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Lubbock City Council Approves Legislative Agenda, Approves LEDA Activities, Discusses Synthetic Marijuana

Cole Shooter, KFYO.com

In a relatively short meeting on Monday, the Lubbock City Council set their legislative agenda and discussed the next steps in considering potential bans on synthetic marijuana.

No Council members pulled any items for discussion from the consent agenda, allowing the group to move quickly from being chastised during citizen comments into the regular agenda.

The Council approved a resolution which gave approval to the projects, programs, and activities of Lubbock Economic Development Alliance, Inc. and Market Lubbock, Inc.

Within the past fiscal year, LEDA has had 16 business commitments to Lubbock, resulting in 564 new jobs created in the area and $28.7 million in new capital improvements.

Cole Shooter, KFYO.com

LEDA President and CEO John Osborne discussed the projects, saying “all this combined results in an annual economic impact, once they are fully operational, of about $120.4 million.”

LEDA leaders also pointed out that their audits are available at their website at www.lubbockeda.org.

The Council approved the contract resolution 5-1, District 1 Councilman Victor Hernandez dissenting, and District 2 Councilman Floyd Price absent due to illness.

Next, the Council considered the City’s proposed 2013 legislative agenda.

Items highlighted in the legislative agenda include initiating items which would strengthen cities’ voices in utility regulatory issues, and supporting the Sunset Commission on changes to the Texas Railroad Commission, which recommends moving contest gas hearings to the State Office of Administrative Hearings, so they may conduct independent hearings for gas utility and enforcement cases.

The legislative package also includes support for preserving cities’ authority to regulate oil well production within city limits, enabling legislation to allow local voters to approve sales tax funded projects, and creating statewide laws regarding the use of mobile devices while driving. They will also support of the State Library legislative appropriations request, including shared digital content and innovation partnership grants.

The package lists that the City of Lubbock will oppose the elimination of cities’ original jurisdiction over investor-owned utilities, limiting cities’ ability to be reimbursed for legal and other fees in utility rate cases, fees that double-charge cities that have already secured adequate water resources, and any legislation that would inhibit the ability of cities to charge for the delivery of water, sewer, or other critical services to citizens.

District 3 Councilman Todd Klein offered an amendment to the package to remove the item regarding support of a ban on mobile uses while driving, instead supporting keeping the decision on a local level. The amendment was seconded by District 6 Councilwoman Latrelle Joy, who voiced concern that the Council had not yet fully given support for a potential ban. Klein’s amendment failed 2 to 4.

Another amendment was made to the package regarding which City officials would make quick decisions in regards to the lobbying package.

Cole Shooter, KFYO.com

Prior to the amendment offered by Joy, the mayor had the ability to make on-the-spot decisions, but the amendment moved the quick decision making to Mayor Glen Robertson and any two Council members, just one member short of a quorum.

Joy’s amendment passed unanimously. The legislative package passed 5-1, Klein voting against the measure.

In a work session item, City Attorney Sam Medina informed the Council that the City’s legal department would have some potential legal options for them to choose from at their first meeting in January, regarding the sale and use of synthetic marijuana and other substances such as bath salts.

“If this was an easy problem to resolve, it would have been resolved years ago by the federal government and the state government,” said Medina.

The City’s legal department is first looking into potential criminalization of the substances, while the Board of Health is studying methods of educating the public regarding the drugs, as was directed by the Council at their last meeting.

“I would much prefer to keep the legal over here and let them do the education,” Medina responded, following questions from Hernandez regarding presenting potential ordinances to the Board of Health.

District 5 Councilwoman Karen Gibson has suggested forming an ad hoc committee composed of herself, Klein, and Hernandez and putting together a temporary ordinance as a first step.

“Give us some time. We want to do it right. I don’t want to just throw anything out there where they can come back in and backdoor us, because that’s just what they’ll do,” said Gibson, speaking of those that sell the substances.

The Council will have possible options regarding the substances at their meeting on January 10th, 2013.

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