Saturday, May 10, 2003

House Bill 3588 is Born

Traffic bill passes one potential roadblock

May 10, 2003

Peggy Fikac, Chief, Austin Bureau
Copyright 2003

Traffic fines would be increased to allow more spending on roads and trauma centers, but those who speed just a little could escape some stiffer penalties under a wide-ranging transportation bill tentatively approved Friday by the House.

House Bill 3588 by Rep. Mike Krusee would fuel Gov. Rick Perry's Trans Texas Corridor plan, which is meant to decrease traffic congestion.

It eventually would put more than $200 million annually into a fund to be used as a basis for issuing state bonds for roads.

The bill, which requires another House vote before going to the Senate for consideration, would reach further into state traffic law than just raising penalties. Among its changes, it would set out a way for immigrants to get drivers' licenses.

In addition, it would allow for creation of border region high-speed rail authorities.

Some lawmakers expressed concern that the measure would fund roads and trauma centers at a time when a $10 billion-plus revenue shortfall has prompted proposed cuts in education and health care.

"Its hypocrisy. They keep saying we don't have any money," Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said. "We seem to be able to find financing mechanisms for roads. Why are we cutting programs all over the state when we can do this?"

Krusee, a Taylor Republican who heads the House Transportation Committee, said: "My charge was to increase mobility for Texans that are stuck in traffic, and so we passed the most comprehensive and visionary transportation bill in the history of Texas to do that."

The bill would set up a rating system in which drivers would be assigned points based on traffic infractions.

They would have to pay a surcharge of $100 or more if they had too many convictions in a three-year period.

But an amendment by Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, removed from that rating system safety-belt violations and speeding less than 10 percent faster than the posted limit.

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