Sugar Land mayor meets with governor to preserve quality of life for residents

The mayoral delegation that met with Gov. Greg Abbott includes, from the left, Sugar Land Mayor Joe Zimmerman, McKinney Mayor George Fuller, Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams and Irving Mayor Rick Stopfer. (Submittted photo)

Sugar Land Mayor Joe Zimmerman met with Gov. Greg Abbott last week as part of ongoing efforts to ensure the city is able to meet the expectations of its citizens to provide a safe community and quality city services.

Throughout the regular and special legislative sessions, Sugar Land’s elected leaders and representatives have testified on a variety of proposed bills that they say would restrict the city’s ability to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens.

“The goal of the city’s legislative program is to ensure that proposed legislation does not diminish our ability to make responsible business decisions or erode our ability to respond to the needs of our citizens,” Zimmerman said. “We believe that Sugar Land City Council will represent the best interests of our citizens much better than a state government that is not involved in the day-to-day lives of our citizens.”

Zimmerman joined four mayors from the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex at the Texas capitol to urge Abbott to respect the opinions and needs of their shared constituents.

The visit marked the third of three planned meetings between Abbott and mayors from across the state who are concerned about Abbott’s special session agenda.

The mayoral meetings came in response to a letter signed by 17 Texas mayors on July 17. The group stated that some items on the governor’s call “directly impede the ability of Texas cities to provide vital services that reflect the priorities of local residents.”

Current proposals in the special legislative session that would restrict the city’s ability to preserve Sugar Land’s quality of life include the following items requested by the governor:

– From the governor: “Legislation reforming the laws governing ad valorem property taxes. Legislation using population growth and inflation to establish a spending limit for political subdivisions.”

From the mayor: Imposing statewide caps on city revenues will not provide meaningful tax relief because it does not address solutions for the broken public school financing system, which represents the largest portion of residents’ tax bills. Revenue and spending caps can have unintended consequences on funding for public safety, economic development and infrastructure.

– From the governor: “Legislation preempting local regulation of the use of hand-held mobile communication devices while driving.”

From the mayor: Preempting the city’s recently adopted hands-free ordinance would make Sugar Land’s streets and intersections less safe and make the city’s ordinance less effective. The city of Sugar Land ordinance was approved after a year-long public input process through which residents expressed support for the city to pursue such a program.

– From the governor: “Legislation protecting the private property rights of land owners from political subdivision rules, regulations, or ordinances that interfere with, delay, or restrict private property owners’ ability to use or enjoy their property.”

From the mayor: Restricting city regulation of trees and vegetation would limit the city’s ability to create line-of-sight buffers between commercial and residential property owners.

– From the governor: “Legislation expediting the issuance of permits by political subdivisions and reforming the laws governing the issuance of permits by political subdivisions.”

From the mayor: Requiring changes to city permitting procedures may impact the safety of Sugar Land’s citizens because it requires the city to automatically approve permits that do not meet codes if the city fails to review permits within a shortened time-frame.

– From the governor: “Legislation reforming the authority of municipalities to annex territory, to exert control over territory, or to regulate the use of annexed land or land in a municipality’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.”

From the mayor: Limiting city annexation authority would harm the city’s ability to ensure the continued economic health of the city and extend positive regulatory authority to communities within its extra-territorial boundaries. Additionally, the current laws regarding annexation allow for a significant amount of public input.

The city’s efforts are in accordance with a legislative agenda adopted by the City Council, which may be found online at www.sugarlandtx.gov/LegislativeAgenda.

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