Thursday, May 24, 2007

"If city or county officials had proceeded as the state has on TTC somebody would be in jail, or at least under investigation."

Public concerned over Perry's TTC plan


By Frank Summers, Milam County judge
The Cameron Herald
Copyright 2007

The legislative session is winding down in Austin, and legislators are scurrying to get final bills passed before the official end of this session. Some say essential it is over, but there are several bills that are still being pushed through the process.

Senate Bill (SB) 407 by Senator Eltife is a local option bill. If enacted the bill would allow city and county governments to call an election on a one-quarter cent sales tax option. This added sales tax would be dedicated to the reduction of local property taxes.

House Bill (HB) 2006 by Representative Woolley provides for changes in the current eminent domain statutes. The new bill would require that a separate record vote must be taken by commissioners court for each condemnation process, counties would have to make a good faith effort to obtain the property voluntarily, counties may be liable for court costs and attorney fees if it were found that the good faith effort were not made and more evidence may be submitted during eminent domain hearing for the purpose of assessing damages caused by a condemnation.

It concerns me that the HB 2006 refers to the counties on several instances, but I do not see a lot of reference to the state. I can't remember when the county last used the eminent domain process, but the state might need it since the governor vetoed the moratorium on toll roads.

HB 15 is still on the table. This bill would provide for the addition of ten million dollars to the budget to help counties pay for the May 12th election called by the governor. Right now there is no money to pay for the election allotted by the state or in the county budget. Seems to me if Rick can call an election he ought to be able to pay for it.

It has been a session that has seen a tremendous number of bills filed, somewhere over 6,000 bills and constitutional amendments were filed this session. This session has also seen a large number of bills die during the complicated Texas legislative process; some good and some bad.

Those that have been passed are not out of the woods just yet. They still have to be signed by the governor, and even though our representatives have passed a bill does not mean that it will be signed into law. Without the governor's signature a bill can become law, but the governor also has the right to veto a bill. Just as he vetoed the heavily supported bill that provided for a moratorium on toll road projects.

Statewide the support for the governor's planned Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) is just not there. The fact that the moratorium was passed to allow for some breathing room and time to take a close look at the issue is proof that there is a great deal of public concern about the current process. He has even threatened a special session if things do not go his way.

It is hard for me to believe that the governor does not understand that the general public has a great deal of concern about his plan and how it is being handled. The statutes related to open meetings and open records acts have blatantly been ignored in the TTC process. If city or county officials had proceeded as the state has on TTC somebody would be in jail, or at least under investigation.

Our representatives are to be commended on a great job and a session that has provided some good legislation for the future of Texas. We all might not agree with everything, but overall this has been a very productive session. Let's just hope the veto power does cancel all the hard work many have done just because one does not get his way.

© 2007 The Cameron Herald:

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