Saturday, November 18, 2006

HB 154 would replace Perry's appointees on the Texas Transportation Commission with an elected Commissioner

Under the Dome

House bills on road to nowhere?

November 18, 2006

Ben Wear
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

Early entries in the silly season for the Legislature: a bill that would slam the door on Texas cities' plans to install cameras at red lights and another that would effect a voter overthrow of Gov. Rick Perry's tollifying Texas Transportation Commission.

Forecast for potential passage of both: mostly cloudy.

Rep. Carl Isett, a Republican from Lubbock, has offered House Bill 55, which would ban a "local authority" from operating "photographic traffic signal enforcement" on highways under their jurisdiction. Many of them, including Austin and Hutto, are rushing to do just that after the Legislature, a couple of sessions ago, made it possible to levy civil fines for traffic infractions. Until then, only criminal citations were possible, and you needed a police officer on scene, by and large, to do that.

Then Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office ruled this year that the law applied to the state highway system. Because those are the kind of roads, including interstate frontage roads, that have the most red-light runners at the highest speeds, that was what cities and the private purveyors of red-light camera systems were waiting to hear. They're popping up everywhere. Isett wants to stop that trend.

Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, meanwhile, basically wants to stop the Perry administration's head-long rush into toll roads.

Pickett, with HB 154, proposes to wrest the steering wheel from the Perry appointees that make up the Texas Transportation Commission.

His bill would replace the commission with an elected transportation commissioner.

It will be interesting to see whether this one ever gets a hearing before the House Transportation Committee, which is led by Rep. Mike Krusee, a Republican from Williamson County. Krusee wholeheartedly supports the toll policies that the appointed commission has been pursuing.

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