwhile, TCSA supports the reimbursement by the state Department of Mental Health for the court-ordered mental evaluations for juveniles held in local jails on behalf of the state Department of Corrections in cases in which the juvenile would otherwise be sentenced as an adult if convicted.

 

Open Records Liability

TCSA supports legislation that releases custodians of open records at the local level of any legal liability if acting on the advice of the state Office of Open Records Counsel or state Attorney General.

 

Emergency Services

TCSA will continue protecting the needs of locally owned hospitals and other county medical care facilities and service providers.

 

Transportation Funding

TCSA and its affiliate organizations, recognizing the importance of local government transportation infrastructure and how it relates to the state’s economic and community development success, encourages the Administration and General Assembly to expand funding for the viable State Aid and Bridge Grant Program and redesigning of the Federal Bridge Replacement Program. TCSA applauds the creation of a special joint transportation study committee and supports the committee’s and any other’s exploring of revenue solutions for future state and local

transportation projects, including highway and road maintenance and construction. Just like the state, local governments are facing tremendous inflationary cost increases in highway and bridge construction materials and minimal annual increases in fuel tax collections. It is hoped that as a creature of the state, counties and their road and bridge needs will not be overlooked during the committee’s study and its ultimate solutions. During the first quarter of this fiscal year (July, August, September) fuel tax revenues for county highway departments declined by more than $3 million compared to the same period a year ago. Likewise, TCSA continues to support mass transit initiatives, which exist in some form in all 95 Tennessee counties.

 

Collective Bargaining

TCSA reaffirms its position in opposition to mandatory collective bargaining. Present law allows counties and cities, if they so desire, to bargain with local government employee unions. TCSA opposes any legislation which would officially recognize a labor organization’s ability to enter into enforceable memorandums of understanding with local governments. Such legislation could result in demands by local government unions that would require property tax increases and result in work slowdowns and/or interruptions of essential services. TCSA is concerned about those burdensome costs associated with implementing collective bargaining agreements mandatorily on local governments.

 

Environment

TCSA recognizes the increasing burden and responsibility counties are shouldering in regards to protecting our natural environment and balancing the impact economic growth has on our natural resources. Counties are dealing with regulations and requirements in regards to storm water management and the clean air act while still struggling with long-standing problems such as solid waste management and the disposal of waste tires and household hazardous waste. For these reasons, TCSA encourages the General Assembly to insure that local governments have the resources and funding mechanisms available to meet the demands of establishing new programs to protect environmental resources across our state. TCSA supports resources being distributed and available to local governments ensure their ability to carry out these responsibilities.

 

State Shared Revenues

TCSA supports the continued funding of state shared taxes and the funding of grant/assistance programs which benefit county governments and their citizens. This revenue sharing partnership enables counties to provide services which improve the quality of life and economic viability of the state. Without this state/local partnership, many of the services and program needs of county government go unmet or require substantial increases in local property taxes. The difficulty of this position is noted considering the inequity that results from the mandates placed upon counties to provide fundamental services such as public education and correctional facilities while receiving no portion of the state sales tax (shared only with municipalities by the state).

 

Growth Management

TCSA opposes any changes to Public Chapter 1101 of 1998, the state’s comprehensive growth policy, without the mutual agreement of those affected organizations. TCSA agrees with the observation made by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernment Relations that the statute, after 10 years in existence and study, has been generally successful as enacted.

 

Streamlined Sales Tax Initiative

TCSA supports the streamlined sales tax initiative. However, we only support the actual implementation in Tennessee after passage of corresponding federal legislation than enables Internet taxation. This recognizes the original understanding of the streamlined sales tax initiative by local governments.

 

School Board Taxing Authority

TCSA opposes efforts to extent local taxing authority to school boards. Instead, the association recognizes K-12 education funding as a service of the entire community and, therefore, supports maintaining the existing taxing authority of the county legislative body. TCSA does not endorse the disruption of the current taxing system in

those counties with special school districts already in place.

 

Local Mandates

TCSA continues to support the protection of the local tax base and additional federal and state revenue sources available to Tennessee county governments. Recognizing the current economic condition on the local, state, national and global stages, in which the basic cost of conducting the people’s business is continually increasing, counties oppose any proposal that either erodes an already limited tax base or  necessitates subsequent local tax increases to implement an unfunded mandate. To that end, TCSA will pursue with the Secretary of State’s Office alternative ways to reduce the costs to local governments in implementing the state Voter Confidence Act.

 

TCSA 2009 Legislative Platform Approved By Board, Membership

NACo has launched a new highway safety project, funded by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that will focus on reducing traffic fatalities on rural roads. “This new project provides NACo with a great opportunity in working with the FHWA and with the National Association of County Engineers (NACE) to provide information on the tools and techniques that will help counties minimize the number of highway fatalities on rural and isolated roads,” said Larry Naake, NACo executive director. In the past decade, local rural roads, which account for more than half of the 8.2 million miles of roadways in the United States, had the highest rate of fatalities per vehicle-mile traveled of all types of roadways, more than six times that of urban interstates.

 

Over the past several years, NACo has raised concerns about the safety of rural roads. It successfully advocated for designated funding in the Highway Safety Improvement Program to address the problem of high-risk rural roads.

 

The challenges of rural roads safety

Low traffic volumes, infrequent congestion, high travel speeds and rugged roadway conditions typically characterize travel in rural areas. Many motorists in rural areas are passing through and are thus unfamiliar with the roads, environment and terrain. There are often lengthy distances between towns making it easy for travelers to get lost. When a crash occurs, there might not be anyone around to report it because of the often limited telecommunications infrastructure. In this environment, preventing accidents becomes even more critical. In light of this reality, NACo invited 10 county officials and engineers to participate in a highway safety focus group during the 2005 NACo Legislative Conference. The objective of the focus group, sponsored by the FHWA Office of Safety, was to help FHWA develop an effective communications strategy on traffic and highway safety concerns facing local governments. Participants identified funding for rural roads as a key issue. Though states have funding quotas to commit to safety, only a handful of states ensure that a substantial portion of funds target local systems where fatality rates are highest. The group concluded that more improvement in roadway safety might result if money was specifically earmarked for local safety improvements. NACo’s new project will help elected county officials reduce highway fatalities on rural and relatively isolated roads in their communities.

 

NACo, FHWA Sign-Off On New Rural Road Safety Project

The next year should be one of the most memorable for many of us for so many different

reasons. For me, being named your president and serving in that capacity for the next year will be a great honor. Yet it comes at a time in our lives that will be one of the most challenging and, perhaps, stressful, for all of us in county government. We will be trying to continue providing the very services we were elected to oversee and provide. And, at a time when many are calling for increased levels of government services and intervention, we government officials will be doing it all with fewer and fewer dollars. One area of particular interest to me as a highway official is the matter of road maintenance and construction, where we are seeing the cost of doing our jobs climb by more than 200 percent over just the past year. A special study committee has been created by the General Assembly and will have met twice by the time this issue of the newspaper goes to press. The challenges that committee of legislators, practitioners and citizens face are the same we are facing right now. As everyone should be, I am excited about the prospect of getting our transportation concerns out through this study process. While the state is looking at a possible $800 million shortfall in revenues by the end of this fiscal year, counties statewide are looking at similar problems. For highway departments, especially those that do not receive a portion of the county property tax or any other local revenue source, we are looking at permanent layoffs and less and less maintenance being done because the money is just not there. For most counties, paving has already being at a standstill because of the exorbitant cost of asphalt. Probably the best thing we can expect from this study committee is a vetting of the many issues we as state and local government road department chiefs face. It is my hope that we will use this as our opportunity to get the word out and educate legislators about our situation, which mirrors that of the state Department of Transportation. During our most recent annual conference in Shelby County, the membership of the Tennessee County Services Association approved a legislative platform outline that states, for the record, our position on highway infrastructure and the county role in making this state continually successful. “TCSA and

its affiliate organizations, recognizing the importance of local government transportation infrastructure and how it relates to the state’s economic and community development success, encourages the Administration and General Assembly to expand funding for the viable State Aid and Bridge Grant Program and redesigning of the Federal Bridge Replacement Program,” according to the TCSA platform. “TCSA applauds the creation of a special joint transportation study committee and supports the committee’s and any other’s exploring of revenue solutions for future state and local transportation projects, including highway and road maintenance and construction. Just like the state, local governments are facing tremendous inflationary cost increases in highway and bridge construction materials and flat annual fuel tax collections. It is hoped that as a creature of the state, counties and their road and bridge needs will not be overlooked during the committee’s study and its ultimate solutions.” With all that said, we need to keep this simple fact in mind. County governments, not just the state, are looking at a loss of nearly $6 million in fuel tax revenues so far this fiscal year. If you add municipal fuel tax revenues to the mix, the loss so far is well over $8.5 million. We are all experiencing a world of hurt right now…

 

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12-09-08