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Inside Texas Politics: Judge Jenkins explains how commissioners lowered tax rate, didn't increase spending

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said small cuts were made as the county modernizes, but the services for the public will remain largely the same.
Credit: Martin Deporto

DALLAS — COVID-19 is forcing budget cuts across the state, as cities and counties in Texas look to cut costs. 

However, Dallas County got creative. Commissioners lowered the tax rate and didn't increase any budget spending. 

The commission also set aside millions of dollars for pay raises. 

Judge Clay Jenkins explained how commissioners accomplished all of this during this pandemic-induced recession.

Jenkins said small cuts were made as the county modernizes, but the services for the public will remain largely the same.

The county brought together a group of city managers, including from Dallas and Irving, to come up with ways to improve policing and change the way mental health calls, in particular, are handled.

The county plans to create "deflection centers," that would allow people with mental health problems to get help, rather than end up in jail. 

"Right now you have people being arrested for making a scene outside a 7-Eleven, for example," said Jenkins. 

Critics say the County has set aside enough funding for these deflection centers, but Jenkins said they are working with the private sector to raise more money.

The Democrat became the Dallas County judge in Jan. 2011. His current terms ends in 2022.

Watch this week's entire episode of Inside Texas Politics below:

Statewide Headlines

Ross Ramsey, with the Texas Tribune, joins Jason Whitely.

1. Why are new voter registrations down in Texas this year compared to 2016? Which political party is helped or hurt by the decrease in registrations? Does this tell us anymore about the turnout that we might see in November?

2. Texas changes the way it calculated positivity rates — one of the governor's key indicators of how to respond to COVID-19 spread. This has happened before. Why all the changes?

Dallas council member pushes for marijuana legalization

Three years ago, Dallas County decided to simply cite-and-release anyone caught with four ounces or less of marijuana. However in the three years since, police have still taken people to jail for it. 

Council member Adam Bazaldua says it's time to stop arresting people and ticketing them if they get caught with a small amount of marijuana. 

He is trying to change how law enforcement handles marijuana in Dallas with a local ordinance. 

Bazaldua said his proposed ordinance piggy backs off a state law that was passed that legalized hemp. The council member says most marijuana cases aren't prosecuted because testing doesn't allow authorities to distinguish between hemp and marijuana. 

This, Bazaldua says, is a waste of local resources. Instead, he believes police should be focused on lowering violent crime.

He said he worked with a council member in Austin, where a similar ordinance was passed.

Bazaldua represents District 7, which includes South Dallas, Buckner Terrace, and far east parts of the city.

Texas GOP chair says Gov. Abbott mishandled COVID response

Allen West, the top Republican Party of Texas official in Texas, was the guest on this week’s Y’all-itics podcast. 

He said Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has completely mishandled the COVID-19 response, and failed to follow the constitution. 

West said he disagreed with the governor, hoping for a special session and instead seeing what he called a "heavy-handed" response. 

RELATED: Texas GOP chairman calls Gov. Abbott's actions on coronavirus 'heavy-handed'

“We're not a constitutional monarchy.  We are not to be ruled.  We're supposed to be governed,” West said.  “And so I am very concerned when we continue to see a litany of executive orders, mandates, decrees, and edicts that are handed down and they're not brought through the legislative process.”

Earlier this week, though, Abbott announced he was loosening many of those COVID-19 restrictions across most of the state.

RELATED: Most businesses in the Dallas-Fort Worth area can expand to 75% capacity, Gov. Abbott says 

Back in May, the retired Army Lieutenant Colonel was involved in a serious motorcycle crash near Waco.  He discussed his recovery, and while he’s back to running every day, getting back on another motorcycle is out of the question.

“I'm not gonna ride anymore," he said. "I rode for 35 years, but I tell you, I can't put my wife, my daughters and so many of my friends through that again. Because my wife had to drive from here in Garland where we live down to Waco, and all she knew was that I was in a motorcycle accident. And that was tough on her.” 

Subscribe to listen to this episode of Y'all-itics wherever you get your podcasts: 

RELATED: Texas GOP chairman calls Gov. Abbott's actions on coronavirus 'heavy-handed'

Reporter Roundtable

Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey, and Bud Kennedy, with the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram, are joined by Berna Dean Steptoe, WFAA’s political producer.

1. A few days ago -- the governor loosened COVID-19 restrictions in most parts of the state. He said he's still not ready to open bars. How much did politics play into his announcement?

2. Football is in full swing across the state, schools are holding in-person classes, and the state is relaxing some restrictions -- is the coronavirus losing its punch as a big election issue in Texas? Can Democrats turn any seats blue if they're campaigning in masks or on Zoom?



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