VICTORY # 1 – Two-thirds of Legislature sign-onto private toll contract moratorium!

Read the glorious news below. Link to article here.

Thank your representatives who signed on and encourage them to stick with the PEOPLE…for an easy list and link, go here.

No one, I mean NO ONE in Texas politics thought a group of ordinary citizens would ever garner two-thirds support for ANYTHING opposing or slowing tolls in the Legislature. Yet we can report today, that a VETO PROOF two-thirds majority of the Legislature has done just that thanks to ALL OF YOU! All eyes are on Texas as we’re the talk of the Nation and inspiring our fellow Americans in other states to do the same…keep the faith, stay on message, reveal the TRUTH, and the TRUTH will set us FREE! We’re making history!

We need to keep the pressure on this magnificent majority to hang tough against the mighty hand of BIG MONEY and make this legislation LAW! There’s talk of compromises, but ONE THING IS SURE…there will be sweeping changes to TxDOT and our toll policy and this moratorium will be the NAIL IN THE COFFIN of the Trans Texas Corridor! We can smell the sweet scent of victory, but it’s not secure until it’s LAW. So hang in there, my fellow Texans, help is on the way!

Toll stoppers get hearing
By Pat Driscoll
March 20, 2007

OK folks, this is where the screw really starts to turn on toll-road plans, and the squeaking starts Wednesday with a state Senate committee hearing.

Several bills that would slow or kill Texas Department of Transportation plans to use tolling and privatization to finance much of its road construction are scheduled to be heard by the Transportation and Homeland Security Committee at 7:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. (Live video here.)

Two of those bills, filed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, would devastate toll efforts:

SB 991 would force tolls to cease after tollways are paid for, which means surplus money couldn’t be shuffled to other projects.

SB 719 would prevent TxDOT from leasing any of its highways, which would shackle deals with companies to finance and operate state tollways in exchange for collecting profits.

Also coming up at the hearing, and with a better chance of getting through the Legislature, is SB 1267, which would slap a two-year moratorium on tollway privatization deals to allow for more study.

The bill was filed by newly elected Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, a former Transportation Commission member who has problems with restricting improvements to free roads, which guarantees traffic for toll roads, and buy-back terms in leases.

Twenty-five of 31 senators have signed on to the moratorium bill.

In the House, 105 of the 150 members are backing an identical HB 2772, filed by Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham.

Put simply: 25 senators + 101 representatives = veto proof.

Put less simply: the House version must go through House Transportation Committee Chairman Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, who fathered bills in the last two sessions to allow widespread tolling and privatization.

A majority of Krusee’s committee favors the moratorium — but as chairman, Krusee could still block it.

What will Krusee do? One thing looks certain, he’ll try to work something out with Carona.

On the last day to file bills, Krusee and Carona submitted identical shell bills — HB 3783 and SB 1929 — in an effort to cover what they can agree on. Some of what they have so far:

• Stop further diversions of state highway funds to non-transportation uses.

• Require state auditor reviews of toll roads, and attorney general approvals of privatization agreements.

• Match the state’s 20-cent per gallon gas tax to go up or down annually with the consumer price index.

• Let the Transportation Commission form the Texas Transportation Co. The for-profit corporation could develop and operate new toll projects, but without passing risk to government entities.