Monday, November 10, 2008

Bills filed to reform TxDOT and deconstruct the Trans-Texas Corridor

81st Legislature

Prefiling, Day One: Transportation Bills


By Vince Leibowitz
Capitol Annex
Copyright 2008

As expected, a handful of bills were filed Monday that could dramatically alter transportation in Texas, including legislation to repeal the authority of the Texas Department of Transportation to construct the Trans-Texas Corridor and legislation that would expand the Texas Transportation Commission to 15 members and require that those members be elected.

HB 12 by State Rep. David Leibowitz (D-San Antonio) would require that the Texas Transportation Commission be expanded to 15 members and that 14 of those members be elected from 14 equally apportioned districts across the state and that one member be elected by voters statewide. Regionally elected members would serve two-year terms and the statewide member would serve a four-year term.

Here is a rundown of other transportation-related bills filed today and our analysis of the same:

HB 12 by State Rep. David Leibowitz (D-San Antonio): Would expand the Texas Transportation Commission to 15 members and require that those members be elected by voters.

HB 11 by David Leibowitz (D-San Antonio): repeals the authority of the Texas Department of Transportation to establish or operate the Trans-Texas Corridor.

SJR 9 by Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas): This is a constitutional amendment that would reallocate the fuel and lubricants tax (i.e. the “gas tax”). It would mandate that three-fourths of the gas tax goes to the construction of highways (including the acquisition of right-of-ways, etc., as it does now) but that one quarter of the gas tax would go to the Avaliable School Fund. Given the state’s transportation needs, it is doubtful that this is something that would pass the legislature, but it is worth watching nonetheless.

SJR 8 by Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas): This constitutional amendment would authorize the leiglsature to enact legislation which would allow the Comptroller of Public Accounts to set and change the rate of the gas tax based on price or cost indexes compiled by the federal government. SB 217 also by Carona provides the legislation to actually allow for the tax changing and/or indexing.

SB 216 by Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas): This legislation would add the caveat that the State Highway Fund may only be used to repay loans if they are both constitutionally permissible and legislatively authorized uses of the Highway Fund (the constitutionally permissible language being the change) and would stop providing any moneys to Texas Department of Public Safety from the Highway Fund, meaning, presumably, that DPS would get most of its funding from the general fund.

SB 220 by Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville): This legislation would strike provisions in current law that allow for the conversion of portions of a non-tolled highway to a toll road.

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