Transportation lobbyists still trafficking in the Texas House of Representatives
May 29, 2009
The El Paso Times
State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, gave some transportation lobbyists what-for today after he said he found out they were collecting signatures on a petition he considered misleading.
"I swore a lot, and I apologize to my mother, but I do not apologize to them. They deserved it," said Pickett, chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
Pickett and members of the House-Senate conference committee are working against the clock to agree on a final version of the 1,500-page bill that would reform the Texas Department of Transportation.
Two major sticking points remain in the negotiations.
The Senate wants a measure that would allow local communities to vote on a smorgasbord of taxes and fees to raise money for local transportation projects. The House has said no to that.
The House wants a measure that would phase out red-light cameras. The Senate doesn't like that.
Pickett said some lobbyists were asking House members to sign a petition they said he supported to give consideration to the local tax and fee option. He said the tactic was misleading.
"I got mad," he said. "This is a big deal."
He said leaving in the local tax and fee option could result in the whole bill dying in the House. There are too many important reforms in the measure to let the whole thing fail, Pickett said.
State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, chairman of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, said he was "confused" over Pickett's conduct today.
He said the Senate has compromised, lowering the fees communities could charge to raise transportation dollars. They have also agreed, he said, to keep the phase-out provision for red light cameras, although future legislation could change that.
"It just defies logic that the House would not be given the opportunity to vote on this bill," Carona said.
The House and Senate members must agree on a final version of the bill soon, or it could die.
The bill must be printed and distributed by midnight Saturday and must be voted on by midnight Sunday.
Carona said if Pickett would support the compromises the Senate has agreed to, the rest of the House would follow his lead since he is the chairman of the Transportation Committee.
"It all has come down to Joe Pickett," Carona said. "Joe is a capable leader, and I need him to step forth now when it really counts."
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