Thursday, April 23, 2009

HB 9--companion to Carona's SB 855 for local transportation taxes--heard on April 21

During the Tuesday hearing, after the relatively short time spent on HB 11 and 13, the Transportation Committee heard several hours of testimony on HB 9 by Vicki Truitt, Keller. This is the companion bill to Sen. Carona's large complicated SB 855 to allow some of the largest urban areas in the state to vote among several possible taxes and fees to raise money in their local area to pay for local transportation projects.

Teams of boosters from the areas that want this power testified up into the evening. (I left before it was over.) Testifiers included elected officials and business people. The most unexpected sighting for me was Nolan Ryan, who joined other witnesses from North Texas to advocate for HB 9. I was sorry that my husband the big baseball fan was not there to see him.

Ryan's main point was that the traffic congestion in the vicinity of the Ballpark at Arlington is keeping fans away, especially during the week, including Friday evening. I don't know if any of the projects that the North Texas leaders want most will help that traffic problem, but it was interesting to see and hear him in person.

I had thought that the Transportation Committee members would give all the HB 9 testimony a favorable reception so was surprised by the close questioning of the bill's author Rep. Truitt, especially by Reps. Harper-Brown and Davis. Both are from the DFW area, but they are not sold on the HB 9 approach. They and other members also questioned other witnesses at length on the details of the bill, and it certainly has many complicated details. The menu of taxes that the areas can choose from even varies from area to area!

Chairman Joe Pickett left HB 9 pending in committee and according to Rodger Jones, Dallas Morning News, Pickett seemed skeptical that HB 9 was the right approach, saying, "We do need a plan. We need a statewide plan." The author Rep. Truitt responded, "If you don't mind, I'm going to keep working on this bill." Maybe making changes that were discussed during the hearing will bring more representatives on board, but it looks like local transportation taxes may face more trouble getting through the House than the Senate.

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