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Senate leaders: Private toll-road bill DOA
By Mike Ward | Thursday, July 2, 2009, 02:43 PM
Austin American Statesman
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Senate leaders just announced publicly what senators had confirmed an hour ago: A bill to continue to allow more privately built toll roads to be constructed is dead in the special legislative session.
And lawmakers plan to finish their other business — approving the issuance of $2 billion in road-building bonds and continuing the operations of five state agencies — and then go home later today.
Dewhurst said attempts for a compromise on the toll-road bills — Senate Bill 3 and House Bill 3 — failed amid growing questions about whether any action on the matter was needed before the Legislature convenes in regular session again in January 2011.
State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, chairman of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, said the urgency of the matter waned after local and state transportation assured legislative leaders that no projects would be killed or delayed by the lack of a vote.
“If it was a critical issue, we’re here to deal with it,” Corona said. “But we have been assured … that no major project is going to be left behind … We will take this (issue) up in 2011.”
Gov. Rick Perry had called lawmakers back into special session to address three issues: The bonds, to continue the operations of the five agencies that otherwise would have shut down, and to give the authority of the Texas Department of Transportation continued authority to contract for the privately built toll roads — through deals called “comprehensive development agreements.”
Dewhurst said Perry’s reaction to let the third issue on the agenda die without action was: “roads need to get built.”
“They will,” Corona said. “It would be a mistake to do away with CDAs. But we need to take some time to look at this issue, and we can do that in 2011 without any impact on projects.”
So with the controversial issue off the table, here’s what the schedule for the rest of the special session looks like:
At 3:30 p.m., the Senate Finance Committee is expected to approve House Bill 1 (bonds). It will then go to the full Senate for a vote, probably about 5 p.m.
The House earlier today approved Senate Bill 2 (continuation of the agencies, also called the safety-net bill).
Adjournment of both the Senate and the House is expected by early this evening.