Monday, June 1, 2009

TxDOT Sunset dead; TxDOT lives until 2011; what about the Trans-Texas Corridor?

After the last several months of the TxDOT Sunset process and the 2009 session, it looks like both the good reforms and the bad additions have NOT made it through. Lots of time and energy expended for nothing, as far as TxDOT reforms go. TxDOT Sunset crept “in this petty pace . . . a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”


Not only did TxDOT Sunset not pass, but also TxDOT was not even saved by the usual method of placing TxDOT survival in the “safety net” legislation.

As reported by the Statesman political blog, the House added keeping TxDOT open “to a bill authorizing state agencies to receive federal stimulus dollars. Agencies have to be open in order to get stimulus dollars . . . So the House corrected the stimulus bills to say that the departments at risk [including TxDOT] would stay open.”


One interesting aspect of doing it this way is that if TxDOT had been continued by the usual “safety net” process, it would have been up for Sunset review in 2013. Now, the TxDOT Sunset Review will happen again in the 2011 session. See the explanation on the Star-Telegram political blog.


The Statesman political blog reports that the Senate may not agree that the House action is allowable.
“Word is there could be a problem with the House wording: It may not allow TxDOT to issue the $2 billion in bonds it needs to continue road-building projects. Big problem that would be. And a bigger one: The House adjourned sine die about 20 minutes ago. So they’ve left the Capitol for good, at least in this legislative session. No way to fix any mistake now.”


Of course, since HB 300, the TxDOT Sunset Bill, died in the House, there was no need for Sen. Carona to filibuster it in the Senate. The Dallas Morning News political blog says, “A smiling Sen. John Carona said Monday he didn’t have to bring his tennis shoes to the Senate floor on Monday after his filibuster threat . . . was made moot by the House decision . . . to let the proposal die.”


The Senate has just adjourned “without approving a key measure to keep five agencies in business—including TxDOT,” according to the Statesman political blog.
“Senate leaders said they expect Perry will call the Legislature back into session to deal with the new crisis. . . . Short of a special legislative session the agencies will begin shutting down in coming months.”


Unfortunately, since HB 300, the TxDOT Sunset Bill, is dead, the language that repealed the Trans-Texas Corridor is also dead. At the beginning the session, Rep. Leibowitz of San Antonio filed HB 11 that specifically repealed TxDOT’s authority to create the TTC which was left pending in committee. However, the language was added to HB 300, where it has died.

Fortunately, the Comprehensive Development Agreements/Public Private Partnerships may also have died. These CDA/PPP were the building blocks of the TTC “vision.” The TTC would have been built by private corporations like Cintra of Spain, who would have been working under comprehensive development agreements. These CDA/PPP’s were added to HB 300, thus allowing segments of the TTC to be built in this way, even if the name TTC was removed.

Without the passage of HB 300, these CDA/PPP’s are due to expire in September. So the language repealing the TTC did not pass. However, the foundational building blocks of the TTC, CDA/PPP’s, also did not pass, and this method of highway construction will expire.

All in all, at this point, we have made further progress against the TTC during this session.

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