After the two pieces of local legislation, the highest tier of topics in the 2019 Legislative Agenda are six important legislative issues selected by City Council at a November 19, 2018, workshop. The six Critical Issues are:
The city strongly opposes any legislation that would restrict or hinder Lewisville’s ability to annex property currently located within its ETJ. While there might be some complaints about rapid annexation in other communities, Lewisville’s situation is unique in that the ETJ properties were designated more than 20 years ago, prior to residential development; this means all current residents in the city’s ETJ knew when they purchased their home that they would one day be annexed into Lewisville. In addition, the city already provides multiple city services to the ETJ properties by contract, and residents in the ETJ are given resident status for multiple city services such as recreation classes and arts center performances. Upon annexation, residents in the ETJ would immediately receive full city services and see a dramatic decrease in their annual property tax bill. Any measure that would restrict or hinder that annexation would harm those residents.
Lewisville has operated in a fiscally conservative manner for years, and as a result many of the legislative proposals currently being considered would have had minimal impact on the city during the past decade. However, during a community visioning program in 2014 and a bond election in 2015, Lewisville residents expressed a strong desire for new and enhanced services and facilities; those services and facility operations cost money, and new restrictions on the city’s ability to collect the revenue needed to fund those services could result in diminished or delayed services contrary to the will of our residents. Applying an arbitrary statewide solution to a perceived problem that is not typical of the majority of Texas cities would go against the stated desires of Lewisville residents.
Some corporate interests continue to seek exemptions from local control over public rights-of-way. Lewisville will fight at the state and federal levels to preserve municipal authority to manage and maintain public rights-of-way, including the right to seek adequate compensation for their use. The public should not be asked to subsidize for-profit businesses by allowing those business free use of public property (including rights-of-way) to generate their profit. Access charges for using a public right-of-way are in essence a rental payment for property, similar to rent a business might pay for office space or lease payments for major equipment. It is an expected cost of doing business and should be treated as such. Reducing the ability of cities to maintain rights-of-way, or to collect reasonable payments for commercial use of rights-of-way, would transfer an unfair economic burden to taxpayers in violation of long-standing Texas legal standards.
Interstate 35E through Dallas and Denton counties is one of the most congested highways in Texas, causing delays that negatively impact tens of thousands of Texas commuters and have a dampening impact on current and prospective business development. A comprehensive reconstruction of I-35E is planned, but only the smaller first phase has been funded. That work was completed in early 2017. The larger second phase has not been schedule nor funded at this time. The economic vitality of communities along I-35E, including Lewisville, relies on an interstate with sufficient capacity and safety measures. Full funding for the second phase of I-35E construction should be considered a top priority.
Cities provide the majority of government services that impact millions of Texans every day; yet, unlike other parts of the country, Texas cities receive minimal funding from the state. Cities should not be expected to provide a wide range of important services and also to serve as a fund-raising arm for the state. To the extent possible, local revenue should primarily benefit local taxpayers. Lewisville opposes any measure that would re-direct existing local revenue to the state, or would impose unfunded mandates that create additional work for cities without new funding. This includes opposing any new or expanded fees that would be collected by local municipal courts on behalf of the state.
Contrary to popular misconception, online sales do have an impact on local infrastructure and as such do create costs for cities. Assessing sales tax on both physical and online retailers creates a level playing field for the businesses; exempting certain types of businesses from those levies would give them an unfair competitive advantage with long-term negative impacts on commercial properties across Texas. The original reasons for exempting online purchases from sales tax are no longer valid because online retail sales have become a well-established and thriving marketplace that no longer needs a public subsidy. For these and other reasons, the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that sanctioned online sales tax collection should be honored and no effort should be made to permanently eliminate sales tax for online transactions. We call on the State Comptroller to work with cities on a fair and equitable way to distribute the local share of online sales taxes collected. We also ask the Comptroller to review the excessive fees currently being charged to cities for processing of sales tax collections and seek to adopt a fee structure that better reflects the cost of the service being provided.