"The Senate's support got 'soft' over the possibility of trying to override a Perry veto."
By STEVE SNYDER Editor
The applause was unanimous in Navasota June 7 after state Rep. Lois Kolkhorst got done talking about her fight against the Trans-Texas Corridor.
For now, at least, pending a signature by Gov. Rick Perry, the fight is successful.
"I guarantee they cannot build TTC-69 in Grimes County for the next two years," she said.
She said the battle in this year's 80th regular session of the Texas Legislature had drawn international attention.
"I can't tell you how many questions we got from Spain, England and bond houses," she said.
The TTC was the biggest topic on an end-of-session luncheon sponsored by the Navasota/Grimes County Chamber of Commerce.
She started with some history of how the massive set of toll road freeways, combined with rail lines, utility rights-of-way and more, got started, then grew and grew. She said at first, she and many other legislators thought it was "just like an interstate." They soon found out otherwise, with 50-year non-compete contracts for road building and locations, all funds from that going to the private road operators and more.
And, a major part of the eye-opening was finding out just how much money was involved. She said seven near-term projects involving freeway loops around all or parts of Dallas, San Antonio and Waco, were themselves projected to gross half a trillion dollars over that time span.
In 2005, she said the legislature got some small victories, but didn't really reign in the TTC. That changed this year, she said.
Part of the difference, she said, was working with new state Sen. Robert Nichols, a former commissioner of the Texas Transportation Commission, ironically. Kolkhorst said he had done a 180-degree turn from his time as appointed commissioner to elected senator. That included admitting that early TTC contract were horrible, and being ready to call for a moratorium on the project.
She also thanked Speaker Tom Craddick for supporting her getting a TTC moratorium added as an amendment to another bill after House Transportation Committee Chairman Mike Krusee kept her original bill bottled up in committee.
The House did put a moratorium on TTC work with a bill that garnered near-unanimous support, which also got strong support in the Senate. However, she said the Senate's support got "soft" over the possibility of trying to override a Perry veto.
So, the Legislature crafted a softer, modified version of the original bill. That passed shortly before the end of the legislative session Memorial Day, and sits on Perry's desk awaiting his signature.
She commented on the possibility of that not happening.
"We have a deal with him; if he does not sign it, he is not a man of his word or a man of honor," she said.
She then commented on other TTC-related issues.
"If we have to wait until Rick Perry is gone to fix highways, oh, well," she said.
She also said she was glad House Bill 2006, on eminent domain, had been passed.
"It's very pro-property rights; it has some rural language on access that really refers to the Trans Texas Corridor," she said.
Because of that, she said she wasn't sure if Perry would sign it.
Contact Steve Snyder at firstname.lastname@example.org
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