Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
May 25, 2005Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 25th day of May, 2005, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- Ned S. Holmes, Houston, Texas, Chairman
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Alvin L. Henry, Houston, Texas
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas (Absent)
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas (Absent)
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas
- Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: First order of business is approval of minutes of the previous meeting which have been distributed. Is there a motion?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: So moved.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Second.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Donato. Mr. Parker. All in favor say, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Opposed?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Motion carries. Chairman's Charges. Mr. Cook.
MR. COOK: Thank you, sir. As you folks all know the regular legislative session is coming to an end. Been lots of activity this month. The Conference Committee on Appropriations, which has of course to do with our finances and where we're going to go and where we're headed here in the near future, has taken action on all of the issues in Article VI and Article IX which impact TPWD. I'll recap those actions along with some other significant legislation items during the legislative update later. Along that same line — and Mary will have some more information here for you — we've started planning our FY '06 operating budget. We actually started about 30, 35, 45 days ago.
With the recent actions by the Conference Committee we've got a little bit better idea of what our appropriation levels will probably be, assuming that those appropriation bills are passed as we see them right now. So we're in the process right now of kind of firming up what our base budgets will be, what the impact of pay raises and some of the reclass issues — what impact that will have on us.
The Commission's budget workshop session, which we typically have a half-day or all-day session sometime in the summer, when we have a pretty good idea of what our budget proposals are going to be, we get with the chairman of this Committee — any of you folks who would like to participate — on July 12th.
At that point in time we will provide an overview of our proposed budget, go into any detail, any issues that you'd like. We'll be providing some of that information to you, some of the key bits of that information to you upon receipt. Whether that's tomorrow or next week or however it goes. So we'll keep you up-to-date on that. If you're available, put July 12th on your calendar, and you're welcome to join us.
A couple of other items — we've got some audits coming our way this summer. Federal auditors will be visiting us in mid-July to perform an audit on Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Programs. These are quite normal, to be expected. We do lots of business with these folks. We do not particularly anticipate any problems. They'll be looking at our compliance with the Pittman-Robertson Act and the Dingell Johnson Sport Fisheries Act.
Also the State Comptroller's Office will be conducting a post-payment audit of expenditures. And that's primarily on our purchase orders, travel vouchers and payroll during this summer. And their field work should be completed in August. Again I don't anticipate any particular major problems there, but it's something that we go through routinely with them.
We have received proposals for design engineering services from three firms chosen as finalists for the East Texas Hatchery Project. The project team, comprised of staff from Inland Fisheries and Infrastructure, is reviewing the proposals and plans to have a firm selected by early June. So here within the next couple of three weeks we will select that firm. We will immediately begin negotiations for pricing and should have a contract for design in place by mid-summer. We're working with Jasper County and Lower Neches Valley Authority to finalize the land transfer and secure the water rights at that selected site.
So things are moving along on our hatchery, and bond or whatever funding we got, we're going to build a good hatchery and a first-class facility. Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Thank you. Currently the July 12th budget session is scheduled for two o'clock in the afternoon.
MR. COOK: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Item number two — Mary Fields — the Financial Review Update.
MS. FIELDS: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record I'm Mary Fields, Chief Financial Officer. And I'm here to provide the financial review. The focus of our presentation will be to provide a revenue and budget status for fiscal year 2005, update you on the progress we've made on the Business Process Improvement Plan and review the allocation of super combo sales to stamp funds.
We'll start with the revenue and budget status. I usually cover just the three primary revenue sources in this overview. And we'll start out with state park receipts. When comparing our state park gross receipts through March 31 at $14.8 million, we are up 6.1 percent or $852,000 over last year's collection.
In reviewing the categories of park receipts you can see facilities and entrance fees are fairly close to last year's receipts, while concession and park pass sales and miscellaneous receipts are showing an increase. The largest component of revenue growth continues to be from the State Park Pass sales. We've sold $1.8 million worth at this point, which is $367,000 over last year's receipts in that category. Our boat revenue as of March 2005 is at $8.2 million. This is up by 4.9 percent or $378,000 compared to last year at this same time. The increased revenue relates to increased boat registrations and titles. The number of boat registrations is up by 1.6 percent, and the number of titles issued is up by 4.2 percent. We continue to transfer 15 percent of the registration and titling revenue to Fund 64. And as of the end of March that amounts to $1.1 million.
Our license revenues and sales as of March 31 is $73.4 million. We are up $4.1 million in revenues as compared to last year or 6 percent. If you exclude the freshwater fishing stamp revenue of $3.2 million to be more comparable to the prior year, we are still up by $880,000, a 1.3 percent increase over last year's sales at this same time.
In the various categories, combo revenue is up by 2.7 percent, fishing is down by 4.2 percent, hunting is up 4.9, and the other licenses are about even.
In looking at the number of licenses sold, which generally correlate with the revenue, we're at 3.2 million. We're up 26.9 percent as of the end of March. Hunting is up 2.1 percent, fishing is down 2.5 percent, and total combo sales are down by 4.2 when compared to last year's sales at this time. If you exclude that 680,000 of freshwater fish stamps from the total number sold, we're still up by about 5,000 licenses, which is 0.2 percent. So we're running pretty close to where we were last year.
When comparing our fiscal year 2005 revenue collections as of March 31 to the annual revenue estimates, we are progressing pretty much as expected. With 58 percent of the year elapsed, we've collected 70.5 percent of our Fund 9 Game, Fish and Water Safety Funds, which is ahead of where we were last year at this time. State park funds are behind a few percentage points at 54.5 percent. And this slight lag — there was a slight lag basically in March that resulted in a timing difference. The parks receipts — you'll recall that Easter weekend was at the end of March. And the receipt system picked up the receipts, but the accounts weren't actually swept and recorded with the Treasury and in our financial system until the first week of April. So we'll see this pick up. We're basically looking at a bit of a timing difference.
Local parks is right about where it should be at 58.7 percent, and our other categories at 52.8 percent. And that's a combination of multiple funds.
In reviewing our budget versus expense you can see that our budget's at $297.7 million. We have $147.8 million available or 49.6 percent of the budget basically still remaining with 58 percent of the fiscal year elapsed. Salaries and other personnel costs are right about where they should be with 43 percent of the budget remaining.
Benefits is not tracking quite as closely, because we actually adjusted our salary budgets at mid-year and we haven=t adjusted the benefits transfer. We will be doing that here in the future, so you'll see them tracking more closely.
Spending on operating and equipment is progressing with 45.3 percent of the budget remaining. Our grant activity's also progressing nicely with 45.1 percent, and we're showing 74.1 percent of the capital project budget still available. But there are several projects in progress, and this balance will continue to decline. I believe Steve Whiston will be giving you an update of where we stand with our capital projects later in the meeting.
Our overall budget, since last month, has increased by $253,000. The budget adjustments are summarized here on the slide. The most significant increase occurred in the donations category for $232,000, and that was comprised of numerous donations for a variety of reasons. Further adjustments were also made for reimbursements and unexpended balances.
In looking at our Business Process Improvement Plan we have made some slight progress on the Plan since the last time we spoke about it. One item moved into the completed category, and that related to reconciling revenues in our magazine account. With that change we have 93 percent of the items completed, and we continue to work on the remaining seven items within that Plan.
I'd like to review our methodology for allocating our super combo sales to the stamp funds. The super combo license consists of a hunting and fishing license and six stamps including archery, white-wing dove, turkey, waterfowl and freshwater and saltwater fishing stamps. If you were to buy all of these items separately, it would cost $87. But the super combo license, priced at $64, offers a savings of $23 per license.
The revenue from the sales of this license are allocated to Fund 9, our Game, Fish and Water Safety Fund for the license component and to the various stamp funds. Our methodology to allocate the revenue in the past has been based on historical trends of sales prior to the creation of the super combo license. And we really felt this methodology needed to be updated, and it had been recommended to us that we update it. As a result we've developed a new methodology to allocate this revenue on a more user-based approach. So let me go ahead and describe the proposed methodology.
We're determining the total number of people that hunt white-wing dove, turkey and waterfowl, fish, freshwater and saltwater and archery hunt in Texas. We're using respected surveys to come up with those populations. On the next slide I'm going to discuss those survey sources.
Once we have the total number of people in each of these categories, we're subtracting the number of individual stamps that we've sold to get to an assumed number of super combo users of the stamps. We're then multiplying the number of assumed users by the stamp price to derive a revenue allocation.
And I'm going to walk through an example in just a minute just so you kind of see it in action.
First let's quickly cover the surveys that we're using to determine the number of people that may use a particular stamp. You can see the sources listed here. But for turkey we're using TPWD's small game harvest survey results, which included a statewide combined turkey harvest trend. We're using that. For white-wing dove we're using the white-wing dove hunters survey. The sale of federal duck stamps in Texas provided our waterfowl hunter population. The national survey of fishing, hunting and wildlife-associated recreation was used for both our saltwater and freshwater anglers. And finally the state archery hunter harvest estimates were used for archery hunting. So those are our sources.
Let's go ahead and walk through an example, and I've used the waterfowl stamp. Based on the sale of federal duck stamps, we determined that there were 139,000 waterfowl hunters. We sold 30,360 individual stamps. So our assumed number of combo users for — that hunted waterfowl — were 108,640. We're multiplying that by the stamp price to come up with the super combo revenue that will be allocated at $760,480. We're going to do this same basic calculation for each of the super combo stamps and for the hunting and fishing licenses. And we're going to obtain a total amount of revenue. And from that we're going to basically prorate the revenue based on the percentage of each one of the stamps. So in this case for waterfowl the percentage of revenue to be allocated will be at 4 percent. So from this population we apply that to our actual net super combo revenue.
When you look at this and how the revenue will actually relate to the various aspects of the super combo license, this pie chart kind of shows you. You can see the 4 percent that I talked about with waterfowl. And you'll notice that several of the categories here are colored blue. All of those revenues will be deposited into general Fund 9. The remaining items we deposited into dedicated stamp accounts that have a very specific purpose. Just for an example ,I'm showing the freshwater fish stamp up there. We all know that those funds are specifically to be used to build or renovate hatcheries and to stock freshwater fish in Texas. So those funds will be used for that purpose. So that's basically the methodology. And we're proposing to use this same methodology for fiscal year 2006.
Assuming legislation is passed and we do end up with the migratory and upland game bird stamp, we will use the small game harvest survey results. And basically, for example, for the migratory, you've got dove and duck hunters. Just envision two circles, and they're going to overlap. The portion of the circles that overlap that both dove and duck hunt will be what we will be counting as our hunter population. And then we'll go ahead and use the same formula that I've described.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So the combined stamp will help. Will the combined game bird stamp help you do this?
MS. FIELDS: Yes, sir. And basically future action — today I've provided an overview of this. What we'd like to do is include it as part of the Department's budget policy that we're going to review and approve by the Commission in August.
With your approval of the methodology we will be implementing a recommendation from the State Auditor's Office. It's also a component of our Business Process Improvement Plan that we get this methodology approved by the Commission. So we'd like to incorporate it next month into the budget policy.
And that concludes my presentation. Are there any questions about this?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Mary, I think the methodology review was recommended by Mr. Bomer. Is that correct?
MS. FIELDS: Actually it was recommended by the State Auditor's Office, and it was picked up in the Bomer report as well. Yes, sir.
MR. COOK: The allocation of those stamps — and when we implemented the super combo kind of grayed the area. And there's always been a need and an interest by all parties involved to be sure that we did that allocation as fairly and as accurately as we possibly could and be very open about it. It is a bit complex, but I believe we're there.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Well, it makes sense that if we're going to tie the revenue from the users to the resource, that we have a methodology that actually tracks that. Are there any other questions for Mary?
MS. FIELDS: Just one comment I need to make, that I failed to make during the presentation. This would also apply to the senior super combo license as well. So both licenses.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Any further questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Thank you, Mary.
MR. COOK: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Mr. Cook, Legislative Update.
MR. COOK: Thank you, sir. I'll try to be brief here, but we've got quite a bit information that I want to pass on to you. Just to dive right into it — we have three bills as of this moment that the Governor has signed.
SB 454 which is a shrimp limited entry bill. It creates a license management program for Gulf Shrimp Vessel License in the Texas territorial sea, an important step in our ability to manage and control that program and protect that fishery. SB 272, the oyster limited entry program, creates a license management program for the Public Oyster Reef Fisheries. SB 489, Marine Dealer's License, amends the marine licensing language to include a category and appropriate requirements for a marine broker's classification. Now those bills have been signed by the Governor.
The following bills have been — and I'm going to be pretty brief here — have been passed by both houses and are awaiting signature by Governor Perry. HB 883 which is artificial reef bill, which basically allows public entities to build artificial reefs under our supervision and direction.
HB 942, antique boat registration, changes from any boat manufactured prior to 1968 to any boat 35 years old or older as determined by the year built. HB 943, evidence of boat ownership and title, provides authority to waive fees for boat and marine licensing transaction.
HB 2032, expansion of the OGT program, allows our OGT Committee the authority to pay rewards for reporting all types of flagrant violations, not just hunting and fishing. This kind of came up in like boating safety, for example. The way it was we could only pay those rewards for hunting and fishing violations. So this will help us there.
HB 1076, reduced license fees for military. Residents and non-residents in the armed forces and their dependents would be eligible to purchase resident hunting and fishing licenses in the State of Texas.
There's several things going on there. We're not sure just exactly what the impact and effect of that will be at this time. We think it will be okay.
SB 1311 establishing an ATV recreation area program. This basically just sets up an all-terrain vehicle trail and user-funded system. It doesn=t provide funding, but it sets up a mechanism by which we can get there.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: But it does allow us to access the federal funding that's already available.
MR. COOK: That's correct. That will open doors to us that we currently don't have funding to get to. And we are supportive of that one.
HB 2025 is a real important one. Transfers the Nimitz Museum to the Texas Historical Commission, in a nutshell. It also allows the possible transfer of other historic sites — let me go on to the next category — Senate Bill 3, which we refer to as the water bill. We believe Senate Bill 3 totally died last night at midnight. There are some components of Senate Bill 3 that some folks are working very, very diligently as we speak to get those components picked up and on to other legislation. We would be very interested in that, and we think that would be good for resources.
SB 1192, game bird stamp consolidation. Bottom line on that one is we've got today. I think we're down to the wire on that one. It still can happen in the House. It still can happen in the Senate. We think there's a lot of support for it. So we're hopeful that one gets done. I believe that will help us out.
The following legislation is on the Senate local calendar and is awaiting final action.
HB 1959 gets into Chapter II. Probably the main thing that it does, it helps us. It puts some teeth into the hunting-with-dogs-in-East-Texas rule, just in summary. Again a lot of support for that one. Hope that that moves on through.
HB 2026 relates to the take and possession of certain wildlife or eggs, including requirements related to taxidermy and tanning. Mostly just a clarification.
HB 2901 — you've heard a lot about 2901 — is what we refer to as the deer bill. It relates to the possession of white-tail deer and mule deer. The bill will recognize and clarify statutes that authorize individuals to possess, propagate, buy, sell and trade white-tail and mule deer in Texas. It changes the name from Scientific Breeder Permit to Deer Breeder Permit, and proposes to regulate certain activities by commission rule, rather than statute, and enhances the penalty for anyone that kills a deer held in captivity under that permit. Again HB 2940, the other version of the game bird stamp consolidation, falls in that same category.
One note here that I want to cover with you. A significant amount of this legislation that is in process may require Commission action at the August Commission meeting, such as: HB 1636, an Act relating to residency in relation to obtaining a license or permit or certain hunting, fishing restrictions of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. HB 1959 relating to hunting of deer with dogs, HB 2555, a bill relating to the humane dispatch of certain game animals and game birds.
If and as that legislation is signed into law by the Governor, my plan and proposal to you is that I will notify the Chairman requesting authorization to publish the proposed administrative rules in the Texas Register for public comment. This will allow the Commission to take action at the August Commission meeting and allow the Department to comply with newly enacted statutory requirements in a prompt fashion. What we do, we put it in the Register, have some hearings and get some input through the summer and be ready to come back to you in August with whatever actions that you may choose to take. It'll require quite a bit of input.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. Well then, if no objection I'll request that Bob authorize the publication in the Texas Register of any proposed rules or rule amendments needed to implement legislation that —
MR. COOK: We'll do so. And again we'll keep you posted on that and let you know how it goes as the summer progresses if we hear anything.
A couple of other items — in Senate Bill 1, the Appropriations Act — let me again just give you kind of that in a nutshell. I see in fact Sarita Hixon here today. The kind of the good news column under Senate Bill 1, the San Jacinto Monument — the Appropriations Act was providing for $2.1 million in General Revenue to address the issues and problems in the San Jacinto Monument. We think that'll get it done.
Under our critical repair program, our Prop 8 bonds, the Appropriations Act provided $18.1 million in Prop 8 bonds to address critical repairs for TPWD facilities. In kind of a late action, but one that is very important to us, provided $16.1 million in federal transportation enhancement funds for repairs to the Battleship Texas. We've got some questions we've got to get ironed out on that one. Not sure exactly what might get matched up with that, but that's a positive step in the right direction.
On our East Texas hatchery, provided $15 million in revenue bonds, backed by the freshwater fishery stamp, for the construction of the new East Texas fish hatchery. Lots of controversy about that one as opposed to funding it right out straight with dollars as opposed to the bonds. But as it stands right now, that is the way it is funded in the Appropriations Act.
I mentioned the Admiral Nimitz transfer. The Act also provides for $9 million in revenue bonds to the Nimitz Museum for their last phase of construction there.
We've got additional revenue contingency rider that authorizes the Agency to spend revenues in excess of the Comptroller's Biennium Revenue Estimate at mid-year, if the Comptroller will certify those funds. We think we will raise additional dollars above what the Comptroller estimated, and this provision will allow us to use it.
Several other items: employee pay raise. I'm sure all saw the other day, and it's a very important one to us, one that we put in our Legislative Appropriation Request back about a year ago — a 4 percent raise on September 1 of this year for all employees and 3 percent September 1 of next year. And in addition to that our Schedule C employees, which is our game wardens, pay raises range from about 9 percent up to 22, 23 percent. Increases in longevity and hazardous duty pay provided the opportunity to increase salary authorized for TPWD Executive Director.
On the bad news column, 5 percent reduction in base funding, which we laid out in our LAR as instructed, was not funded. So we're still looking at that as it stands right now. I still have my hopes that there might be some help there, especially in the area of state parks.
Further reductions in our Local Parks Program. Minor reduction in our FTE cap. I don't really think that's going to hurt us at all, but we'll be back to you on that during our operating budget review. I think that's sufficient, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: There's one bill that has been signed by the Governor I don't think you mentioned, which was the one dealing with grandfathering hunting practices in the lands annexed by a city, which is good news.
MR. COOK: Right.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It means that those rural landowners who happen to be annexed by the city and have hunting activities can continue to hunt. There's been some trouble with that.
MR. COOK: It's a big issue right south of Fort Worth there.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes. And it's a great hunting opportunity as you know. A lot of people have dove leases close to town who would otherwise be affected.
MR. COOK: Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Thank you, Mr. Cook. Any further discussion on the legislative update?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Ann Bright. Issuance of stamps.
MS. BRIGHT: Good morning. I'm Ann Bright, General Counsel. And this item actually fits in nicely following Mr. Cook's legislative briefing. Currently to hunt game birds in Texas you have to have a stamp, either a turkey stamp, white-wing dove stamp, or state waterfowl stamp, for certain game birds.
Pending legislation — and I think both of these were mentioned, House Bill 2940 and Senate Bill 1192 — we're going to reorganize the game bird stamps from three to two. There would be an upland game bird stamp required to hunt turkey, quail, pheasant, et cetera. There's a migratory game bird stamp, also $7, that will be required to hunt migratory game birds. These bills will have immediate effective dates. So this means that both of these bills, if enacted, they will be effective for the 2006-2007 hunting season, which is why we're here today, to get a proposal to the Texas Register so that we can go ahead and implement these.
The legislation is pretty much self-implementing. There's not a whole lot that needs to be done by the Commission. In terms of actions that have already happened — in November the Commission approved a turkey stamp and a waterfowl stamp. In order to make the transition to this year's hunting stamp structure the turkey stamp would become the upland game bird stamp, and the waterfowl stamp would become the migratory game bird stamp. And we've also been in discussions with Bubba Wood about the use of these stamps and our contract with him on the design of stamps.
So what we're proposing to do is to delete references obviously to the turkey, waterfowl and white-wing dove stamps, to add references to the upland game bird and migratory game bird stamps, and then to clarify stamp possession requirements. Depending on which version of the legislation that passes, there may be some tweaking that will need to be done just to really clean this up. But like I said, we can go ahead and begin selling these August 15 when we begin selling licenses without Commission action. But we would like to get this cleaned up.
The last item is something we just threw in there, because as we were going through this rule we noticed that the bonus deer tags were still mentioned, and we want to get that out of there. So we'll clean that up. So then if it becomes law. What staff would like to do is to send these amendments to the Texas Register for public comment. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
MR. COOK: We have to move. If those bills pass, obviously we will have to move pretty quickly to get all that information in our hunting digest and have the stamps available early August. So this may be a —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Bubba's with us.
MR. COOK: We appreciate him very much. We talked with Bubba extensively about it. In a way you wish that you had a year to implement so that they could capitalize on the first year's stamp of the upland and the first year of the migratory, but the law, the legislation does not permit that. The legislation directs us to move immediately. So that's where we are.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Just to refresh us on exactly where 2940 and 1192 are — if I understood it, 2940 is in the local consent in the Senate. Is that right?
MR. COOK: That's correct.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So it has —
MR. COOK: A day or two.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: — a day or two. But local consent normally is —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: 1192 is in the House.
MR. COOK: Let the man who knows speak here, instead of —
MR. McCARTY: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Gene McCarty, Chief of Staff. Senate Bill 1192 is currently posted on the House calendar for action today. House Bill 2940 is on the local and uncontested calendar in the Senate. They have postponed action on local and uncontested until one o'clock today. So it'll probably take them at least two to three hours. They've got 400 bills on local and uncontested today, so it could take two to three hours for them to get through that agenda.
To just see the outcome on this particular set of bills will be late in the evening today, if not up until the last minute, which is 12 o'clock deadline tonight.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Tonight being the deadline coming out —
MR. McCARTY: The third reading's on the house. Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: The third reading on the House side.
MR. McCARTY: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So if they get out by midnight of the House, we're okay.
MR. McCARTY: In the legislative process we were going to give Larry and Robin the award for getting the first bill passed. I'm afraid me and Vernon may get the award for the last bill passed.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Do both of them have to pass for it to be effective or just either one?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: No. Either one.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So we've got two shots.
MR. McCARTY: They've both gone through their respective counter-house, so we're just looking for this final action, one or the other. Whichever one passes last is the one that actually will be implemented into law. So if the Senate goes, then we would ask that the House version be pulled down.
If the Senate local and uncontested never goes, then we'll be relying on the House version to go.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: But both of them are identical in that they both cap the $7. Removes the discretion of the Commission.
MR. McCARTY: Yes, sir. Removes the Commission discretion on each bill.
MR. COOK: I would be remiss not to thank this gentleman for his efforts throughout this session. He's done an incredible job for all of us and spent many, many hours down there. Him and Mr. Stone have done us a good job. We're not through yet.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I second that as you all know. That's the guy I call when I want to know the details.
MR. McCARTY: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Thank you, Gene.
MS. BRIGHT: Obviously I should point out that if these don't pass we will not send these to the Texas Register.
MR. COOK: We might just anyway.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: See what they say. Are there any further questions?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: If there are no further questions or discussions, authorize staff to publish this item in the Texas Register for the required public comment period, subject to passage.
Ann, you're still up. Advisory committees.
MS. BRIGHT: Again I'm Ann Bright, General Counsel. I'm here to talk about advisory committees. The Parks and Wildlife Code currently authorizes the Chairman to appoint some advisory committees. There are also requirements involving advisory committees that are set out in the Texas Government Code. And these include things like we have to adopt rules, there has to be an annual evaluation of advisory committees — their usefulness, their functions. There's a membership of 24 persons. There's a presumed four-year life, unless it's extended by rule, which can happen. And then the reason we're here today is there's a provision that says all advisory committees terminate September 1, 2005, unless extended by rule. Currently we don't have rules involving advisory committees, and so that's what we're here today to look at.
Over the year staff has been advised and the Commission has been advised by a number of different advisory committees. And over the last few months staff have looked at the functions of these advisory committees. And we're recommending that unless otherwise provided by law, that all current advisory committees would go away September 1, 2005.
The membership in the advisory groups would also expire on September 1, 2005, and that 19 of these advisory committees would be formally reconstituted after that. I can go through the advisory committees that we're talking about.
For Wildlife we're looking at advisory committees being established or reestablished involving big horn sheep, game birds, Private Lands Advisory Committee, which is a combination of the current Private Lands Advisory Committee and the Landowner Incentive Program Advisory Committee, the Texas Quail Council, White-tail Deer Advisory Committee and the Wildlife Diversity Advisory Committee.
MR. COOK: Ann, correct me if — none of those are required by statute.
MS. BRIGHT: None of these are required by statute. The are a few advisory committees that are required —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: What about the White-tail Deer Advisory Committee?
MS. BRIGHT: Well, there's that resolution —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: They're required to report.
MS. BRIGHT: They're required to report. There's a resolution that sort of assumes that it exists from last session. And I guess technically that resolution is expiring at the end of this session. I should point out, as Mr. Cook mentioned, there are some that are required by statute and I will go through those as I get to those.
Coastal Fisheries — we've got the Artificial Reef Advisory Committee, Blue Crab Advisory Committee, Oyster Advisory Committee and the Shrimp Advisory Committee. And then there's a new one that we don't currently have called the Coastal Resources Advisory Committee, which I understand would have more a global jurisdiction.
For Inland Fisheries, there are two: Freshwater Fisheries Advisory Board and the Texas Rivers Conservation Advisory Board.
For State Parks there are three: the San Jacinto Advisory Committee, which is statutorily required. And we've thrown that in here, even though it's a little bit different. The Committee does advise the Commission, but the members are appointed by the Governor. So our proposal is to go ahead and have rules although knowing that we don't really have a lot of discretion there. The Texas Statewide Trails Advisory Committee is required by federal law and that is one the committee members would be appointed by the chairman. We are required to have that in order to get the Federal Recreational Trails funding. And then there's the Historic Sites Advisory Committee, and that's not required by statute.
For Law Enforcement there are two, and both of these are statutorily required. There's the Game Warden Academy Advisory Committee. Under the rules of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education, TCLEOS, if we're going to have our own academy we have to have an advisory committee that works on the curriculum, so we've got an advisory committee for the Game Warden Academy. There's also the Operation Game Thief Advisory Committee. And this one is also statutorily required. It's a little different in that the executive director appoints the members to this committee.
For Communications we've got the Expo Advisory Committee.
And so what we're recommending is that we propose rules, publish proposed rules in the Texas Register listing these advisory committees and the various requirements for public comment and then come back to you in August with recommendations regarding adoption. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Go back to State Parks. As important as our state parks are to the state, I'm wondering if it might not be a good idea to establish an advisory committee for state parks.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, I'll tell you we've had one. In talking to them and actually taking their own recommendations, my intention is to reconstitute a new committee after September 1st. Taking their advice which is to look at a statewide approach rather than what we've had in the past, which is a broad group of people, all representing their home park and we end up with a pattern that we're not familiar with. Whereas it just —
MR. COOK: If that is the intent, would we need to add that to this list?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, the Chairman still has the ability to create a task force or an advisory committee.
MS. BRIGHT: Actually I need to kind of clarify that. The Government Code Advisory Committee statute defines advisory committee very broadly. And I can actually tell you what that is. It's "a committee, council, commission, board or task force or other entity with multiple members, that has as its primary function advising a State agency and the Executive branch of State government."
So a task force would still be subject to the advisory committee rule requirements.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Right. But my point is that as issues come up I can still form an advisory committee.
MS. BRIGHT: Absolutely. And we can go through the process. Absolutely. This is not a one-shot opportunity.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And the idea, John, is — as I said, is that we got into a pattern of essentially — it was almost like a legislative body — of everybody there representing their home park.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: I understand.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And if your home park wasn't there — and really as you know, we're supposed to be working on the broad picture. And so I'll be looking for and would like your recommendations for an advisory committee that can handle the big picture.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: But the point, Ann, was that we do not need to list an advisory committee for state parks for the Chairman to be able to appoint it. Not at this point.
MS. BRIGHT: Not at this point. We can always go back and add these.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: But it will take Commission action to do that.
MS. BRIGHT: It would take a rule amendment. The way we've structured the proposed rules would make it fairly simple to add a rule. What we've tried to do is have some general provisions that apply to all advisory committees — things like a four-year life, how often they meet, that sort of thing — and then have rules on specific advisory committees that really just address the things that are different. So that should hopefully be a fairly simple rule to —
COMMISSIONER PARKER: As I understand it, since we're starting anew in September, we'll have new members and then we can design it, my concept being to have some interlocking memberships, so that you don't have all these different wildlife groups talking individually. So that private lands is serving white-tail; it's serving on diversity, and everybody's talking to each other. That was my idea with the coastal resources. So that instead of having a blue crab and an oyster and this and a that, you have one committee with membership from all those smaller committees that's dealing with those in some sort of coherent fashion. So when they make a recommendation to us we can feel confident that it's been through all those different —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Everybody has a voice.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Everybody's had their voice. Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: They all hear the voice too.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: I tell you those people work hard. Dan served on the White-tail Deer Advisory Committee. I've served for a number of years on the Private Lands Advisory Committee, and that's a lot of volunteer effort.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Any other questions?
COMMISSIONER HENRY: I noticed on the communications you had Expo. In the next session we're going to hear from Outreach, Interpretation and Education. They're going to make a formal presentation. Is the recommendation that that activity be disbanded, not recognized, not participate? Or who does what?
MS. BRIGHT: Ask Lydia.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: I know all of them are scheduled for disbandment September 1st. What's — there's no mention.
MS. SALDANA: I'm Lydia Saldana, Communications Division Director. Chairman Dick Bartlett will be here this afternoon and we'll be basically going over the accomplishments of the Education and Outreach Committee, which includes basically fulfilling the charge that the Chairman gave them at the time. So the recommendation, I believe, will be that they basically finished their work.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And we can reconstitute after we take their report and charge a new group, if that's what we need to do, but we need to read their report, I think, and consider their recommendations.
MS. SALDANA: That was the discussion at the last meeting.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: I'll admit to a continuing concern in that area. And I guess I'm more sensitive to it given the time in my life that we're dealing with.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: There's no — I can tell you from the Chair's point-of-view, Al, there's no consideration that we stop working in that area.
It's that we listen to Dick's Outreach Committee, that Dick and Ramona and other people who've worked so hard on and David Langford. I met with him last week. You're going to like the report, and it's going to make recommendations of how we reach those objectives. And the idea is you may need a different group to reach those objectives than the ones who gave us the study. That's their recommendation that they've made to me so far.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: I'm not questioning the work of the committee, the goals, I think they've been outstanding. I guess my concern is more of a general concern having to do with the Department's work in the past two years on the whole question of diversity. And I hope that nothing's happening that will dampen, lessen, or certainly might be regressive, in the sense that we're looking at outreach and education in many different ways and formats than we did ten years ago, to address the increasing needs and diversity of this state.
I'm concerned that there is no recommendation that will formally make this a part of the overall body of work that we do not only on a stamp level, but on a advisory committee level as well. That's my general concern.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Donato.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Chairman, I echo Commissioner Henry's comments. I've always been concerned about diversity, youth and outreach. And it seems to me that we should have a committee, and perhaps it should be a committee commensurate with the report that we're going to get this afternoon.
But couldn't we create a committee and not necessarily name committee members until such time as this new approach is there. I'm afraid that if we don't do it, then it kind of falls through the crack.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: The idea was that you're not excluding anything here. You're clearing the decks and then bringing back up-to-date on new issues that you have to deal with, new advisory committees. And the education and outreach — and those of you who've read their last report, "Taking Care of Texas" — made certain recommendations. I appointed a group to execute those. You will see tomorrow a very professional report from GSD&M, a top ad and PR firm in the state, on how we reach the objectives that Al, and I, and you have talked about.
It seems to me that you listen to this report, see what sort of resources it's going to take to effect the strategy, to reach the objectives, and then choose the right people to do that, because it's not the same team that did the broad sweep.
Now we're going to be at the point of — there've been ideas about a stewardship council and the way that should go and other people who can help make that outreach campaign happen. Let's look at the — I have no problem with saying that once that's done, there will be such a committee. And I don't want to appoint the people until we're clear as to what our recommendation is about where our weak links are right now.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: My only point is that if there's a need for a committee, even if we don't appoint the members, we ought to create the committee. And if that's what's going to happen or we anticipate will probably happen tomorrow — and really, Joe, it doesn=t matter if we do it today or tomorrow.
What I don't want is that we don't follow up with it, and then we have a gap, as you might say, because these efforts have to be continuous and ongoing. We need to keep the momentum going. That's a concern that I have.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, maybe — let's not confuse the advisory committee with an Education and Outreach Committee that we have right here, which Al has so ably chaired for these number of years. So we're not losing Education and Outreach. What we're talking about right here today is the advisory committee, like you would have a White-tail Deer Advisory Committee talking to Regulations about these deer permits. We staffed that advisory committee because we had direction to deal with some of those CWD and other issues.
Just like that we're going to get this presentation tomorrow from these people who have worked awfully hard. They gave me a little presentation last week. It's amazing.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Mr. Chairman, please let me be very clear. I commend wholeheartedly what Lydia and the Committee have done. I've talked to Ramona on a number of occasions. I've talked to Dick on a number of occasions. And I think they've done some tremendous work there. And I'm not questioning that one bit. My concern is more that it's systemic, that it becomes a non-issue that we have to deal with these things in vacuums that we've built in, working first with Andy and then with Bob, into our systems, all our systems, including the departmental systems as well as the committee systems, the knowledge and the belief that we need to move forward and move out.
Outreach becomes not just education, but it becomes approaching and sustaining new populations, that diversity becomes something that we continuously celebrate. And we don't have to raise a flag or appoint a new group every time an issue comes up.
That we recognize the importance of it and have a group that looks at it on an ongoing basis. That puts it in perspective. It's like when Lee appointed the initial committee Big Mac says, if we're serious about it let's put some money behind it, like we do behind everything else that we're serious about, so that it becomes a part of our ongoing thinking. And that's my primary concern.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, I share that. I think that's the work of the Education and Outreach Committee to this Commission. And that's not going anywhere. As soon as we get our report we can charge a new advisory committee with the recommendations that we're going to see from the existing committee. Is that right?
MS. BRIGHT: Absolutely. At any point you can either do it in this rulemaking or in a subsequent rulemaking.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Could we do it tomorrow after we get the report? Is that possible or not?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, we'd have to name the members.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: I'll give that to the Chairman. The Committee or the Chairman's good faith.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Isn't this more of a process issue that we're talking about? It's not a — I don't think I hear you saying it's an indication of a change or direction or lessening of intent or intensity. It's how do we go about the process of receiving the report, selecting the new committee members whose talents fit the goals of the report that we embrace and support, and then making it happen.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: The next question is how [inaudible] stay and keep chairing this Outreach Committee. And so it's going to fall to somebody here to pick that up and make that happen as the next chair of the Outreach Committee.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, you've already got volunteers.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: And that's fine, and I'm very happy. And really I recognize what you're all doing. I just don't want to have a gap. That's all I'm saying. If it's going to be done, that's fine.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: How best do we avoid the gap?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: That's the main concern.
MS. BRIGHT: We could simply add an Outreach and Advisory Committee to this rule, so that it will be there. You'll have a structure.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It's there. Do it.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: That would really solve the problem. Then we will not forget.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Just remind me not to charge them before I have some members.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So you're going to add —
MS. BRIGHT: I will add Outreach and Education. And the composition will pretty much just be up to 24 members, reflect the statute.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Change it to Outreach, Interpretation and Education. The Committee recommended that.
MS. BRIGHT: I'll listen this afternoon and we'll call it what we need to call it.
MS. SALDANA: The report will be made this afternoon during the Outreach Committee.
MS. BRIGHT: All of these advisory committees are technically new advisory committees. The old ones are going away. And so this one will just be a new one like the others.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I've got to tell you in visiting with those members, their clear message to me was the need to quit talking. They talked plenty, and now the time is to do something. I think you'll see some of that today.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Any further discussion by the Commission?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Hearing none, if there are no further questions, authorize staff to publish this item in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.
Mr. Cook, is there any other business to be brought forth?
MR. COOK: No, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Hearing none, this Committee hearing is closed.
(Whereupon the meeting was adjourned at 11:24 a.m.)
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: May 25, 2005
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 44, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731