Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Collin County Commissioner's Court

The Texas Constitution vests broad judicial and administrative powers in the position of County Judge, who presides over a five-member Commissioner's Court. Four Commissioners, each elected to a commissioners precinct representing approximately a quarter of the county's population, serve with the Presiding County Judge on the Commissioners Court.

Members of the Collin County Commissioner's Court also serve as Trustees of the Collin County Health Care Foundation, Collin County Housing Finance Corporation, and the Collin County Substance Abuse Foundation.

In addition to assuring that county roads are maintained, commissioners vote with the county judge to set the budget for all county departments and adopt a tax rate. The County Commissioners Court also:
  • Sets the yearly property tax rate and approves the budget and employment level for the county;
  • Sets commissioners and justice of the peace precinct boundaries;
  • Calls, conducts and certifies elections, including bond elections;
  • Sets employment and benefit policy;
  • Establishes long-range thoroughfare, open space, land use, financial and law enforcement/jail needs plans;
  • Acquires property for rights-of-way or other uses determined to be in the public's best interest;
  • Reviews and approve subdivision platting and wastewater treatment for rural areas;
  • Provides rural ambulance services and subsidizes rural fire protection;
  • Oversees the construction, maintenance and improvement of county roads and bridges;
  • Appoints non-elected department heads and standing committees;
  • Supervises and controls the county courthouse, county buildings and facilities;
  • Adopts a county budget;
  • Determines county tax rates;
  • Fills vacancies in elective and appointive positions; and
  • Has exclusive authority to authorize contracts in the name of the county.
Your Collin County Commissioner's Court Precinct Number can be found on your Voter's Registration Card within the box titled "Com."

U.S. House of Representatives

The boundaries of the 3rd Texas Congressional District and the 4th Texas Congressional District meet in Collin County. Your Congressional District Number can be found on your 2008 Orange Voter's Registration Card within the box titled "Congress."

The 3rd Texas Congressional District includes a large portion of the southwestern corner of Collin County that includes Plano and most of Frisco and McKinney. The 3rd District also encompasses the northeastern corner of Dallas County that includes parts of Richardson, Garland and Dallas.

Collin and Dallas County residents must check their Registration Card to verify their respective congressional district number. Click on the map to enlarge. The 3rd District on the map is shaded in yellow and the 4th District is shaded in pink.

In Collin Co. the 4th Texas Congressional District county. The 4th Texas Congressional District also includes all or parts of Bowie, Camp, Cass, Collin, Delta, Fannin, Farnklin, Grayson, Hopkins, Hunt, Lamar, Morris, Rains, Red River and Rockwall counties.

A Congressional District is an area within a state entitled to elect one "congressional member" to the United States House of Representatives. The United States has a total of 435 Congressional districts and each district has about 570,000 people. The 435 congressional seats are reapportioned within and among the 50 states after each decennial census as prescribed in Section 2, Article I of the Constitution of the United States according to a formula established by the congress.

Texas has 32 U.S. Congressional Districts. The Texas legislature has primary responsibility for "redistricting" the U.S. Congressional Districts within Texas as well as the districts for the Texas State Senate, State House and State Board of Education after each decennial census. The Texas legislature also has the primary role in making changes to state judicial districts. Section 28, Article III of the Texas Constitution requires the legislature to "redistrict" the various governmental jurisdictions during its first regular session following publication of each United States decennial census. For an Interactive Map of Texas U.S. Congressional (110th Congress) districts, plus State House, State Senate and State Board of Education Districts click here.

The U.S. House of Representatives 3rd Congressional District seat is currently held by Republican Sam Johnson.
Mr. Johnson, who will be 78 years old in October 2008, was first elected to the 3rd District House Seat in a special election on May 8, 1991. Johnson has been reelected to the U.S. House Seat in eight regular elections beginning in 1992. The Texas 3rd District House Seat has arguably been one of the deepest red Republican districts in Texas and the United States since 1968 when the Republican Party first took control of the 3rd district House Seat. Johnson ran for reection unopposed by a Democratic Candidate in the 1992, 1994, 1998 and 2004 elections. Johnson has voted against tax incentives for energy conservation and clean/alternative energy development. Johnson also voted to eliminate "critical habitat" for endangered species and to reduce liability for hazardous waste dumping and clean up. Johnson opposes universal health care coverage, supports the privatization of social security and has voted against re-regulating the home mortgage industry. To review Johnson's positions on the issues and his U.S. House of Representatives voting record, click here.
The U.S. House of Representatives 4th Congressional District seat is currently held by Republican Ralph Moody Hall.
Mr. Hall, who at 85 years old is the oldest serving member of the House of Representatives, first ran for and won the 4th District House Seat as a self-described "old-time southern conservative Democrat" in the 1980 general election. Hall was reelected to that U.S. House Seat as an "old-time conservative Democrat" in every regular election until 2004 when he switched parties to run as a Republican. Hall switched parties after House Majority Leader Tom DeLay engineered the controversial mid-decade redistricting of Texas in 2003. That mid-decade redistricting of Texas added the northern and eastern portions of Republican strong-hold Collin County to the 4th district. After the switch, the Republican Party allowed Hall to keep his seniority and Hall became chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality. Hall has voted against tax incentives for energy conservation and clean/alternative energy development. Hall also voted to eliminate "critical habitat" for endangered species and to reduce liability for hazardous waste dumping and clean up. Hall opposes universal health care coverage, supports the privatization of social security and has voted against re-regulating the home mortgage industry. To review Hall's positions on the issues and his U.S. House of Representatives voting record, click here.

U.S. Senate Seats For Texas

Article One of the Constitution of the United States specifies that each state shall have two Senators, which are now elected by state-wide general election. Senators serve six-year terms that are staggered so that one third of the Senators stand for election every second year.

The Constitution assigned to Congress responsibility for organizing the executive and judicial branches, raising revenue, declaring war, and making all laws necessary for executing these powers. The president is permitted to veto specific legislative acts, but Congress has the authority to override presidential vetoes by two-thirds majorities of both houses.

The Constitution also assigns special responsibilities to the Senate to advise and exercise its consent on proposals made by the President of the United States for key executive and judicial appointments, including Justices to the Supreme Court, and on the ratification of treaties with foreign countries. The two U.S. Senators from Texas cast two of the fifty votes the Senate needs to advise and exercise its consent on appoints and treaties proposed by the President.

Supreme Court of Texas

The Supreme Court of Texas is composed of a Chief Justice plus eight Justices and it is the court of last resort for civil matters in the State of Texas. The Supreme Court of Texas was first established in 1836 by the Constitution of the Republic of Texas, which vested the judicial power of the Republic in “…one Supreme Court and such inferior courts as the Congress may establish.” The later Texas state Constitutions also established the Supreme Court as head of the judicial branch of Texas government.

A different court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, is the court of last resort for criminal matters. The Justices of the Supreme Court are elected to staggered six-year terms in state-wide elections.

The Supreme Court has statewide appellate jurisdiction in most civil cases, which include contract, personal injury, family and juvenile cases. The Court’s jurisdiction is discretionary; that is, the Court decides what cases it will take. Parties do not have a right to have their cases fully heard by the Court. Instead, they petition the Court to review their cases. Only about 10% of the cases are granted review. The Supreme Court’s caseload consists of three primary categories:
  1. Determining whether to grant review of the final judgment of a court of appeals or certain interlocutory orders via a petition for review;
  2. Disposition of regular causes which include review of a final judgment, petitions for writs of mandamus or habeas corpus, certified questions, accepted parental notification appeals, and direct appeals;
  3. Disposition of numerous motions related to petitions and regular causes.
Members of the Texas Supreme Court are elected in partisan elections on a statewide basis for six-year terms of office. When a vacancy arises the Governor of Texas may appoint Justices, subject to Senate confirmation, to serve out the remainder of an unexpired term until the next general election. Anyone appointed to the Court must stand for election in the next general election after the appointment.

Five of the current Justices, a majority, have been appointed by Governor Rick Perry (R) and all the current Justices, like all the Judges of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, are members of the Republican party. All justices are elected to a "court place position" in state-wide general elections. Other than Place 1, which is reserved as the Chief Justice place position, the Supreme Court place numbers have no special significance.

To stand for election a person must be at least 35 years of age, a United States and Texas citizen, licensed to practice law in Texas, and must have practiced law at least 10 years. There are no other qualifications to be a justice — the rest is up to the voters of Texas, or in the case of a vacancy, the Governor.

By statute, the Texas Supreme Court has administrative control over the State Bar of Texas, an agency of the judiciary. The Texas Supreme Court also has the sole authority to license attorneys in Texas, and appoint members of the Board of Law Examiners, which under instructions of the Supreme Court, administers the Texas State Bar Examination. Administrative duties include:
  1. Promulgating the Rules of Civil Procedure for the Texas judicial system (Gov’t Code §22.004);
  2. Promulgating rules of administration for the Texas judicial system (Gov’t Code §72.024);
  3. Equalizing the dockets of the 14 courts of appeals (Gov’t Code §73.001);
  4. Promulgating the rules of procedure for the Commission on Judicial Conduct, and disciplining judges or removing judges from office (Gov’t Code, Ch. 33, art. V, sec.1-a);
  5. Supervising the operations of the State Bar of Texas and the rules and regulations for the admission, discipline, supervision, and disbarment of lawyers, and approving the law schools of the State (Gov’t Code, Ch. 81); and
  6. Promulgating the rules for the operation of the Court Reporters Certification Board and the disciplinary rules enforced by this Board (Gov’t Code §52.002).
Committees of lawyers and judges assist the court in reviewing, amending and developing rules of procedure and judicial administration — but the Court has final say on the rules. By overseeing the State Bar and ruling and disciplinary matters, the Court regulates the legal profession itself.

By statute, the Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court has the responsibility to:
  1. Confer with the presiding judges of the administrative judicial regions to promote the prompt dispatch of judicial business (Gov’t Code §74.001);
  2. Assign judges between administrative judicial regions (Gov’t Code §74.057);
  3. Assign retired appellate justices to the various courts of appeals on a temporary basis (Gov’t Code §74.003);
  4. Deliver a “State of the Judiciary” message at the commencement of each regular session of the Legislature (Gov’t Code §21.004);
  5. Ensure that the Supreme Court executes and implements its administrative duties and responsibilities (Gov’t Code §74.006).
In practice, the Chief presides over the conferences of the nine justices to discuss cases pending before them. As part of the “administrative duties and responsibilities” the Chief traditionally plays the role of encouraging the other justices to work efficiently and keep up with the Court’s caseload.

Graphical Guide to the Court System of Texas.
Pamphlet on the Texas Judicial System
Overview of Court System Structure and Jurisdiction
Texas Judicial System Subject-Matter Jurisdiction of the Courts