Thursday, March 5, 2009

Reports on TURF Lobby Day

Here is an account by TURF’s Terri Hall of Lobby Day on March 3. Lobby Day goals included killing the Trans-Texas Corridor for good and strengthening eminent domain protections.

Grassroots Lobby Day a success!

Written by Terri Hall
Wednesday, 04 March 2009
Concerned citizens took the time off work in difficult economic times and traveled hundreds of miles from all over the state (DFW, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and everywhere in between were represented) to make their voices heard as part of TURF's Lobby Day. From wanting to raid public employee retirement funds to finance risky toll projects, and to hand over our highway system to foreign toll operators, to allowing the conversion of existing freeways into tollways and looking the other way when our reckless highway department engages in lobbying with taxpayer money, TEXANS are STANDING-UP and demanding that these irresponsible practices come to an END!

We started with a press conference on the East Capitol steps with 6 other organizations who shared the same message: Slow down TxDOT and spend the stimulus funds wisely, including NO STIMULUS FUNDS FOR TOLL ROADS! Projects aren't necessarily being chosen based on priority or even where the people and congestion are, but on anything they can conjure up as "shovel ready," including playing politics with the final list.

We had a great crowd, catchy homemade signs, and got national press coverage!Then it was off to the House gallery to learn about the proceedings in that chamber and to be introduced from the House floor by Representative Ruth Jones McClendon. Next,TURF supporters met one on one with their representatives to share the Citizens Agenda below:Citizens’ Toll Road/Eminent Domain Reform Agenda

* A Sunset Bill that provides real reform of TxDOT like abolishing Transportation Commission and replacing with single ELECTED Commissioner and Legislative Oversight Committee;
* Stop any and all conversions of freeway lanes into toll lanes
* Affordable transportation funding like raising or indexing the gas tax and ending diversions from the gas tax so that the funds are used strictly for transportation purposes;
* End privatization of our PUBLIC infrastructure through Public Private Partnership (PPPs known as CDAs in TX) * Prevent pension fund investment in risky PPPs;
* Local control and decision-making, so that any toll road projects are planned and voted on regionally;
* Real eminent domain reform (that provides just compensation including for diminished access to property, such as HB 2006 that was passed by the Texas legislature in 2007, but vetoed by Gov. Perry)
* Protecting unique and sensitive environments, such as the Blackland Prairies, Edwards Aquifer

We also delivered the TURF Edition of Truth Be Tolled to EVERY legislator as well as our Toll Road/CDA Fact Sheet highlighting the problems with widespread tolling and handing over our infrastructure to private, foreign companies.

We finished up with a mini workshop on the legislative process, or Legislation 101, and heard from some key lawmakers: House Transportation Committee Chair Joe Pickett, and from the offices of Speaker Joe Straus and Rep. David Leibowitz. This session emphasized the need for vigilant public involvement in the legislative process, particularly as watchdogs at the committee level.

Feedback for the day was positive and the overall consensus was that Lobby Day proved helpful in learning about the process.Concerned citizens can stay informed with important action items through TURF's Grassroots Action Center.


The Star-Telegram covered Lobby Day at
“The daylong lobbying mission was organized by several transportation watchdog groups . . . [they] demanded that lawmakers clamp down on the Texas Department of Transportation and scrap any vestiges of Gov. Rick Perry’s Trans-Texas Corridor, which originally called for a $184 billion network of toll roads.”

From the American-Statesman:


Called it “our home run in the press yesterday . . .
(click here for News 8 coverage ) at the lobby day and press conference organized by TURF, Citizen's Transportation Coalition and various members of Texas Alliance for Reform (including Independent Texans) .”

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