The Woodlands May Be Headed For Self-Government in Points North Posted March 29, 2007 Chronicle news - senate committee endorses bill 1012 (step 1a.). One small but significant step forward. Still in House committeehttp://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nb/woodlands/news/4670061.html"REGIONAL PARTICIPATION AGREEMENT BILL * Allows simultaneous election for incorporation or alternative governing form * Prevents early release from ETJ or annexation by petition General News Article With Highlights AboveA bill to allow Houston and the Town Center Improvement District to establish a regional participation agreement to avoid annexation in exchange for funding regional projects passed its first hurdle in the Texas Senate Wednesday.Senate Bill 1012, sponsored by state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, was approved by the Senate Intergovernmental Affairs Committee after a public hearing."We're excited," said Williams. "It is the first step in the legislative process. But we have a ways to go."Because there was no opposition to the bill, it is expected to go to the Senate floor for a vote next week. A companion bill, HB 2197 sponsored by Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, has yet to go through the House, where is it assigned to the Land and Resource Management Committee."We're excited to get to this point," said Bruce Tough, a member of The Woodlands Community Association, who attended Wednesday's hearing. "We are excited to be in Austin and to go through the legislative process."Bill specificsWith only two months left in the legislative session, a second bill to expand the boundaries of the Town Center Improvement District to serve most of The Woodlands has not yet been introduced. It is expected to be introduced in the Legislature at the end of this week or beginning of next weak, Williams said.Williams recently identified the two-bill package as his top priority for this legislative session.SB 1012, which was altered slightly in committee to tighten up language, allows cities of a certain size to enter agreements with special districts to participate in funding regional projects in exchange for a release from the city's extraterritorial jurisdiction. The bill is fashioned in such a way to apply to Houston and The Woodlands, without naming them specifically. A court case prohibits the Legislature from passing bills that benefit specific cities or areas.Under a proposed agreement with Houston, TCID would pay an initial $16 million for public projects in transportation and parks and dedicate one-sixteenth of the 1-cent sales tax collected annually for projects, which is estimated at $45 million over the first 30 years. In exchange, Houston would agree to release The Woodlands from its extraterritorial jurisdiction, or future boundaries, in 2014 and allow it to pursue its own form of governance.The second bill would expand and rename the TCID to serve all The Woodlands, Williams said. That bill is being tweaked to address concerns by surrounding cities that TCID could annex lands in their city limits or future boundaries.Transition teamMeanwhile, TCID appointed members to a transition team that would investigate the role of the new district in providing services in The Woodlands. Three members from the TCID ? its president, chairman and chairman of its Governance and Nomination Committee ? will join three representatives from the Community Associations of The Woodlands in discussing the issues.At the Community Associations, the presidents of The Woodlands Association, The Woodlands Community Association, The Woodlands Commercial Owners Association and The Woodlands Community Service Corp. will sit on the committee."The transition team will represent us with how things will shake out when the new district is formed," said Bob Kinnear, chair of TCID Governance and Nominations Committee.Top on the agenda for TCID will be which agency will pay for services in The Woodlands. TCID funds public safety, economic development and operations in the Town Center area, along the Texas 242 commercial corridor and on parts of Research Forest through sales and hotel taxes. The Community Association of The Woodlands provides municipal-type serves to residents and businesses in the community through assessment fees.The expanded district, which will be able to collect sales tax revenues from village centers and strip centers, is expected to have the ability to collect hotel and sales tax as well as property taxes.Issues to considerThe Community Associations of The Woodlands presented an initial list of transition issues when it adopted a white paper on the guiding principles for proceeding with the governance bills. Among the issues are:The impact on the Mutual Benefits Agreement, a contract among The Community Associations, The Woodlands Development Co. and The Woodlands Fire Department that spells out the service provisions in the community.What services, assets or liabilities should be transferred to the expanded TCID and when?Will all areas of The Woodlands be covered, and what is the obligation to cover areas not within the new boundaries?How will the regional participation agreement be funded?What impact will this have on The Woodlands Fire Department?How will outside contracts, such as the community policing initiative or labor agreements, be affected?How will staff at the Community Associations and TCID be impacted?What happens if only one bills passes?What kinds of powers will the new board have?In another matter, TCID Vice President Vicki Richmond, a Town Center resident, resigned from the Committee of Governance and Nomination, saying she intends to seek the nomination for chairman of the TCID at its May reorganization meeting."