Friday, March 20, 2009

Fort Bend County Sheriff Just Doesn’t Have Enough Time

Last Tuesday the Fort Bend County Commissioners Court voted on Judge Hebert’s drafted “non-binding resolution” to the state legislature voicing their opposition to Dora Olivo’s HB 1184, a bill that would allow counties whose populations exceed 190,000 to form civil service commissions.

And they voted 4 to 1 for the resolution.

The one hold out? Richard Morrison. That’s why voters voted for Morrison, and that’s why others of us asked them to. The people needed a voice on the commissioners court, and now we have one.

And we’re waiting patiently for the other Democrat, or shall I say alleged Democrat on the court to come around and vote with the people.

Now what reason did Judge Hebert give the legislature to have this much-needed piece of legislation put down? Well, it seems that the county sheriff, Milton Wright, has complained to the judge that there isn’t enough time between now and September for him to get his department in compliance with a new set of rules governing how sheriff’s deputies are hired, paid, promoted, disciplined and fired.

It’s just not enough time.

OK, I think it is time for a lesson in English.

Here is what the bill says:

"SECTION 1. Section 158.002, Local Government Code, is amended to read as follows:

Sec. 158.002. ELIGIBLE COUNTIES. (a) A county with a population of 190,000 or more may, in accordance with this subchapter, create a county civil service system to include all the employees of the county who are not exempted from the system by the express terms or judicial interpretations of this subchapter or by the operation of Subchapter B."

[Emphasis is mine]

I think Sheriff Wright spent most of his time looking at that population number. 190,000. Because if memory serves, the most recent census records shows that Fort Bend County’s population exceeds 190,000.

So automatically, Sheriff Wright must have looked at the third and last section:

“SECTION 3. This Act takes effect immediately if it receives a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, as provided by Section 39, Article III, Texas Constitution. If this Act does not receive the vote necessary for immediate effect, this Act takes effect September 1, 2009.”

Sheriff Wright must be a Half Full type of guy, because he assumed that the bill wouldn’t get a 2/3rds majority vote, and would go into effect, if at all, in September.

Now the English lesson:

Sheriff Wright may not know the difference between the words “shall” and “may.” This is ironic because in law and legalese, they are two really important words.

“Shall” refers to the fact that one has no choice but to act. It is the word that legislators use mostly against teachers when they want them to do something, or when they want them to be punished for some new infraction.

“May” is a much friendlier word. It refers to the fact that the affected one has an option. They can do the thing . . . or not. If they do it or don’t do it, it’s all copasetic. “May” is a word that you almost never see used in legislation regarding the education profession.

So I think that the sheriff protests too much. Too much hand wringing at what a county “may” do. Calm down, Sheriff Wright. Just because the legislature clears the way for the county to set up a civil service commission doesn’t mean that it has to do it.

That’s just common sense.

It is also common sense to wonder what Judge Hebert and what County Commissioner Patterson will have to say to the county electorate from this September until this November when they have failed to form a civil service commission.

Oh, is that what this is all about?

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