Friday, June 08, 2007

"We have to work together to campaign against legislators in Austin who aren't there to represent their people--regardless of their political party."

Lobbyist describes status of toll roads

June 08, 2007

Longview News-Journal
Copyright 2007

Hank Gilbert was not impressed with the 80th meeting of the Texas Legislature.

Gilbert, a former candidate for agriculture commissioner and Democratic anti-toll road lobbyist, offered his opinions and reported on his efforts, specifically on bills concerning the toll roads, at the Texas Democratic Women of Gregg County's monthly meeting Thursday.

"The 80th session probably had some high points," he said of the Democrats' progress. "But I didn't see them; except the raising of the minimum wage to $7.25, which won't go into effect for another two years."

Gilbert spoke in detail about Texas House Bill 1892, a piece of toll-road legislation putting a two-year moratorium on all toll-road projects.

"They said, 'Hey, let's stop where we are, study the vitality of these roads and make a decision from there,'" he said.

The bill was approved by the House and the Senate with a combined vote of 166-5. Gov. Rick Perry promised to veto the bill, prompting the Senate to compromise with Senate Bill 792. This new edition added amendments protecting certain roads and businesses from the two-year moratorium, including the development of Interstate 69, as it would hinder the economic development of the Rio Grande Valley. Interstate 69 is expected to extend from Northeast Texas to Mexico.

He said he saw this compromise as big business deliberately infringing upon smaller towns' rights, which will be affected if the Trans-Texas Corridor continues adding highways through small towns.

The Trans-Texas Corridor is a 4,000 mile plan of tollways, according to

"We have to work together to campaign against the legislators down in Austin who aren't there to represent their people regardless of their political party," he said.

Juneau Embry, president of Texas Democratic Women of Gregg County, said they try to bring speakers to their meetings who talk about issues important to women in East Texas.

"We invited Hank because he's a good speaker, and he's funny," Embry said.

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