We’ve come full circle. We started the session fighting this Governor, and we’ve ended the session the same way. The only difference is that the Legislature could have given us a slam dunk (HB 1892), but caved and left more in doubt, including the fate of the Trans Texas Corridor, than it made explicit. However, what isn’t in doubt is that whatever projects move forward, we’ll be charged the highest tolls!
The TTC will not be stopped by SB 792….urban toll projects will not be stopped by this. AND it gives the PUBLIC tolling entities yet another “tool” in the toolbox to charge concession fees on PUBLIC toll roads like private equity deals, which to the end user still means the highest possible tolls at a time of record high gas prices. When this stuff hits the fan, those 19 who voted against SB 792 will be vindicated. It’s HB 3588 from 2003 all over again! (Read more here).
Though it was evident the Legislature WAS NOT going to override the veto of HB 1892 since the Senate caved to Perry Monday, May 14, the more information about provisions of the “compromise” bill hatched behind closed doors by Senators John Carona, Tommy Williams, and Kim Brimer, among others, came to light, the more the grassroots OPPOSED SB 792.
Despite a last minute attempt to avert disaster, the House voted to pass SB 792 Saturday, May 26, 2007. When the senators brokered a deal, it became abundantly clear that the odds of stopping the SB 792 Perry freight train were slim to nil. What I kept hearing from reps was they wouldn’t take on the Governor because of his threats to call a special session. The vast majority of them were more concerned about starting their summer break than passing the PEOPLE’S bill! Rather than work their colleagues in the Senate to keep the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto of HB 1892, they all threw their hands up and started the blame game, including caving on nearly every taxpayer protection.
Short of Representative Nathan Macias, it was hard to find ANYONE willing to face a MAJOR shift in transportation policy that was inserted by this Governor into SB 792 late in the session, called “market valuation.” This policy has never had a public debate before it was adopted. The more legislators I spoke with, the more I realized they didn’t understand the implications nor did they want to. They wanted to stick their heads in the sand hoping and wishing for things rather than face what was ACTUALLY IN THE BILL. Even grassroots heroes like Lois Kolkhorst, were left saying “I know in my heart this is a moratorium” Friday morning after the conference committee report emerged without amendment 13 and several others.
Well, “knowing in your heart” won’t be enough to restrain TxDOT in the off-season when the Legislature is out of session and they proceed with extracting the MOST MONEY possible from the traveling public through market based tolls (read more here). Nineteen members could see the writing on the wall and realized this bill is just like 2003 when an omnibus transportation bill shows up at the end of a session and gets rushed through with new language that will come back to haunt reps later.
THE GOOD GUYS:
Nathan Macias lead the charge along with David Leibowitz, Lon Burnam, Joaquin Castro, Garnet Coleman, Joe Farias, Jessica Farrar, Stephen Frost, Ana Hernandez, Jodie Laubenberg, Trey Martinez Fischer, Ruth McClendon, Sid Miller, Ken Paxton, Robert Puente, Joe Straus, Senfronia Thompson, Marc Veasey, and Mike Villarreal.
Notably absent from this list is San Antonio Representative Frank Corte whose district is under a FULL toll assault on both Hwy 281 and Loop 1604! The rest who voted FOR SB 792 can’t use the excuse that they didn’t know what they were voting on this time, because we educated them about what was in the bill. They also received multiple bulletins informing them about the implications of market valuation.
To thank each of the good guys use this email formula: email@example.com (ie – firstname.lastname@example.org). They’re sure to get visits like this from the highway lobby’s goons.
House sends toll road compromise to governor
Bill includes moratorium on certain new, privately developed roads.
Sunday, May 27, 2007The House sent Gov. Rick Perry a compromise transportation bill Saturday that freezes most new privately financed toll road projects for two years yet dodges a threatened special legislative session.
House members voted 127-19 to accept the negotiated deal, which was approved by the Senate on Friday. The bill now heads to Perry, whose office worked on the compromise with lawmakers from both chambers.
"Today's action ensures that Texas will continue to have the tools needed to support the state's booming population and economic growth," Perry spokeswoman Krista Moody said.
Perry vetoed the first major transportation bill lawmakers sent him, saying it would shut down road construction, kill jobs and prevent access to federal highway money.
He threatened to call a special session if the Legislature overrode that veto and worked with members of both chambers to craft a compromise.
The Senate quickly passed the second bill, but the House added several amendments, forcing the appointment of a conference committee to find yet another middle course.
The legislation institutes a moratorium on most new privately developed toll roads. The compromise version includes more exemptions to appease critics, such as Rio Grande Valley officials who feared that the ban would hinder development of the Interstate 69 corridor.
The compromise bill also imposes limits on comprehensive development agreements, used in contracts for private-public road building.
Additionally, it sets up a process to determine a road's market value and makes it easier for local transportation authorities to take on projects in their areas.
Comprehensive development agreements are a relatively new tool meant to let the Texas Department of Transportation complete road-building projects more quickly and cheaply by using a single contract for both design and construction.
Those agreements have attracted the attention of multinational consortiums willing to pay large sums up front for the right to operate roads and pocket the tolls for decades to come.
That has outraged residents and lawmakers who say drivers will become hostages to the private companies, forced to pay increasingly hefty tolls.
The legislation also establishes a task force to evaluate and make recommendations for the next legislative session about private equity contracts and taxpayer protections.