Now that we are between the end of the regular session of the Legislature and the beginning of a special session that Gov. Perry may call for later this summer, this is a good time to recap what happened to the main bills related to the Corridor and the TxDOT Sunset process (HB 300).
The last day of the regular session, the House acted to keep some state agencies, including TxDOT, in business by including them in legislation related to stimulus funding. This action would have caused TxDOT reorganization to be brought up in the 2011 session. However, the evening of the last session day, the Senate did not act on the House solution, thus leaving the future of TxDOT officially up in the air. Technically, if nothing further is done, TxDOT could begin a one-year process of shutting down on September 1 and go out of existence in September 2010.
Practically speaking, no one expects this to happen. Perry has said he will call a special session, although he has not said when or what issues would be included. Some expect that keeping the agencies going will be the bare minimum that will be in the special session.
BILL TO KILL THE CORRIDOR LEFT IN COMMITTEE
HB 11 by Leibowitz (D-San Antonio) would have repealed TxDOT’s “authority for the establishment and operation of the Trans-Texas Corridor.” HB 11 received a hearing in the House Transportation Committee, but was left pending in committee. During the House debate on HB 300—the omnibus TxDOT Sunset bill—Leibowitz succeeded in adding repealing the TTC to HB 300. Unfortunately, with the death of HB 300, repealing TTC also died for the regular session.
TxDOT SUNSET BILL DIED AS TIME RAN OUT
HB 300, the TxDOT Sunset bill was voted out of the House and the Senate in two different forms. The House/Senate conference committee that was supposed to reconcile the two versions could not come up with a final bill that was readily acceptable by the membership of both houses, and HB 300 died when time ran out in the session.
Isett (R-Lubbock) authored HB 300, the TxDOT Sunset bill, and was the manager of it as it went through the House. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports: “Isett said that since Perry said he will call a special session, he hopes the lawmakers finish the entire legislative package left on the table when the clock ran out. . . . ‘My preference is that we give that agency legislative direction,’ Isett said. . . . I still believe that it is an agency that needs to be updated and reformed at many different levels.’”
REPLACING TRANSPORTATION COMMISSION FAILS
HB 565, by McClendon (D-San Antonio) attempted to abolish the Texas Transportation Commission and replace it with an elected state Transportation Commissioner. This bill was left pending in the House Transportation Committee.
While the House was debating TxDOT Sunset, some representatives tried again for some sort of elected Transportation Commission, and the final language called for an elected state-wide Commissioner plus 14 commission members elected from districts around the state. The Senate’s version kept the five governor-appointed commissioners, but reduced terms from six to two years and mandated commissioners leaving when their terms are up.
With the death of the TxDOT Sunset bill, efforts to change the Transportation Commission are stalled for now.
BILL TO PROHIBIT TxDOT FROM PROMOTING TOLL ROADS, INCLUDING TTC, PASSES BOTH HOUSES—SENT TO GOVERNOR
Another bill from McClendon was HB 2142, which prohibits TxDOT from spending our taxpayer money to actively promote toll roads, including the Corridor. TxDOT spent millions on their Keep Texas Moving campaign, which used advertising and lobbying to advocate the building of the Corridor and other toll roads. Terri Hall’s TURF organization sued TxDOT, saying that Keep Texas Moving was an improper use of taxpayer funds. The suit is still pending. In the meantime, McClendon’s bill puts an end to this type of campaign statutorily. It does not forbid putting out neutral informational material. HB 2142 passed both houses and has been sent to the Governor.