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El Paso County Judge: We’re running out of time

A bill being pushed by El Paso County in Austin has once again become a focal point for El Paso’s County Commissioners court.

On Monday, Judge Veronica Escobar said the county is running out of time on a bill aimed to give the county more control over Emergency Services Districts (ESDs) in El Paso County.

The last day for bills to be filed in Austin for this legislative session is Friday. The bill will be discussed for the first time in committee on Thursday.

Judge Escobar said it is expected to see fierce opposition. Among those she believes will rally against the bill: ESD board members from El Paso. She also said Monday that she believes Rep. Gonzalez has concerns about the bill.

Gonzalez, who sits on the committee that will discuss the bill, told ABC-7 on Saturday that she wasn’t ready to discuss the bill until she heard more on Thursday. She did note that she represents an are that holds more than half of the volunteer fire departments in El Paso County making it an important bill for her office.

The bill aims to give more power to the commissioners court over the ESD boards. It would require major purchases to be brought before commissioners, as well as, information on budgets on a yearly basis. West Valley Fire Department’s Chief Bill Adler has previously stated his opposition to the bill. He said if the bill were appropriate it would be used for the entire state of Texas, instead of a bill that would carve out special rules for El Paso County.

Commissioner Vince Perez voiced his concern on Monday about the clocking running out on the bill. Perez said that any entity that has a right to issue property or sale tax should have more oversight and transparency.

“As it stands right now, there budgets are really not as publicly available or scrutinized as much as they should be,” said Perez.

Commissioner Dan Haggerty and the Judge said they would pick up the phone and push for Gonzalez to voice concerns they feel she has ahead of Thursday’s meeting.

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