Thursday, May 17, 2007

Compromise transportation bill heads back to Senate

House approves compromise on toll road bill

Changes must pass Senate to avoid Perry veto

May 17, 2007

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2007

AUSTIN – A compromise transportation bill that lawmakers hope will avert a looming veto took on some more baggage in the House today, but members approved it.

Under pressure from the Senate to act quickly, House members instead tweaked and fiddled with a bill that overhauls the state’s toll road policies and places a limited two-year freeze on private toll deals.

Gov. Rick Perry has strongly hinted he would veto an earlier version of the transportation bill, and he must decide by Friday night whether to do so. He also has threatened to call a special session if lawmakers override his veto.

Earlier this week, after several rounds of negotiations with the governor’s office and lawmakers from both chambers, senators unanimously passed the compromise bill. House members ultimately approved the bill today in two overwhelming votes, but added nearly two dozen provisions ranging from local exemptions to ethics policies for regional transportation officials.

Today’s changes now must pass muster with the Senate. If senators do not quickly concur on Friday, the governor is likely to veto the earlier bill, which automatically becomes law if he does not act by Friday.

In both bills, North Texas is largely exempted from the two-year ban on private toll road contracts. Area lawmakers repeatedly have argued that the fast-growing region cannot afford any delay in relieving traffic congestion.

© 2007 The Dallas Morning News Co

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