"Although some criticize the bill is not harsh enough, others are saying it's a start."
Tracy Dang, Managing Editor
The Sealy News
Anti Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) groups are celebrating another victory as Texas legislators take another step toward derailing the controversial corridor in its current form.
House Bill 1892, authored by Rep. Wayne Smith (R-Baytown), passed the Senate 27-4 Friday. It passed the House of Representatives April 11 with a vote of 137-2.
The bill was originally written to give the Harris County Toll Authority the right of refusal for any toll roads, protecting it from losing any projects specifically to companies like Cintra.
A major component added to the original bill was an amendment by Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) placing a two-year ban on the privatization of state toll roads, including the TTC, through Sept. 1, 2009. It also requires a legislative study committee to file a report no later than Dec. 1, 2008.
"The moratorium is a two-year clause on private equity comprehensive development agreements (CDAs), what's being used to build the TTC for for-profit companies wanting to build toll roads and wanting 50-year contracts," Kolkhorst said. "It gives us time to tap the breaks and slow down and understand what we're really doing."
The amendment used the same language drafted in Kolkhorst's own HB 2772, which has yet to be reviewed by the House Transportation Committee.
"I haven't even been able to get a hearing on the bill," Kolkhorst said. "But it doesn't matter if it passes in someone else's bill or if it's a stand-alone bill, as long as it gets passed."
Although some criticize the bill is not harsh enough, others are saying it's a start.
"We are advocates of HB 1892, and we support the moratorium, as well as the limited structure and effort to provide more local control," Linda Stall said. "We think it's a really important start. We think it's the best bill we've had regarding this issue, and by the end of the two-year period, everyone should have a better idea about (Comprehensive Development Agreements)."
The bill has to go back to the House for approval of the Senate amendments. Then it will go to the governor's desk for a signature or a veto.
"To veto this bill would be the grandest act of arrogance imaginable," David Stall said. "This is not an obscure or misunderstood piece of legislation. Tens of thousands of Texans know exactly what this bill is about, and they want it passed. The governor should take pause and respect the will of the people."
If the governor takes no action within 10 days, the bill automatically becomes law. If he chooses to veto it, the chamber can override the veto with a 2/3 majority vote.
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