(Austin, TX, September 9, 2015) With voters overwhelmingly embracing a move away from toll roads by electing Greg Abbott as the new Texas Governor, many voters want to know how their elected leaders did in delivering on their promises. Anti-toll and property rights watchdog group Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) just released its Report Card from the 84th Legislature today. Over 75 anti-toll bills were filed. Combined with property rights legislation, the total came to 96.
Nine lawmakers achieved the distinction of earning an A+. Those legislators are: Jeff Leach, Matt Rinaldi, Scott Sanford, Matt Shaheen, Jonathan Stickland, and James White in the House, and Bob Hall, Don Huffines, and Lois Kolkhorst in the Senate.
“Having this many anti-toll champions in the legislature is a big improvement over last session when only Rep. Jonathan Stickland achieved the top grade of A+ with just three others achieving ‘A’s. However, there’s lots more work to be done and many lawmakers have a lot of room for improvement. Most anti-toll and property rights bills were watered down or never even got to the floor. That’s got to change in order to protect taxpayers from rampant double and triple taxation,” related Terri Hall, Founder/Director of TURF.
Other stars who earned an ‘A’ grade were Bryan Hughes and Will Metcalf in the House, and Charles Schwerter and Van Taylor in the Senate. Leadership overall fared better in the 84th session than in prior sessions with the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Speaker going from ‘F’s to ‘C’s.
In 2015, there are significantly fewer failing grades. In the House, it went from over 110 ‘F’s down to 54. In the Senate, it went from 28 ‘F’s to just 3. Most fell somewhere in the middle with ‘C’s, but many more came close to earning an ‘A’ with a big jump in those with ‘B’s.
A total of twelve bills, seven amendments and two riders to the budget were used to determine the grades. Most related to tolling and transportation, but a few bills or amendments related to property rights. Some were only relevant in one chamber. TURF lists the complete methodology and specific legislation at the end of the Report Card.
“With campaign season in full swing in many areas of the state, it’s vital for voters to know how their representatives voted while in office so they can hold them accountable,” notes Hall. “Now’s the time to compare notes to what was promised and what was actually delivered.”
TURF’s top priorities included:
• Stopping the flow of public money to toll roads (especially gasoline taxes – SJR 43/SB 1182, SB 1172, HB 122 by Huffines, Nichols, Pickett).
• Taking the tolls off the road when they’re paid for (SB 485/HB 1734/HB 3725 – by Kolkhorst, Shaheen, Sanford).
• Removing loopholes that allow freeway lanes to be converted to toll lanes (HB 1835/SB 1238/SB 937 by Sanford, Taylor, V., Kolkhorst).
• Stripping eminent domain authority from a grandfathered private toll corporation (HB 565/SB 444/HB 1004 by Burkett, Hall, and Davis, Y.).
• Prohibit the authorization of more public private partnership toll roads.
End diversions of the gasoline tax (SJR 12, SB 61, HJR 36, HJR 27/HJR 28/HJR 29, HB 2737/HJR 114 by Perry, Huffines, Larson, Pickett, and Capriglione).
• Dedicate the vehicle sales tax to highways (SB 5/SJR 5, SB 341, HB 202, HB 373, HB 469/HJR 53, HB 1081/HJR 53, HB 2686 by Nichols, Huffines, Leach, Simmons, Metcalf, Paul, and Shaheen)
• Abolish Regional Mobility Authorities (SB 1150, SB 721/HB 528, SB 1184/HB 3114, HB 1257 by Hall, Burton, Larson, Huffines, Dale, Shaheen).
TURF achieved versions of six out of eight of their top priorities.
For a complete list of TURF’s legislative agenda and bills filed, go here.