Saturday, May 30, 2009

HB 300 TxDOT Sunset Bill--filibustered?

Patricia Kilday Hart reports on the burkablog

that Sen. Carona is considering filibustering HB 300, the TxDOT Sunset Bill, because earlier today the House-Senate conference committee stripped out of it Carona's local option transportation tax. Hart says the final committee report "was not shown to Transportation Chair Carona or Vice-Chair Kirk Watson, but signed and filed by Senate conferees Glenn Hegar, Chuy Hinojosa and Robert Nichols." How does this happen? Did the rest of the committee just wait until the chair and vice-chair of the Senate Transportation & Homeland Security Committee were both out of the room at the same time, sign the thing real quick, and then take off at a run to file it? I'm having trouble picturing this.

In addition to Hegar, Hinojosa, and Nichols signing for the Senate, Linda Harper-Brown, Joe Pickett (Chair of the House Transportation Committee), Wayne Smith, and Carl Isett (author of HB 300), signed for the House. The only House conferee not to sign was Ruth Jones McClendon.

Previously, Carona has said he will not accept the TxDOT Sunset Bill if it does not contain his local option plan. From this point, the signed bill without his local option plan will be printed and distributed to the Senate and the House to be voted on by all members. It is not clear how soon the 1,000-plus-page bill call be printed and distributed, so it is uncertain when the votes in both houses will occur. It has to be before the session ends on Monday, June 1. Is it feasible for a Carona filibuster to prevent a Senate vote and thus kill HB 300? If this happens, TxDOT will have to be continued for two years by the "safety net" bill and its Sunset process taken up by the next session

SB 18 eminent domain protection is dead

While we are breathlessly awaiting word from the HB 300 TxDOT Sunset conference committee, let's use this time to consider some instructive insights from Martha Estes about another bill that we had high hopes for this session--SB 18, more protection from eminent domain.

See the most recent ACRE post on this issue:

For other ACRE eminent domain posts, click on the "eminent domain" tag at the bottom of that post.

Re SB 18, Martha laments:

"IT IS DEAD: About the EMINENT DOMAIN bill & SB 18 by Estes.. IT IS DEAD

". . . the Eminent Domain BILL was used as a 'bargaining position' to exact support for other bills. SO... holding it up in the Senate State Affairs Cmte. & Senate was necessary to maintain the upper hand in the backroom deals.

"RULE: What you FIRST see is OFTEN NOT what you get.. it is likely disguised or likely to undergo transformational surgery through amendments or committee substitutes & often BOTH.

"STRATEGY: Sending bills through CERTAIN committees guarantees their outcome & controls their "speed". Obvious Example: Rep. Mike Krusee as Chair of the Transportation Cmte. until this session.

"TEASER: The Eminent Domain bill was hyped statewide MORE than any OTHER transportation related bill (to 'please or appease the masses') with the Local Option having a big, COSTLY public relations roll-out (HillCo lobby firm) at first & then growing quiet (but working feverishly behind the scenes) when there was some loud opposition.. as WE well know.

"KEYHOLE MOMENT on a resolution of interest to the masses: The revelations in the Dallas paper related to the VETO OVERRIDE resolution HJR 29 is a good example of what you DON'T ordinarily SEE behind the scenes."

[See the end of ACRE post
which discusses HJR 29 and Wentworth's unusual candor.]

Martha concludes, "Senator WENTWORTH's candor WILL cost him dearly in his next Republican primary. I'll take any bets on it.. and I am NOT a gambler."

TxDOT Sunset HB 300--down to the wire

According to leaders in the lege, if conferees don't reach agreement on HB 300, TxDOT Sunset, by about noon today, TxDOT will have to be continued under "safety net" legislation for the next two years, to be dealt with in the 2011 session. The latest from the Newspaper Tree doesn't sound like an agreement is immenent:

Sen. Carona still won't accept HB 300 in the Senate if it does not include the local transportation tax option. Both Pickett, House Transportation Chair, and Isett, author of HB 300, say the House will not go with HB 300 if it does include the local option.

We should know the outcome later today.

Friday, May 29, 2009

TxDOT Sunset HB 300--internal and external attacks

House and Senate conference committee members are now negotiating to see if the two different versions of the TxDOT Sunset bill can be reconciled. Given some issues that it seems that they will never agree on, will this HB 300 collapse from its own weight? A good explanation in the Star-Telegram:

The House has declared that it will never accept the local option transportation tax plan desired mainly by the DFW area, and the Senate has declared that it will not accept HB 300 without this plan.

The Star-Telegram reports a possible compromise: "Senate negotiators are offering to reduce two proposed fees on motorists and delay countywide elections by two years in a proposed compromise to keep a local transportation funding plan alive . . ."

While negotiations go on behind closed doors, there will be a very public rally and press conference: "Several hundred business and community leaders from Arlington, Burleson and other area cities planned to descend on the state Capitol today to show support for the local-option transportation provision, regarded as crucial to resolving worsening traffic congestion in North Texas."

In addition to the local option tax plan, the other major point of disagreement is red-light cameras. The House has placed a phase-out of the cameras in its version, but it is not in the Senate's.

Senate Transportation & Homeland Security Chair John Carona says that "local-option provisions are not negotiable." House Transportation Chair Joe Pickett says, according to the Star-Telegram, that he is "concerned that a provision widely opposed by the House membership could endanger the entire bill."

TURF, Liberty Matters, Texans Against Tolls, Independent Texans, and others are working to kill HB 300. They argue that the current version does not contain the desirable changes developed during the Sunset process and does contain most of the undesirable provisions that could not stand on their own and have been added under the table at the last minute. It could be that their efforts, plus the inability of the House and Senate to agree, will accomplish what seemed unlikely until recently--the death of HB 300, resulting in a TxDOT Sunset re-do, to be tackled in the 2011 session.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Kill HB 300 and start over

Analysis of the current HB 300, the TxDOT Sunset Bill, by Liberty Matters, TURF, Texans Against Tolls, Independent Texans, and others leads to the conclusion that the many amendments added to the original HB 300 by the House and the Senate have destroyed the original Sunset provisions that were carefully developed by the Sunset Commission staff and legislators that made up the original HB 300. These organizations are asking citizens to call their representatives and ask them to kill HB 300, pass "safety net" legislation that will allow TxDOT to continue for the next two years, and then prepare to do a new, clean TxDOT Sunset Bill in 2011.

Here are TURF's directions for contacting your Representative.

Contact your Texas STATE representatives and tell them:"KILL HB 300, and pass a safety net bill."

Find your STATE Representative here...Call the Capitol switchboard (512) 463-4630 between 8 AM - 5 PM. Most are there late into the evening, to get your reps direct phone numbers, go here...

You can also email your STATE Representative by using this formula: Plug in the name of your STATE Representative to:

You can also email your STATE Senator by using this formula: Plug in the name of your STATE Senator to:

Phone calls are best at this stage of the game...if you can't get through, keep calling and email.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Has time run out for eminent domain protection and veto override?

Last night, time may have run out on two important bills.
First, the Statesman’s Jason Embry reports on eminent domain legislation. SB 18 was passed by the Senate and was before the House when it shut down at midnight with many bills left on the calendar.

Embry says, “Many thought the chubbing might ease up enough Tuesday for some big non-voter ID bills to pass, such as the bill authorizing the state to get federal stimulus dollars for unemployment insurance and the eminent-domain legislation. But Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, had other ideas, launching his own talk-a-thon that ate up most of the day . . .

“So there are six days left in the session and some major Senate bills are (at best) in serious jeopardy because they did not pass the House: . . . eminent domain . . . If any of this is going to be salvaged, there is going to have to be major triage in the Senate . . . "

Let’s hope some “major triage” can save SB 18--stronger protection against eminent domain for landowners.

The second good bill in danger is HJR 29 that would allow the Legislature to come back after the regular session to override a governor’s veto. As reported by Christy Hoppe, Dallas Morning News, Sen. Jeff Wentworth says that Gov. Perry and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst “are conspiring to kill” this constitutional amendment.

From Hoppe’s article: “Sen. Jeff Wentworth, speaking with unusual candor against powerhouses in the Capitol, said Dewhurst betrayed a trust as the Senate's presiding officer to deal fairly and address bills that have the support of two-thirds of the 31-member Senate. Wentworth, R-San Antonio, said he had collected the signatures of 26 Senate supporters for the constitutional proposal, but Dewhurst told him that at the behest of the governor, he would not call up the bill for debate."

Wentworth said, "[Dewhurst] made a deal with the governor and gave his word he'd kill the bill. He told me that the governor has talked to him 20 times about it." The veto override passed the House easily and has been sitting in the Senate since May 15—more than enough time for it to be debated and passed by the 26 Senators that have signed up for it.

To allow Texans to vote on this amendment is overwhelmingly favored by their representatives in the House and the Senate. It is being killed by Perry and Dewhurst. What does this tell us about the need for this amendment?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Senate has passed TxDOT Sunset Bill--what might happen next?

The Statesman's Ben Wear discusses where TxDOT Sunset stands now and its possible future.

HB 300 started out in the House as a huge bill and it has grown. Wear says:

"The thing had gotten so big by the time it reached the Senate floor that staffers printed it in an unusual single-spaced, legal-size paper format just to keep the height of the stack down. . . . The rough estimate is that in normal format HB 300 was a 700-page bill at least when it hit the Senate floor."

There are important differences between the House and Senate versions, and Wear discusses what might happen now and the timing:

"First, the 15 or so Senate amendments have to be incorporated and it has to be printed. This alone could take 24 hours. But we’re told that in the meantime, or perhaps after this is done, the bill would then go back to the House for concurrence.

"[S]tep two, the House declines to concur and appoints its five conference committee members. The two leaders of this almost surely will be Rep. Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, the bill sponsor, and Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, the House Transportation Committee chairman. . . . [The Senate] will then appoint its own conference committee members. The leaders there will be Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, the Senate sponsor, and Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, chairman of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee.

"Both the House and Senate must vote for final bills emerging from conference committees by midnight Sunday, the session’s penultimate day. . . . Realistically, then, negotiations have to be done by sometime Friday."

Some sort of measure to keep TxDOT going, rather than Sunset it, must be passed. It sounds like it will be difficult to go through all these steps in time to complete all the reorganization contained in HB 300. If the House and Senate can't get this bill out in time, or if they complete their work, but Perry vetoes it, I assume there will be some mechanism to keep TxDOT going the way it is for two more years and start the whole Sunset process over again for the 2011 session. If this is the case, untold hours of work by the Sunset staff, legislators, and citizens giving input will have been for naught, at least at this point.

Monday, May 25, 2009

HB 300--TxDOT Sunset Bill--what if it doesn't pass?

A very clear explanation by Michael Lindenberger of the Dallas Morning News about where the TxDOT Sunset Bill started out in the House, how it was changed and weakened in the Senate, and where it stands now.

He concludes that it is even possible that the House and Senate are at an impass on this HB 300 and that it will not pass. If it does not pass, being a Sunset Bill, it could mean that TxDOT would cease to exist. Since that is not something that legislators would allow, they might pass something that would kick the can on down the road--continue TxDOT for only two years and try for reorganization again in two years.

I would hate for HB 300 to go down the drain, since it does now contain language that repeals the Trans-Texas Corridor. However, this could be taken out before final passage, if any, so everything is up in the air.

Thanks to Roger Baker for sending this around.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Yes to SB 18 for more protection against eminent domain

SB 18, the eminent domain bill by Estes is now on the House’s Major State Calendar. It was expected that it would go before the House today, but because the House has been clogged up for most of the day with delaying actions, this bill has not been acted on yet.

SB 18 has been changed somewhat since it was introduced. Some are saying that it has been fatally weakened, but others believe that it still gives property owners more rights than we have currently, including compensation for “diminished access” without using that exact phrase and providing for more transparency in the condemnation process.

The Texas Farm Bureau has been working on behalf of more protection against eminent domain throughout this session, and the Bureau is still strongly in favor of SB 18. To find your representative to ask him or her to vote for SB 18 go to

TURF alert about SB 17 and SB 404

See many more details below about SB 17 and SB 404 enabling the Trans-Texas Corridor even though legislators have tried to repeal it through an amendment in the TxDOT Sunset Bill. This letter from TURF's Terri Hall is a guest post on Eye on Williamson County.

Oppose SB 17 and SB 404

Liberty Matters, TURF, and Indy Texans have sent messages asking us to contact our representatives to vote against SB 17 and SB 404. Taken together, SB 17 by Nichols and SB 404 by Carona would enable Comprehensive Development Agreements/Public Private Partnerships and allow some of the Trans-Texas Corridor and other toll roads to be constructed, even though the TxDOT Sunset Bill still contains the amendment to repeal the TTC.

Right now, the House is bogged down with other matters, and as far as I can tell, has not gotten to these bills. Please contact your representative and ask him or her to vote against SB 17 and SB 404.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Rep. Maldonado issues report on legislative session

As the session draws to a close, our HD 52 Representative Diana Maldonado has issued a legislative round-up.

She said, "I am proud to have moved several key pieces of legislation through the House that will benefit District 52." She passed a bill to fund the Eastern Williamson County Higher Education Center in Taylor. She also passed legislation to help schools get electronic materials returned by students.

Rep. Maldonado passed a bill to allow Taylor and Hutto to use money from their hotel-motel tax revenues to fund recreational facilities, including the Eastern Williamson County Park in Taylor. She also succeeded in passing a "green" bill, that would require TxDOT to use recycled glass in new road projects. She said, "This will help reduce the amount of glass that goes into our landfills, and provide contractors with an environmentally friendly alternative."

She coauthored several bills to benefit especially her rural constituents. She was a coauthor on HB 11 to repeal the Trans-Texas Corridor. It was left pending in committee, but a similar measure made it into the TxDOT Sunset Bill, which passed the House and is before the Senate.

She also coauthored HB 13, which would have prevented free land to toll lane conversions, which was left pending. She was a coauthor on HB 1483 which provided greater protection from eminent domain. HB 1483 was left pending, but a similar Senate bill is still under consideration

Rep. Maldonado has achieved a large body of work this session, especially for a freshman legislator. She said, "I greatly appreciate all of the input and suggestions that have come in from thousands of constituents during this session. Your correspondence keeps me informed on your views and helps me to make decisions each day."

To see more information about legislation or to contact her office, go to her House website at

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Gov. 39% not the brightest bulb . . uh, the brightest political future

Yesterday, the National Journal asked their group of Republican insiders "Who among your party's current crop of governors has the brightest political future?"

Winning with 21 % was Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, followed by:

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour 20 percent
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty 17 percent
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist 13 percent
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford 8 percent
Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. 6 percent

National Journal noted, "Also receiving votes: Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, 5 percent each; no one, 2 percent; California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and "Pawlenty and Sanford," 1 percent each.

Rick Perry received no mention whatsoever.

Perry has been busy with more important things

. . . like having his spokesman criticize Kay Bailey Hutchison's bumper sticker contest. As reported by the Houston Chronicle

"You might think the winners of U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's bumper sticker contest would be of little interest to Gov. Rick Perry's camp as the legislative session enters its final days with major issues still up in the air.
You'd be wrong on that."

Mark Miner, a Perry spokesman, found fault with the contest and the winners. He is quoted as saying, "They should apologize to the three other people who may have participated in this questionable contest."

For the Hutchison campaign, Hans Klinger asked: "Why is Rick Perry's taxpayer funded mouthpiece more concerned about bumper sticker contests than he is the work of the legislature?"

It seems to me that people on the Governor's staff should be working on the business of the people of Texas, not officially commenting on Hutchison's contest that was solely a function of her campaign and that did not make any mention of Perry whatsoever that might have necessitated a response from his office.

Meanwhile, the Governor was busy writing his op-ed

First, I'll never believe that Rick Perry actually writes anything. Let us say that one or several ghostwriters came up with the piece that is in today's Statesman:

I think it's interesting that this explanation appears so long after the fact. Does he write very slowly? As a work by committee, did it take this long for it to go through several drafts and approvals?

Given Perry's attempt since the creation of the Trans-Texas Corridor in 2003 to disempower the rural landowners of Texas, he has a nerve talking about the powers reserved to the people.

He criticizes the federal government for "passing trillion-dollar bailouts [think $183.5 billion for the TTC, according to Corridor Watch], bullying states [think bullying of Texans by Perry's TxDOT], and even taking control of private companies [think taking the land of Texans FOR Cintra, a private company].

Then he praises "the concept of limited government," and he claims that "citizens and taxpayers should be outraged" by what the federal government is doing.

Do you think that he still doesn't know what we are outraged about? It is Perry and his friends, the big government/large private corporation partnerships that are working against the landowning citizens of Texas, the small businesses, the farm and ranch families, the people who are the backbone of the state. Perry has tried to institute a corporative state where large private concerns are able to take over and use the power of government to oppress the individual and take his private property.

With his op-ed, Perry is not going to win over the voters who know his true colors, and he's lost some of the folks who thought he WAS speaking favorably about secession and agreed with him. Now, as far as they're concerned, he's "gone wobbly" on the issue. As Peter Stern comments, "Confucius once stated, 'Beware of the man who blows hot and cold with one breath.' He must have been speaking with Gov. Rick Perry in mind."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Legislative update--some Corridor and Rail bills

The deadline for the House to pass House bills was reached at midnight last night. If a representative’s legislation was not passed by then, it is dead, unless the representative can attach it, or pieces of it, to appropriate Senate legislation.

An update on some bills we have been following:

HJR 29 by Elkins proposes a constitutional amendment to allow the legislature to override a veto of the governor following a legislative session, thus making sure that the governor can’t solely override the will of the people and their legislators after a session—too late for the veto to be overridden, no matter how many votes it might have--which is what happened to eminent domain legislation in the 2007 session. HJR easily passed the House and is on the calendar for a second vote by the Senate on Monday, May 18. Hope this amendment passes and is put on the ballot for us to vote on.

SB 1923 by Watson would use certain fees to put money into the Texas Rail Relocation Fund. Since many of the officials and lobbyists who want to fund rail relocation want to expand the rail line through Coupland or build a new big route through the Coupland area, I hope this bill does not pass the Senate. It is on the Senate calendar for second reading.

HB 2142 by McClendon would prohibit TxDOT from using taxpayer money to promote the Trans-Texas Corridor and other toll roads. You may remember the annoying multi-million- dollar Keep Texas Moving advertising campaign. TxDOT also used our money for lobbying for toll roads. This campaign resulted in TxDOT being sued by TURF—case still pending. HB 2142, which forbids such campaigns, has passed the House and heads to the Senate, where the same legislation (by Sen. Carona) has already passed. Looks promising for this good legislation.

HB 300, the large TxDOT Sunset Bill that passed the House WITH an amendment repealing the Trans-Texas Corridor has gone to the Senate, where it is scheduled for a public hearing on May 18, in Transportation & Homeland Security Committee. Pundits are saying that the final form of HB 300 will be determined by the upcoming House and Senate conference committee.

Thanks to Martha Estes for helping us follow what is going on at the Capitol.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Contact your senator to support HJR 14

The Institute for Justice is the public interest law firm that represented Suzette Kelo in her fight to keep her home that resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court Kelo decision IN FAVOR OF TAKING PRIVATE PROPERTY from individuals and giving it to others for economic development purposes. They are asking that we contact our senator to support HJR 14--the constitutional amendment to put better protection against eminent domain abuse into the Texas constitution.

HJR 14 has passed the House. If the Senate passes it with a two-thirds majority, it will appear on the November ballot so that we can vote FOR more protection of private property. Now is the time to contact your senator to support of HJR 14. For many of us, our senator is:
Steve Ogden

If he is not your senator, please click on the link in the message below to find your senator.

From: the Institute for Justice

On Monday, the House unanimously passed H.J.R. 14, a constitutional amendment that would end eminent domain abuse in Texas. If the Senate passes H.J.R. 14 by a two-thirds vote, it will appear on the November ballot, and you - the voters of Texas - will be able to vote for better property rights protections. Now, more than ever, it is critical that you make your voice heard and support H.J.R. 14. Call your Texas Senator and tell them you support H.J.R. 14 TODAY. You can find their contact information here:

Forward this link to all of your friends and family: Encourage them to take a few minutes today to call their Texas Senator.The Senate will vote soon. Please call immediately. This is it. It's been four years since the Kelo decision. The future of property rights in Texas rests in the hands of the Texas State Senate. We have to let them know how important stopping eminent domain for private gain is to Texans.

Thank you for continuing to stand on the frontlines of the battle against eminent domain abuse. Christina Walsh
Institute for Justice TEXAS CHAPTER
816 CONGRESS AVE, SUITE 960 AUSTIN, TX 78701 (512) 480-5936 FAX (512) 480-5937

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Burka asks: What does killing the Trans-Texas Corridor mean?--ACRE answers

Paul Burka has posted and received comments about HB 300, the TxDOT Sunset Bill.

I commented that one of the things that should be kept in HB 300 is killing the Trans-Texas Corridor. Burka asked what did people mean by killing the TTC. Below is my reply to his question:

I would say that killing the Trans-Texas Corridor is what is intended by HB 11 by Rep. Leibowitz, which is the “repeal of authority for the establishment and operation of the Trans-Texas Corridor.” I don’t know if this is the language of the amendment that was added to HB 300. It is my understanding that the amendment to HB 300 would be something like HB 11. The purpose would be to take away the authority to create and operate the TTC that was given to TxDOT by HB 3588 in 2003.

As long as this authority to create an entity with the name of TTC is still in statute and still in other official documents such as the Environmental Impact Statement (which is still stuck at the Federal Highway Administration), there is the danger that the project will be resurrected.

The project itself is as described in the document “Crossroads of the Americas” which lays out the design of the TTC as a multi-modal, almost quarter-mile wide swath of routes in a network that criss-crosses Texas—ten vehicular lanes, six rail lines, pipelines, and utility zone, with all concessions within the TTC boundaries—that would sweep through the state, bypassing cities, thus depriving them of trade as well as tax base, because of all the acreage taken out of the local taxing districts.

As it unfolded, it was intended that the TTC be a public-private partnership, giving Cintra (a Spanish corporation) the right to profit from land taken from Texas landowners through eminent domain by the state and turned over to Cintra.

For years, our family and our neighbors have been fighting the TTC. Considering all our efforts added to the efforts of other grass-roots groups along the Corridor routes, there is no telling how many hours, days, years of time and energy we have had to take away from other endeavors to spend in the effort to save our land. These efforts required our time and money, while the people who have been trying to take our land away from us have been well-paid with our own tax money.

Over the years, those of us working against the TTC have had gradual and hard-won success. Not that it was totally due to anti-Corridor efforts, but one instance that I would like to point out is that it was “our Representative” Mike Krusee who authored HB 3588 to create the TTC. Now, our current Representative Diana Maldonado is a coauthor of HB 11 that would abolish the Corridor.

We have made progress, and the TTC name has been disavowed, but the TTC is not dead. So many Texans have spent so many hours fighting the Corridor—hours that could have been put to more productive use—it would be great if this burden could be lifted from the shoulders of rural Texans once and for all, either by HB 11 being voted out of committee and being passed by the Legislature or by keeping language totally repealing the authority for the TTC in HB 300 as it is passed by the Legislature.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Kill the TTC is in HB 300, the TxDOT Sunset Bill

The very big, very complicated TxDOT Sunset Bill, HB 300, seems to be passing the House with 160-180 amendments--with amendments to amendments--so it has been hard to find news about what did and did not make it into this bill. Also, there will need to be a third reading of the bill and one more vote before it goes from the House to the Senate.

Many, many thanks to Terri Hall and the folks at TURF who have the only reporting on the repeal of the Trans-Texas Corridor that I have been able to find. To see TURF commentary on many aspects of HB 300, go to the TURF news at

Regarding the main issue that we have been following at ACRE—fighting the Trans-Texas Corridor—an amendment repealing the TTC has been added to this version of HB 300.

At least two other provisions that we have been supporting also are in HB 300 at this point: prohibition on tolling existing roads (don’t know yet how this affects tolling 290 East) and elected leadership at TxDOT (a single statewide elected commissioner as head plus 14 regional elected commissioners).

TURF says, “A huge hats off to the leadership of Rep. David Leibowitz of San Antonio and Rep. Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham for leading the charge to get these MAJOR amendments into HB 300. Texans owe them a HUGE debt of gratitude.”

TURF is warning of a provision that allows public-private partnerships (such as Cintra’s with the TTC) to continue: “WE MUST STRIP OUT Phillips’ private toll contract provision that sells our highways to the highest bidder UPON THIRD READING OF THE HOUSE BILL, HB 300, Monday!”

For more details on all these provisions, good and bad, click on the link above.

To keep in our good amendments and to strip out the private toll contracts, TURF asks:

“CALL NOW. Repeat this message:
1) No private toll contracts that sell our highways to foreign corporations (strip Phillips’ sneaky amendment to extend these contracts that end the moratorium!)
2) YES to Leibowitz’ version of BAN on tolling existing roads (freeway to tollway conversions) (may save us from tolling 290 East)
3) NO Trans-Texas Corridor
4) YES to elected leadership at TxDOT
Find your legislator here:
Call the Capitol switchboard 512-463-4630 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. You can also email your legislator by using this formula:
Plug in the name of your state representative to:
Plug in the name of your state senator to:
But at this stage of the game, PHONE CALLS ARE BETTER!”

You can pick and choose from the above issues to talk to your legislator's office about, but please ask him or her to keep the repeal of the Trans-Texas Corridor in HB 300!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Report on House debate of TxDOT Sunset Bill--live Thursday night

Leibowitz amendment 57 to not allow conversions of free to toll lanes unless on MPO plan prior to September 2005.
Approved amendment to amendment 57 to allow Grayson Co. project that is started to continue.
House considering allowing members to register opposition to controversial amendments until 5 p.m. tomorrow. Don't know if repealing TTC is considered controversial.
Now they have gotten into red-light camera issue. Amendment to give TxDOT authority over these cameras. Amendment to the amendment proposed that sounds like weakening the red-light camera situation. Fussing breaks out. Amendment to amendment adopted. Menendez objects. Said cameras are in place as local control, shouldn't give state authority. As I understand it, the camera situation IS controversial in the Legislature right now, so this discussion could go on for some time.
Possibly tomorrow, there will be some news on the amendment to repeal TTC. Over and out for now.

House votes for single Transportation Commissioner--no news on killing TTC

I watched as much as I could of the live stream coverage of the House debate today of the massive TxDOT Sunset bill hoping to see if Rep. Kolkhorst's amendment to repeal the Trans-Texas Corridor made it in. I didn't see that this was brought up yet, and I haven't been able to find any coverage of it.

I did find an AP report that the House did adopt an amendment that would change the five-member Texas Transportation Commission (the current one appointed by Gov. 39%) to one Transportation Commissioner who would be elected statewide like the Agriculture Commissioner.

Another proposal being considered is the addition of 14 regional commissioners that would address the concern that the different constituents and needs of different areas of the state be represented.

The Legislature Online site shows that the House is still in session (10:20 p.m.) debating HB 300. They have just allowed amendments to the amendment against concession agreements to allow projects in progress to go forward, the best I can tell.

I would appreciate any news on killing the Corridor, if anybody has any.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

TURF Alert! Call now to add TTC repeal to TxDOT Sunset Bill

HB 11, the bill to kill the Corridor is stuck--left pending in committee. It is possible that it can be added as an amendment to the giant HB 300 TxDOT Sunset bill that goes to the House tomorrow. Below is TURF's call to action to try to get some good provisions added to HB 300, including the repeal of TTC. Please see TURF's explanation of where things stand now and call your representative:


This is it! Thursday, May 7, the House takes up the TxDOT Sunset bill, HB 300. It's a 200 page bill already and House members will try to attach every good and bad transportation bill that's been stalled in committee to the Sunset bill. This will be the ONLY major transportation bill to pass this session. Some VERY BAD provisions are already in HB 300 and we MUST strip them out, including a provision that opens a new loophole to allow them to TOLL EXISTING HIGHWAYS like 281, 1604, 290, 59, and many more.

We have a total of 11 amendments we're working on, including the BIGGIES: a bullet-proof prohibition on tolling existing roads, a REPEAL of the TRANS TEXAS CORRIDOR, and a provision to demand ELECTED leadership at TxDOT.


We need every man and woman in the state, all your friends, all your neighbors, all your co-workers to contact their State Representatives and start melting down the phones and say:
Fix HB 300:
1) STOP the loopholes & FINALLY prohibit tolling existing FREEways/roads
3) Give us ELECTED leadership at TxDOT
4) Support the TURF amendments
Find your State Representative for the Texas House here...