Thursday, June 25, 2009

"The governor wants to avoid a protracted, brutal fight over toll roads, which he has championed..."

Gov. Rick Perry calls for special legislative session

Duck and Cover


The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2009

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry has called for a special legislative session starting next Wednesday to tackle three major unresolved issues that failed to make it through the 140-day regular session that ended on June 1.

In special sessions, which can only last up to 30 days, lawmakers are restricted to consider a legislative agenda set by the governor.

In this case, Perry has tried to narrowly define the topics for the session to begin July 1.

For instance, five large agencies – including transportation and the department of insurance, must be reconstituted by the Legislature by September in order to survive. Both agencies have vocal detractors who want major changes in tollways and how highways are funded, as well as greater regulation of insurance companies that have handed Texas homeowners the highest premiums in the nation.

Perry has tried to narrowly draw the topics for consideration, saying that lawmakers should only pass legislation to continue the agencies until the next regular session in 2011 or beyond.

The governor, looking at a stiff primary fight from U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, wants to avoid a protracted, brutal fight over toll roads, which he has championed, and consumer insurance rights.

On the agenda, Perry has placed continuation and revising the sunset review process for the departments of transportation and insurance, as well as the Texas Racing Commission, Office of Public Insurance Counsel and Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation.

In addition, he is asking lawmakers to authorize $2 billion in voter-approved highway bonds to be issued next year.

And he wants the Legislature to extend the authority of TxDOT to work with regional mobility authorities. Together the groups currently hammer out agreements on how to prioritize, finance and build roadways.

“I think they’ll be in and out in three to four days and we’ll be gone – and everybody can enjoy their summer,” Perry told a lunch meeting of Austin commercial real estate developers.

After his speech, he described the special session’s agenda as “tightly crafted.”

Asked if he might add voter ID to the agenda after the special session gets under way, Perry said, “No, people pretty much know what we’re going to be dealing [with] and that’s, you saw the call. And that’s what it’s going to be.”

Although some GOP loyalists very much want Perry to make lawmakers try again on voter ID, the governor said the transportation and insurance matters are too important to jeopardize with another partisan brawl. Last month, House Democrats killed a Senate-passed bill to tighten voter-ID requirements by staging a five-day talk-a-thon.

“We’re talking about people’s lives and livelihoods here when you’re talking about the Department of Insurance and you’re talking about TxDOT,” Perry said. “These are important agencies that did not get [extended], so I want those employees to understand that we’re going to get this bill passed and we’re not going to take a chance on … any legislative mischief from some other piece of legislation.”

Information was also provided by staff writer Robert T. Garrett.

© 2009 The Dallas Morning News:

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