VICTORY #3 – CDA moratorium passes House!

Link to Express-News article on our victory here.

In what can only be the most unexpected turn of events this session…a totally underfunded group of ORDINARY concerned citizens managed to pull off one of the biggest upsets in House history. The CDA moratorium passed the House by a breathtaking 134 to 5 vote (the rest either didn’t vote or were absent) with the final heavily amended bill garnering a convincing 123 to 17 vote. All of the San Antonio reps voted FOR the moratorium, but some voted against the final bill…Ruth McClendon-Jones and Edmund Kuempel.This VICTORY is a total repudiation of Rick Perry, his Transportation Commission, and his cronies in the House, Mike Krusee, Fred Hill, and Larry Phillips. They lobbed “points of order” (parliamentary tricks to kill bills) and amendments (a total of 22 amendments were offered, not all bad) to no avail.

Most notably for San Antonio folks, Frank Corte huddled with the enemy prior to the debate of the bill in an apparent strategy session on how to keep the bill from coming to a vote. Remember his position prior to the floor debate today? He kept emphasizing that he’d only support the moratorium if it made it to the floor for a vote. Then on the floor, he was seen with those who worked tirelessly to kill the bill. You decide whose side he’s on. Actions speak louder than words. When scarcely a colleague would even speak to Krusee on the floor (he’s been totally marginalized due to his power trip, carrying the highway lobby’s water to the detriment of all Texans, and defending the indefensible), this “huddle” was VERY obvious.

Nonetheless, the moratorium was successfully attached to Rep. Wayne Smith’s bill and BYPASSED the Krusee bottleneck. Krusee and his cabal not only looked weak, they were severely weakened after the bruising they took on the floor tonight.

Powers stripped from TxDOT

All Texas counties got an enormous infusion of authority if the language of this bill survives. An amendment offered at the end of the debate moved to give ALL Texas counties with population of at least 2,000 the authority to acquire alignment, right of way, and access to the state highway system now under the control of a rogue agency…TxDOT, WITHOUT HAVING TO PAY TXDOT FOR IT. Read more about this attempted extortion by TxDOT here.

The original bill allows counties to negotiate their own CDAs, which is horrible public policy since CDAs cost 50% more than public toll projects and are rife with non-competes clauses, huge penalties and high tolls not to mention loss of public control over infrastructure. But since the moratorium is attached to it, this provision will not take effect for 30 months and only AFTER the good and bad aspects of CDAs will be revealed in the report to the Legislature. We can take comfort in the fact that at least county commissioners are elected and closer to the PEOPLE than the unelected, arrogant bureaucrats who currently pull the strings at TxDOT.

Perry, Williamson, and TxDOT got their teeth kicked in!

This MAJOR victory took place AFTER an amazing morning event. It may well be the first time a sitting Governor ever planted himself at a House Transportation Committee hearing. Yes, you read that correctly, Rick Perry, dubbed “the dictator” by many Texans these days, showed up at Krusee’s committee hearing, I suppose to give moral support to his battered Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson as he spewed the tired ol’ “the sky is falling” threats and talking points.

Perry already trotted out Transportation Secretary Mary Peters last week to try to intimidate the Senate Transportation Committee into NOT passing the moratorium out of committee (which it did by a unanimous vote), and today all he had left was a feckless and weak “me, myself, and I.” There just isn’t anybody else for them to trot out in support of their corrupt scandalous toll deals, so the Governor had to do it himself. Their taxpayer funded lobbying is unethical and an abuse of office at best and illegal lobbying at worst.

It’s been a rough couple of months for this Governor and TxDOT, and when the moratorium becomes law, months will be years.

Who are the heroes?

Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, the author of the original CDA moratorium bill is the real deal. She worked the floor of the chamber today and has fought tirelessly behind the scenes educating reps and getting this supermajority on board. It’s no small feat to bring 111 co-sponsors to a controversial bill under threat of heavy-handed repudiation from the Governor and TxDOT. This superceded party lines…this is a TEXAS issue!

Here’s a few of her outstanding comments:

On sending the toll revenues overseas and selling off our highway system…

“No one defends the free market more than I do, but I believe government has a basic commitment to build infrastructure.”

On how TxDOT cannot be trusted and has grossly mismanaged public funds…

“TxDOT has spent $19 million of $25 million from the Hwy 130 upfront payment by Cintra.” AND “Just a handful of CDA private toll deals are projected to net a half a trillion dollars and all this money comes from our citizens!”

On the suggestion that government not citizens know best…

“Some may think at times that we’re smarter than our citizens, but Texans know best.”

On the transfer of public assets to the private sector…

She quoted Fred Hill of all people who said, “You never sell a producing well.”

Other heroes were Nathan Macias and David Leibowitz who sprang into action when an amendment was accepted to the moratorium to allow managed lane projects to be excepted from the moratorium, ie – the CDA toll project for 281/1604 in San Antonio. They worked with the author of that amendment who then added an amendment to her prior amendment ensuring Bexar County projects ARE part of the moratorium. Leibowitz also made many good points to defend the bill from hostile amendments which helped other members vote to fend off some ridiculous attempts to overreach.
Also, our thanks to Joe Pickett, Linda Harper-Brown, and the bill’s author, Wayne Smith for carrying this bill to victory.

Thanks to the Grassroots!

We’ve proven this taxpayer revolt is no small nor fleeting movement. We’re not going to stand idly by and allow unelected bureaucracies to run roughshod over our elected officials forgetting who they work for, nor will we allow this sort of public fleecing to enrich a few shareholders. The taxpayers are the shareholders who count, and we NEED to be back in the driver’s seat! Thanks to your vigilant calls, emails, faxes, and overall relentless barrage of correspondence on this issue, we are now over the biggest hurdle in bringing this toll madness to a halt.

HOWEVER, it’s not law yet…never let up, and never give up until it’s law.