Saturday, April 28, 2007

Lawmakers are running out of time to beat Perry's veto

Senate passes bill for two-year halt on new toll roads

April 28, 2007

From Staff and Wire Reports
The Brenham Banner Press
Copyright 2007

AUSTIN - The Texas Senate has passed a bill making major changes to the state's transportation policy, potentially setting up a showdown with Gov. Rick Perry over the future of private investment in toll roads.

The Senate bill, which sets a two-year moratorium on private toll road contracts, mirrors a bill already passed by the Texas House.

That bill included an amendment added by Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), also halting new toll road projects for at least two years.

The Senate version does contain some differences, meaning it will have to go to a conference committee unless the original House sponsor, Rep. Wayne Smith, concurs with the bill as it presently reads. If Smith doesn't object to the changes, it will go to the House floor for a final vote. If passed by the full House on the floor, it would be sent to the Governor for signature, veto, or become law automatically if he takes no action.

The bill could end up on Perry's desk this week.

That would give lawmakers plenty of time to override a veto by the governor, who has ardently insisted that Texas needs to continue using public-private partnerships to build toll roads if it wants to keep attracting big companies and jobs.

The bill was approved by a 27-4 vote, with most of the opponents complaining that the Legislature was moving too quickly on such an important piece of legislation.

“We are acting almost like a lynch mob,” said Sen. Steve Ogden, a Republican from Bryan. “We are not thinking about the implications of what we're doing.”

But Williams, R-The Woodlands, said lawmakers were running out of time to beat a veto. Once the governor receives a bill, he has 10 days to sign it, veto it or let it become law without his signature.

The Legislature can override a veto with a two-thirds vote of both chambers, but they must be in session to take that vote. The session ends May 28.

“I think there's a fundamental disagreement between the Legislature and the governor about the future of transportation policy in the state,” Williams said. “I'm trying to give us a chance to address those concerns.”

© 2007 The Brenham Banner Press:

To search TTC News Archives click HERE

To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE