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.