Grassroots to TxDOT: 'Read our lips - No new toll taxes!'

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Read our lips: “No new toll taxes!”

Grassroots Coalition of 67 Organizations Call Out

Transportation Agencies for Breaking Governor’s 

Promise for No More Toll Roads


(November 8, 2017 — Austin, Texas) Today, a Texas Conservative Grassroots Coalition project led by Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), Texans for Toll-free Highways, and Grassroots America was hand-delivered to Gov. Greg Abbott and his new Transportation Commission Chair, Bruce Bugg. The Coalition letter insists that the Transportation Commission, TxDOT, and all related mobility authorities make good on Governor Abbott’s promise to build needed roads without new toll taxes. The Coalition project was launched in response to last week’s proposal by TxDOT to the Transportation Commission to approve over a dozen new toll projects in the state’s ten-year plan. Fifteen of the 17 projects are toll projects, including I-35 in Austin and San Antonio, I-635E in Dallas, I-45 in Houston, and Loop 1604 on San Antonio.

JoAnn Fleming, Grassroots America’s Executive Director said of the latest proposal for new toll projects, “Apparently, the state and local transportation bureaucracies didn’t get Gov. Abbott’s memo during his first campaign for Governor and haven’t listened ever since. The Governor has repeatedly underscored his vow to get Texas off the toll road and debt scheme. He’s made it clear he wants the state on a pay-as-you-go plan for road construction, and voters have approved the funding.

Reforms make it to Governor's desk

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Terri Hall, Director,
Texas TURF, & Texans for Toll-free Highways
(210) 275-0640
Anti-toll reforms finally pass Texas legislature 
Reforms changed in conference, but still cripple future toll roads
(Austin, TX - Sunday, May 28, 2017) As the Texas legislature comes to a close tomorrow, a must-pass bill to continue the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), SB 312, cleared its final hurdle yesterday evening. The House passed a strong anti-toll bill May 17, adding several good anti-toll measures pushed by grassroots pro-taxpayer groups for over a decade. But rather than concur with the strong House version, the Senate chose to reject the House version (which signaled trouble ahead), forcing both the House and Senate to appoint a conference committee to work out the differences in the bill.

This is where the chicanery usually happens, and it did.

The House suspended the rules and rushed a vote to concur with the conference committee's changes and the Senate followed before it adjourned Saturday evening as well - pushing passage of a 100-page bill before anyone could read what was in it.

Anti-toll legislation makes its way onto must-pass TxDOT sunset bill

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Terri Hall, Director, Texas TURF, &
Texans for Toll-free Highways
(210) 275-0640
Anti-toll legislation makes its way onto must-pass TxDOT Sunset Bill

Taxpayers finally caught a break in Texas, especially toll-weary commuters. After fighting for common sense toll road reforms for over a decade, the grassroots through Texas TURF and Texans for Toll-free Highways made major strides in killing public private partnership (P3) toll roads and gaining ground on several key anti-toll reforms, like removing tolls from roads that are paid for like Camino Columbia in Laredo.

State agencies come under sunset periodic review. Senate Bill 312 involves the continuation and functions of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and gives lawmakers the ability to tack on just about any transportation bill to it — good and bad. It's also must-pass legislation or the highway department goes away. While five anti-toll bills successfully passed the Texas Senate this session, none have been heard in the House. So lawmakers pounced on the opportunity to get stalled bills moving through amendments to SB 312. 

The pro-toll crowd sought to resurrect corporate toll roads by authorizing P3s once again and even granting broader authority to do so. Lawmakers just voted down a P3 bill HB 2861 by Rep. Larry Phillips just days before, forcing taxpayers to mount an offensive to kill such sweetheart deals again. An amendment by Rep. Dade Phelan was most troubling actually requiring taxpayers to guarantee the loans and bonds of the private toll companies and gave authority to enter into multiple contracts every year with no sunset date.

VICTORY: Grassroots KILL private toll bill, secure Abbott's vision for toll-free future

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Terri Hall, (210) 275-0640
Defeat of private toll road bill affirms Abbott's pledge to voters 
Promise to fix roads without new tolls or debt gets bipartisan support

(Austin, TX - Friday, May 5, 2017) Texas taxpayers can breathe a sigh of relief tonight as a bipartisan effort to defeat expansion of private toll roads in Texas went down in flames by a vote of 79-51 in the Texas House. Taxpayer champions Rep. Jeff Leach (R - Plano), Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R - Bedford), and Rep. Joe Pickett (D - El Paso) led the floor fight, noting 90% of Democrats and 95% of Republicans oppose new toll roads in Texas, and both party platforms oppose privatized toll roads in particular. Governor Greg Abbott promised to fix Texas roads without new tolls or debt, and the Texas House delivered on that promise today by killing Rep. Larry Phillips HB 2861.

Pickett and Stickland made impassioned speeches opposing the bill. Leach emphasized both party platforms oppose this type of toll project and that the voters just gave the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) $5 billion a year in new funding by passing Proposition 1 and Proposition 7.

Anti-toll groups celebrate bankruptcy of SH 130

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Terri Hall,
Founder/Director
Texans Uniting for Refrom and Freedom
(210) 275-0640
Anti-toll groups celebrate Cintra bankruptcy on SH 130   
     
(Austin, TX - Wednesday, March 2, 2016) Anti-toll groups Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) and Texans for Toll-free Highways (TTH) release the following statement on Cintra's bankruptcy on SH 130 segments 5 & 6:

It's appropriate on Texas Independence Day that Texans get to formally declare independence from its bondage to a tremendously unpopular, anti-liberty public private partnership (P3) contract (known as a Comprehensive Development Agreement  or CDA in Texas) as a result of Cintra's bankruptcy on SH 130 (segments 5 & 6, the southern 41 miles of the 86-mile tollway). It's been four years too long that former Governor Rick Perry's grand toll road experiment began on this stretch of highway.

TURF called for a boycott of Texas' first foreign-owned toll road when it opened back in 2012. SH 130 has long been the poster child of Rick Perry's failed toll road policies. At one point, the state-operated part of the tollway was so empty a distressed plane landed on it during peak hours. Many citizens expressed relief and a desire to move on and get this phase of Texas highway history behind them. Governor Greg Abbott's new vision and his new leadership at the helm of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) promises to usher in a new pro-liberty, pro-taxpayer mobility plan that benefits and is accessible to ALL Texans.

The lists of outrageous anti-taxpayer provisions in the contract or as a result of the contract include: 

* Taxpayer-backed loan guarantees and state funds ($438 million federal TIFIA loan and other state funds).
* Non-compete agreement prohibiting the expansion of free routes in the entire counties of Caldwell and Guadalupe for 50 years (see Exhibit 17 here).
* A guaranteed 12% annual profit, courtesy of Texas taxpayers.
* Manipulation of speed limits on free routes in order to force drivers onto Cintra's tollway. This included increasing the speed limit on SH 130 to 85 MPH while simultaneously lowering the speed limit on the adjacent Highway 183 from 65 MPH down to 55 MPH for which TxDOT was paid $100 million concession fee by Cintra for the privilege (see Exhibit 7 here). This required a change in state law to allow the maximum speed limit to rise to the fastest in the country to 85 MPH, a speed forbidden by many trucking companies.
* Provisions that put Texas taxpayers on the hook for any uncollectable tolls, including those unpaid tolls by Mexican drivers.
* Dual designation of I-410, I-10, and Loop 1604 in Bexar County as SH 130 to entrap the motorists using those freeways into using Cintra's tollway once they're out in the middle of a rural area with no way north except the expensive SH 130 toll road.
* Tens of millions in taxpayer subsidies that make all Texas taxpayers pay to reduce the truck toll rates on SH 130 to incentivize truckers to divert from the heavily congested I-35 over to SH 130 (at a cost of $20 million per year).
* Fueled talk of swapping I-35 with SH 130 making I-35 a tollway and SH 130 in order to get more cars off of I-35.
* Cost Texas taxpayers $210,000 in advertising for the foreign-operated tollway, and a good portion of the $19 million in legal fees to negotiate the contract with Cintra as part of the controversial Trans Texas Corridor.

Cronyism and corruption
The SH 130 project, the first and only leg of the Trans Texas Corridor to ever be built, was shrouded in cronyism and corruption from the very start. Dan Shelley, lobbyist for Cintra, landed a job in Perry's office as his legislative liaison in 2003, got his former employer, Cintra, the development rights to the Trans Texas Corridor contract, then went back to work for Cintra after doing the dirty deed.

Texans should celebrate being released from this bad deal and breathe a breath of fresh air now that we're under new leadership with Governor Abbott having campaigned against toll roads and who continues to make a concerted effort to start eliminating toll roads across Texas.

Melissa Cubria, Director of Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG) and early critic of private toll road deals, echoes TURF’s sentiments, ”It is important to note. All private toll arrangements absent public safeguards - and not a single deal inked in this state contains a meaningful public safeguard - are nothing more than budget gimmicks that enable lawmakers to claim they've balanced the budget without raising taxes.

"In reality, lawmakers saddled Texas taxpayers with billions in debt and they hid it from the normal, open, public budgetary process. In other words, Texas lawmakers have balanced the budget, in part, because they have issued billions of taxpayer backed subsidies for private toll road companies while hiding the costs from taxpayers and increasing costs and risks for taxpayers in the long term.

"It's really hard not to say we told y'all so."

Will SH 130 become free?
TURF and TTH have advocated to have tolls come off the road once it's paid for three legislative sessions. Last year, the concept finally managed to take a step forward with passage of HB 2612 that commissioned a study to remove tolls from state-funded toll projects. House Transportation Committee Chair Joe Pickett strongly pushed removing tolls from the state-operated northern segments of SH 130 in order to immediately get some traffic relief on I-35 through downtown Austin. Today's announcement of Cintra's bankruptcy may just hasten that plan.

###

TURF releases 2015 Report Card for 84th Legislature

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Anti-toll group releases Report Card for 84th legislature
More anti-toll stars than ever

(Austin, TX, September 9, 2015) With voters overwhelmingly embracing a move away from toll roads by electing Greg Abbott as the new Texas Governor, many voters want to know how their elected leaders did in delivering on their promises. Anti-toll and property rights watchdog group Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) just released its Report Card from the 84th Legislature today. Over 75 anti-toll bills were filed. Combined with property rights legislation, the total came to 96.

Nine lawmakers achieved the distinction of earning an A+. Those legislators are: Jeff Leach, Matt Rinaldi, Scott Sanford, Matt Shaheen, Jonathan Stickland, and James White in the House, and Bob Hall, Don Huffines, and Lois Kolkhorst in the Senate.

“Having this many anti-toll champions in the legislature is a big improvement over last session when only Rep. Jonathan Stickland achieved the top grade of A+ with just three others achieving ‘A’s. However, there’s lots more work to be done and many lawmakers have a lot of room for improvement. Most anti-toll and property rights bills were watered down or never even got to the floor. That’s got to change in order to protect taxpayers from rampant double and triple taxation,” related Terri Hall, Founder/Director of TURF.

Who are the tollers in the Texas primary?

What a time to be a Texan! This year we have MANY hotly contested primary races and an opportunity to THROW THE BUMS OUT like never before. It's time to hold our politicians ACCOUNTABLE for their REFUSAL to listen to us about nixing these DOUBLE TAX toll roads!

There's a wave of FRESH, GRASSROOTS candidates that have filed to challenge the incumbent status quo politicians that have run Texas fiscally aground. Texans are now over $35 billion in debt for roads. According to federal stats, Texas is #1 in the nation in road debt! Most of it has been to subsidize toll roads with tax dollars while charging us AGAIN to use the road -- a DOUBLE TAX! The debt is unsustainable and irresponsible. There are not enough Texans who can afford to pay this extra tax on driving just to get to work. We need to reverse course & FAST!

Here's just a few of the key races involving tollers:

TEXAS SENATE DIST. 25
Toss PRO-TOLL JEFF WENTWORTH
DONNA CAMPBELL is the ONLY ANTI-TOLL candidate in the race!

Jeff Wentworth has voted for every toll road bill that ever came across his desk in the Senate, ditto at the MPO.
 
Another candidate in the SD 25 race is Elizabeth Ames-Jones. Both Jeff Wentworth and Elizabeth Ames-Jones have voted to toll our roads. Wentworth, more times than I can count, but here are the major ones: HB 3588 (2003), HB 2702 (2005), SB 792 (2007), SB 942 (2009), SB 1420 (2011) & HB 563 (2011).
 
Ames-Jones voted to toll 281, 1604, I-35 and most of San Antonio's local roads in July 2004 when she was a State Rep. and sat on the MPO.
 
Wentworth and Ames Jones had the unmitigated gall to lie to a San Antonio Republican Club and say they were against the toll toads, when the two of them are the REASON we're still facing toll roads all over San Antonio (57 toll projects are in the current MPO plan!).
 
Wentworth's law firm represented Zachry when Spain-based Cintra and partner, locally owned Zachry, slapped that unsolicited bid on TxDOT's desk to takeover and toll 281& 1604 in 2005, and Wentworth blocked that contract from being subjected to the moratorium on those foreign-owned toll roads back in 2007. It wasn't until we went on radio to expose the connection that Wentworth backtracked and we got 281 & 1604 yanked from Cintra. He's totally ingratiated himself with the highway lobby and pro-tollers his entire career (his campaign finance reports show the money trail). There is NO WAY he should be allowed to make such a claim and get away with it!
 
Wentworth also received an 'F' for the disastrous 82nd legislative session last year, voting for all of the worst, most anti-taxpayer, anti-property rights, pro-toll legislation since 2003.

By contrast, Campbell will fight to STOP ill-conceived toll projects, for ELECTED leadership at TxDOT, and to END road tax diversions! Candidates like Donna Campbell will need our help to defeat the well-funded, well-connected Jeff Wentworth and Elizabeth Ames-Jones who are awash in special interest money. You can contact Campbell's campaign to donate and/or volunteer today!

TEXAS HOUSE DIST. 121
Want a NEW House Transportation Committee Chair?
One that will listen to the PEOPLE & let our bills out of Committee?
Oust JOE STRAUS!
MATT BEEBE is the only anti-toll candidate in this race!

Another HOT race is right here in San Antonio. Matt Beebe is challenging State Representative and Speaker of the Texas House, Joe Straus, in Dist. 121. Matt is neck-to-neck with Straus and has a REAL chance of OUSTING Straus!

As Speaker, Straus is responsible for appointing EVERY Committee Chair as well as the members of each committee. So he controlled all the toll legislation for the last two sessions. Straus is responsible for the disastrous 82nd legislative session this year orchestrating some of the worst, most anti-taxpayer, anti-property rights, pro-toll legislation since 2003.

Beebe will fight to STOP ill-conceived toll projects, for ELECTED leadership at TxDOT, and to END road tax diversions! Candidates like Matt Beebe will need our help to defeat the well-funded, well-connected Joe Straus who's awash in special interest money. You can contact Beebe's campaign to donate and/or volunteer today!
 
SENATE DIST. 3
Toss PRO-TOLL Senator ROBERT NICHOLS
TAMMY BLAIR the only anti-toll candidate in the race!

Not only did Robert Nichols vote for the Trans Texas Corridor TTC-69 to move forward (SB 792, HB 300), he was the architect of an amendment to ensure the private toll operators would never lose money on the deal (SB 17, HB 300 in 2009).

Nichols is so pro-toll he's fine with slapping tolls on existing free lanes, like Hwy 59, and leaving us nothing but access roads as the free lanes -- which is a DOUBLE TAX to charge toll taxes to use lanes we've already paid for. He even voted to allow property taxes to subsidize toll roads (HB 563). East Texas taxpayers can't afford another term with Robert Nichols as their Senator.

Tammy Blair will fight to STOP ill-conceived toll projects (including every last vestige of the Trans Texas Corridor), for ELECTED leadership at TxDOT, and to END road tax diversions! Candidates like Blair will need our help to defeat the well-funded, well-connected Robert Nichols who's awash in special interest money. You can contact Blair's campaign to donate and/or volunteer today!

AUSTIN MAYOR
LEE LEFFINGWELL voted to toll MoPAC!
BRIGID SHEA is the anti-toll candidate in the race

Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and the CAMPO Board want to use $130 million in our gas taxes to build toll lanes on MoPac. They initially wanted to hand it over to a private corporation in a sweetheart deal, using a public private partnership, until TxDOT's $2 billion windfall came along.

Brigid Shea is challenging Leffingwell and will fight to STOP tolls on MoPac and bring greater accountability at TxDOT, CAMPO, and the toll authority -- the CTRMA. Candidates like Shea will need our help to defeat the well-funded, well-connected Lee Leffingwell who's awash in special interest money. You can contact Shea's campaign to donate and/or volunteer today!

Visit CitizensForABetterAustin.com and sign the petition to STOP tolls on MoPac in Austin!

HAYS COUNTY COMMISSIONER, Pct. 3
SAM BRANNON wants to oust PRO-TOLL WILL CONLEY

Sam Brannon is making a strong run against the Chair of the Austin MPO (known as CAMPO), Will Conley, for Hays County Commissioner Pct. 3.  Conley orchestrated the current round of toll roads hitting Hays & Travis County commuters, including slapping tolls on MoPac.

Part of Brannon's platform is local decision making, and not simply rolling out regional road plans without thorough local consideration. Since Hays County is currently creating its 2012 Transportation Plan, Hays County's Pct. 3 voters need to ensure their voices are heard regarding toll roads. Conley has already shown he REFUSES to listen to the will of the PEOPLE. It's time for a change!

Brannon will fight to STOP ill-conceived toll projects, for ELECTED leadership at TxDOT, and to END road tax diversions! Candidates like Sam Brannon will need our help to defeat the well-funded, well-connected Will Conley who's awash in special interest money. You can contact Brannon's campaign to donate and/or volunteer today!

***************************************

Many of you asked for an analysis of how your Texas legislators voted on transportation, infrastructure, and eminent domain-related legislation in the 82nd legislative session in 2011, so we produced a Report Card. See if your Texas legislators voted pro-taxpayer, pro-property rights on transportation legislation.

Download the TURF Report Card here.


(NOTE: The TURF Voter Guide is separate from the Report Card. The TURF Report Card is the record of the CURRENT INCUMBENTS in the Texas State Legislature; whereas, the TURF Voter Guide is the rating determined based on the answers candidates gave to transportation-related questions. The Voter Guide will be released this weekend in time for Early Voting!)

Dallas Mayor caves to pro-toll interests on Trinity Toll Road

Link to article here.

Six questions on Rawlings’ support of the Trinity

By MICHAEL A. LINDENBERGER
Transportation Writer
Dallas Morning News
02 May 2012 11:38 PM

Now that Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has lined up with his predecessors to support the Trinity River toll road, one minor mystery associated with the project has been answered. But there are still plenty of unanswered questions and unresolved hurdles.
How soon can the project begin? The Federal Highway Administration could issue a decision on the road — whether and where it can be built — by January. That would put the issue squarely in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ lap, which must then approve two separate permits. That could take much of next year. Construction, under the best of circumstances, won’t begin before 2016, with the road open by 2019.

What about the money? The tolls on the road aren’t expected to produce anywhere near the amount of money needed to pay back debt needed to pay for the road, which will cost $1.8 billion (in 2016 dollars). Rawlings said that doesn’t bother him, in part because he’s confident that once the case is made for the road in Austin and elsewhere, and the regulatory hurdles are overcome, the money will be found.

Is it important to identify the funding soon? If all goes well, the federal highway agency could be ready to issue its final approval in January. But it won’t do so unless the city produces a plan that shows how the project will be funded. Here’s how the spokesman for the highway agency in Washington put it Wednesday: “In its financial plan, the project must demonstrate that funding is reasonably available for the completion of the project — which doesn’t necessarily mean the funding needs to be in hand at the ROD [record of decision] signing.”

So there is wiggle room. But the government means it when it says the funds have to be real. Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan conceded Wednesday that the city is nowhere close to having the funding reasonably certain.

Does the city have much time? Not if it doesn’t want to delay the project. Jordan stressed that final federal highway agency approval will be delayed anyway until the corps makes its decisions about the road and the other components of the project that are within the floodway. But the highway agency said that’s simply not the case.

Spokesman Doug Hecox said the agency does not expect to wait on the corps. “FHWA is on track to have its record of decision before the Army Corps of Engineers finishes its [evaluation],” he said.

Does Rawlings’ support for the road mean more waiting for the rest of the project? He said he has demanded the opposite, namely that the city have on his desk a plan for fast-tracking lakes and some other elements by June. Construction, he said, could be finished by 2015.

However, for as long as the city is relying on the road construction to provide the means to dig out the lakes, work on the lakes won’t begin until after approval for the road is issued. And that won’t come until after the money for the road is found.

In that sense, Rawlings’ support for the road keeps the lakes tied to the prospects of the toll road.

Will Rawlings’ support push the project over the hump? It’s tremendously important. His support by no means makes the approvals any easier and isn’t required in any fashion by the federal government. But had he opposed the road, or continued to keep his peace about it, his lack of support would have been heard loudly, not just by the federal officials but also by the North Texas Tollway Authority, local officials and residents in general.

LaHood backs off federal ban of cell phone use in cars

Link to article here.

US Transportation Secretary Disavows Cell Phone Story
US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood denies promoting federal cell phone ban legislation.
The Newspaper.com
May 4, 2012

Sec. Ray LaHoodUS Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is distancing himself from reports that he called for a federal law banning all cell phone use behind the wheel. The former Illinois congressman was in San Antonio, Texas speaking at a distracted driving summit. According to a widely cited Reuters report, "LaHood called on Thursday for a federal law to ban talking on a cell phone or texting while driving any type of vehicle on any road in the country." Not so, said a spokesman for the department.

"I can tell you that the Reuters report claiming the secretary announced a new push for a national distracted driving ban is inaccurate," LaHood's press secretary, Justin Nisly, wrote in an email. "The secretary has said for several years now that he is supportive of efforts in Congress to incentivize states to pass anti-texting and driving legislation, similar to the approach taken to prevent drunk driving and promote seat belt use. In the meantime, however, we're focused on our education and awareness efforts, as well as encouraging states to pass laws on their own."

A 2008 survey by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration concluded driver distraction, not violating the speed limit, was the most common cause of collisions (view report). Likewise, the UK Department for Transport found similar results from its analysis of accidents on the roads of Great Britain (view report).

President Obama's fiscal 2013 budget proposed $8 million in taxpayer funds to continue LaHood's crusade to get states to adopt cell phone ban legislation at the state level. So far, the Governors Highway Safety Association counts ten states that ban drivers from using cell phones without a hands-free headset. Thirty-one states ban novice drivers from picking up a phone. Thirty-seven states specifically prohibit text messaging behind the wheel.

Accident statistics fail to show a benefit to laws authorizing police to issue tickets for cell phone use behind the wheel. Connecticut and New York both have banned the use of cell phones and text messaging. In 2010, the fatal accident rate (adjusted for traffic volume) increased 4.6 and 43.7 percent respectively. By comparison, some of the states without any specific text messaging or cell phone use laws saw decreases in accidents. Arizona's fatality rate dropped 5.4 percent, Florida dropped 4.3 percent, Missouri dropped 8.7 percent, Montana dropped 15 percent and South Carolina decreased 9.3 percent.

At the same time that the US Department of Transportation is pushing laws to ban in-car cell phone use, it is promoting the "511" government program that encourages drivers to dial 511 for information on traffic conditions instead of tuning in to a traffic reports on AM radio.

Canseco molested by TSA agents AGAIN

Link to article here.

I-TEAM: Congressman Canseco says he was assaulted during TSA pat-down


by Brian New / KENS 5

Posted on April 24, 2012 at 5:30 PM

Updated today at 12:18 PM

 

U.S. Rep. Francisco Canseco said he was assaulted by a TSA agent at the San Antonio International Airport.

The Texas Congressman said the security agent went too far during a pat-down earlier this month.

"The agent was very aggressive in his pat-down, and he was patting me down where no one is supposed to go,” said Canseco.  “It got very uncomfortable so I moved his hand away.  That stopped everything and brought in supervisors and everyone else."

Canseco told the KENS 5 I-Team the agent said he too was assaulted when Canseco pushed his hand away.
 
According to TSA, neither man was cited.

A week later when going through the San Antonio International Airport, Canseco was once again selected for a pat-down.

"I did not see it as a coincidence,” he said.  “I asked them why are you going to pat me down again, so we discussed it further and after discussing it further, they patted me down."

However, before the discussion was over, San Antonio Police Department officers were called to the security check point area.

Again, no one was cited.
TSA issued the I-Team the following statement about the incident:

"TSA incorporates random and unpredictable security measures throughout the airport. Once a passenger enters the screening process, they must complete it prior to continuing to a flight or secure area."

Canseco said his experience illustrated changes in the airport security are needed.

"It is very important that Americans feel safe and secure as they travel in our nation’s airways - safe and secure from acts of terrorism and all that.  But, I also think that TSA sometimes gets too aggressive, and it's not just about me. It's about every American that goes through those TSA scanners."

The I-Team requested video from TSA of both incidents.  A TSA spokesperson said our request is being reviewed.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

UPDATE 4/25

TSA issued the following statement:

TSA has been contacted by the Congressman's office and will respond to them directly. Once a passenger enters the screening process, they must complete it prior to continuing to a flight or secure area.

Can TxDOT use gas taxes to support toll roads? Kolkhorst asks AG for opinion on Prop 15

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Terri Hall, Founder/Director,Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom,
(210) 275-0640
Kolkhorst asks for Attorney General opinion on use of gas taxes to build, support toll roads
Seeks clarity over Prop 15 controversy from 2001

(Austin, TX, November 14, 2014) With voters overwhelmingly embracing a move away from toll roads with the election of anti-toll Greg Abbott as the new Texas Governor, there remains an open question about whether or not the voters approved the use of the state gasoline tax, and any other money available to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), for toll roads when they approved Proposition 15 back in 2001. Some state leaders believe the voters approved the use of gas taxes to build toll roads with passage of Prop 15, but the ballot language never mentions a word about gas taxes nor all funds available to TxDOT being used for toll roads - which is a double tax.

“It’s important for lawmakers to know heading into the next session whether or not TxDOT is authorized to subsidize toll projects that can’t pay for themselves with taxpayer money,” points out Texas State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst who Chairs the House Health Committee, and has been a long-time champion for taxpayers on transportation.

Kolkhorst submitted a request for an Attorney General opinion on Prop 15 last week. She authored the legislation to repeal the controversial Trans Texas Corridor, and she’s currently running for the Texas Senate seat, SD 18, vacated by Glenn Hegar who was just elected State Comptroller. Chairwoman Kolkhorst believes the ballot language for Prop 15 was less than forthcoming about the full implications of the amendment to the Texas Constitution in 2001, and she wants to protect taxpayers from double taxation.

Keystone company bullies landowners, condemns land in Texas, despite no permit

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Keystone XL pipeline company bullies landowners, condemns Texans' land, despite denial of pipeline permit

Texas private property rights threatened by Keystone XL Pipeline

(San Antonio, TX - February 13, 2012) - Today a new statewide coalition of groups and advocates for private property rights has announced its support for landowners along the path of the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas. The groups charge that TransCanada, the company proposing to build the pipeline, has used eminent domain to bully landowners and condemn private property.

Despite a presidential permit denied to TransCanada for the Keystone XL project just weeks ago, the company continues to pressure landowners along the Texas pipeline route.

The controversial Keystone XL pipeline would carry tar sands crude more than 1,900 miles through six states including Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.  In Texas, the pipeline crosses eighteen counties, from Paris to Port Arthur.  

Groups with landowners near the cities of Paris, Winnsboro, and Wells joined in press events held in Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston to ask for support from agencies and officials on the continuing plight of landowners who would be impacted by the pipeline.

"Texas, we have an eminent domain problem," said Terri Hall, Executive Director of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF). "There is absolutely zero oversight for pipeline companies that want to take private property from Texans - all you have to do is check the right box on a form and declare yourself a common carrier, no questions asked."

Supreme Court sides with landowners
The form Hall refers to is a T4 permit application filed with the Texas Railroad Commission. In a recent Texas Supreme Court case, Texas Rice Land Partners, Ltd. and Mike Latta vs. Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas LLC , the court effectively revoked the eminent domain authority of the pipeline builder, holding that "Private property cannot be imperiled... by checking a certain box on a one-page government form."  

In order to be a common carrier, a company needs to satisfy the question if it is purposed for public use.  The pipeline company in the Denbury Green case did not meet the criteria of 'common carrier,' as it was merely a private company transporting product to one of its own subsidiaries; therefore, it did not meet the criteria of operating for public use or for the public good.  There is a real question as to whether the private entity, TransCanada, meets that same criteria.

The ruling has been hailed as a major victory for private property rights in Texas. Advocates like Hall and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina say that conservative politicians have campaigned on the issue, but have done too little for property owners.

"Texas politicians talk tough on eminent domain, but with Keystone we have a private pipeline company acting as a 'common carrier' and bludgeoning private property owners with eminent domain while many of our Republican leaders cheer from the sidelines," said Medina who is also Executive Director of We Texans.

"Despite the fact that this permit has been denied and there technically is no permit for TransCanada, the company continues to bully and pressure Texas landowners," Medina noted.  "And we would all like to ask, by what authority does this company have to continue insisting that landowners settle with them when there is no permit?"

Linda Curtis of Independent Texans, who helped coordinate groups in 2006 supporting Carole Strayhorn's independent gubernatorial bid and the anti-Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) efforts said, "A similar statewide grassroots movement is waiting in the wings on this issue because the problems are way too familiar to East Texans who fought to stop the land grab for the TTC."

Medina and Hall held press events in Houston and San Antonio respectively, standing with landowners who say they've been bullied by TransCanada. Former DISH, TX mayor Calvin Tillman hosted a similar event in Dallas, and in Austin, Independent Texans Director Linda Curtis and Jessica Ellison of Texans for Accountable Government spoke.

Property owners forced to settle or be condemned
Landowners attending the events have property condemned or are being pushed into negotiated settlements and claim their story has not been told. Landowners say theirs are among more than 80 cases in Texas where TransCanada, a private foreign pipeline company, condemned private property belonging to Texans.

"At this moment my property is condemned and legally TransCanada can lay that pipeline and pump undisclosed chemicals through it, even though we've never even been before a judge," said Julia Trigg Crawford of Lamar County. "I think most Texans would be stunned to find out that there is no process for challenging the use of eminent domain by private pipeline companies until after your land has already been condemned."

Crawford is challenging TransCanada's common carrier status and its use of eminent domain in her case.  TransCanada's representatives indicate they want to settle with the Crawfords out of court.  However, they insist on retaining the right to begin construction/trenching as soon as March 1, 2012.

"We need our officials to stand up and help these landowners," commented Tillman.  "Currently the Railroad Commission and other state agencies are passing the buck, claiming they have no authority over Keystone wanting to build a segment from Cushing to the Texas coast.  Where are our legislators?  Where are the authorities to protect Texas landowners from private companies like TransCanada?"

The group also pointed out that the company misled landowners in other situations, telling property owners the pipeline had all necessary permits and repeatedly telling individual landowners that they were the last holdouts, making the pipeline seem inevitable and securing more favorable terms for the company.

FURTHER CONTACT INFO:
Debra Medina -  512.663.8401, We Texans    
Calvin Tillman - 940.453.3640, former Mayor of Dish    
Linda Curtis - 512.657.2089, Independent Texans        
Jessica Ellison - 512.653.9179, Texans for Accountable Government
Julia Trigg Crawford - 713.443.8789 , Landowner , Paris, TX
Eleanor Fairchild - 903.857.2284, Landowner, Winnsboro, TX

TURF is a non-partisan, grassroots, all-volunteer group defending citizens' concerns with Agenda 21, toll road policy, public private partnerships, and eminent domain abuse. TURF promotes pro-taxpayer, pro-freedom, & non-toll transportation solutions. For more information or to support the work of TURF, please visit www.TexasTURF.org.

Grassroots declare victory & issue warning over election results

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Grassroots celebrate defeat of Prop 4,
issue warning about Prop 2

(AUSTIN, TX - November 10, 2011) In reflecting upon the mixed results of yesterday's Constitutional Amendment election, grassroots groups We Texans, Independent Texans, and Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) are celebrating victory over the defeat of Prop 4 and gearing up to take the opposition to the mat to defeat any attempt at a Trans Texas Water heist by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) through its newfound revolving bond authority.

"Rather than providing solutions to the water needs facing Texas, the additional debt imposed on Texans by Prop 2 compounds the problem," warned Debra Medina, Founder, We Texans. "InfrastructureTexas.org put out information playing on voters' fears about the drought and wildfires. Many Texans believed this money was going to fund needed water projects with no cost to them. H204Texas PAC put out an email saying Prop 2 would cost the taxpayers NOTHING. But we know better and we'll be watching TWDB's every move to ensure taxpayers and Texans' water rights are protected."

Politifact.com concluded H2O4Texas' claim was a half truth.

It states: "The group's claim sidesteps the fact that taxpayers of jurisdictions benefiting from the bonds will face bond-related costs. And while the additional bond authority sought in the proposition would not cost state taxpayers--up front--state lawmakers could still exploit their standing authority, as before, to spend state revenue on related debt."

"We're encouraged by the near defeat of Prop 2 -- a big giveaway to Rick Perry's water boys on the Texas Water Development Board.  Citizens are wising up to the fix between large-scale developer friends of the Governor,  and Republican and Democratic politicians who are in on these deals," notes Linda Curtis, Founder of Independent Texans. "Democratic State Senator Kirk Watson got a taste of what is to come last week, when he faced suspicions of otherwise supportive citizens in Bastrop when he was pushing Prop 2 at a water forum.  When politicians on both sides come together, so must we citizens.  The Texas water war -- a transpartisan phenomenon like the fight to stop the TTC --  is now officially on."

Texas voters said a resounding 'NO' to expanding Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and Transportation Reinvestment Zone (or TRZ) authority to counties by defeating Prop 4 November 8. The Constitutional Amendment HJR 63 authored by Rep. Joe Pickett (D - El Paso) would have allowed counties to use property taxes and sales taxes collected in a TRZ to build toll roads. So the defeat of Prop 4 is also a defeat of Rick Perry and the Texas Legislature's plan to slap tolls on virtually all new lanes to Texas roads.

"Using gas taxes to build toll roads is bad enough, but trying to nab property taxes to build toll roads is beyond the pale," says Terri Hall, TURF Founder. "It's refreshing to see the voters reject this anti-taxpayer and anti-property rights amendment. Let's see if lawmakers in Austin listen -- Texans don't want their tax money used to build roads and then have to pay again, through tolls, to drive on them."

The defeat of Prop 4 also signals a rejection of government abuse of property rights for Kelo-style economic development. Prop 4 would have given the government more power to decide whose private property it wishes to "redevelop." The ballot wording was vague and misleading. It failed to even mention tax increment financing, transportation reinvestment zone, or even the word 'transportation.' TURF launched a statewide campaign to educate voters about the amendment. We Texans, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, and Independent Texans also opposed the measure.

Cities already have TIF and TRZ authority. TRZs are as much about "economic development" as it is financing transportation projects, and means those who live in a zone will have their property taxes go up due to higher property values from the government-encouraged development. Property taxes aren't going to go down once a county sells bonds dependent on ever increasing property tax appraisals.

The amendment was also linked to HB 563, authored by Pickett, which would have granted counties broad new authority, even to grant tax breaks to special interests in the zone and to use surpluses as a slush fund for virtually anything.

STATE OUTSOURCING TAX INCREASES
TRZs are a way for STATE legislators to punt on their responsibility to build and maintain STATE highways and their responsibility to end diversions of the gas tax to non-road uses. It allows them to outsource tax increases for roads by passing it down to the LOCAL level. By using appraisal increases to pay for transportation projects, it takes that revenue away from what cities and counties usually use that money to fund. So it would likely necessitate further property tax increases in order to make up for the shortfall in city and county services that will be diverted to transportation.

TURF does victory lap over defeat of Prop 4

TURF celebrates victory over Prop 4

(SAN ANTONIO, TX - November 8, 2011) Texas voters said a resounding 'NO' to expanding Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and Transportation Reinvestment Zone (or TRZ) authority to counties by defeating Prop 4 November 8. The Constitutional Amendment HJR 63 authored by Rep. Joe Pickett (D - El Paso) would have allowed counties to use property taxes and sales taxes collected in a TRZ to build toll roads. So the defeat of Prop 4 is also a defeat of Rick Perry and the Texas Legislature's plan to slap tolls on virtually all new lanes to Texas roads.

"Using gas taxes to build toll roads is bad enough, but trying to nab property taxes to build toll roads is beyond the pale," says Terri Hall, TURF Founder. "It's refreshing to see the voters reject this anti-taxpayer and anti-property rights amendment. Let's see if lawmakers in Austin listen -- Texans don't want their tax money used to build roads and then have to pay again, through tolls, to drive on them."

The defeat of Prop 4 also signals a rejection of government abuse of property rights for Kelo-style economic development. Prop 4 would have given the government more power to decide whose private property it wishes to "redevelop." The ballot wording was vague and misleading. It failed to even mention tax increment financing, transportation reinvestment zone, or even the the word 'transportation.' TURF launched a statewide campaign to educate voters about the amendment. We Texans, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, and Independent Texans also opposed Prop 4 as well.

Cities already have TIF and TRZ authority. TRZs are as much about "economic development" as it is financing transportation projects, and means those who live in a zone will have their property taxes go up due to higher property values from the government-encouraged development. Property taxes aren't going to go down once a county sells bonds dependent on ever increasing property tax appraisals.

The amendment was also linked to HB 563, authored by Pickett, which would have granted counties broad new authority, even to grant tax breaks to special interests in the zone and to use surpluses as a slush fund for virtually anything.

STATE OUTSOURCING TAX INCREASES
TRZs are a way for STATE legislators to punt on their responsibility to build and maintain STATE highways and their responsibility to end diversions of the gas tax to non-road uses. It allows them to outsource tax increases for roads by passing it down to the LOCAL level. By using appraisal increases to pay for transportation projects, it takes that revenue away from what cities and counties usually use that money to fund. So it would likely necessitate further property tax increases in order to make up for the shortfall in city and county services that will be diverted to transportation.

TURF is a non-partisan, grassroots, all-volunteer group defending citizens' concerns with Agenda 21, toll road policy, public private partnerships, and eminent domain abuse. TURF promotes pro-taxpayer, pro-freedom, & non-toll transportation solutions. For more information or to support the work of TURF, please visit www.TexasTURF.org.


# # #
  ___________________________________________________________________________ Link to article here.

Texas voters reject proposal to give counties the same authority as cities in issuing bonds

The Associated Press
Published:08 November 2011

AUSTIN— Texas voters have rejected a constitutional amendment that would have given counties the same bonding powers as cities and towns, while passing a measure to allow cities and counties to enter contracts with one another without creating a new tax district.
Also, the governor will have new powers to grant pardons, elected officials will have more time to resign before running for another office and there is a new way to issue funds for student loans after Texas voters approved changes to the Texas Constitution.

Under Proposition 4, Texas counties would have been given the same authority that cities and towns have to issue bonds to finance the development of unproductive, underdeveloped or blighted areas, while pledging repayment with property tax revenues. Critics argued that the amendment would expand transportation reinvestment zones to counties, which could clear the way for new toll roads.

Proposition 5 authorizes the Legislature to allow cities and counties to enter into contracts with other cities and counties without triggering a property tax.

Proposition 9 allows the Texas governor to grant a pardon, reprieve or commutation of punishment to a person who completes a sentence of deferred adjudication. But the court records could only be cleared on the written recommendation and advice of the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Under Proposition 10, local elected officeholders would get an extra 30 days before triggering automatic resignation if they become a candidate for another office.

The Higher Education Coordinating Board can now issue bonds for low-interest student loans now that voters have approved Proposition 3.

TURF urges voters to defeat Prop 4 on Nov 8

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TURF urges voters to defeat Prop 4 on Nov 8
Prop 4 allows counties to raise property taxes
and give tax breaks to their buddies

(SAN ANTONIO, TX - October 17, 2011) On November 8, Texas voters will decide whether or not to amend the Texas Constitution by approving 10 new ballot propositions passed by the 82nd Texas legislature, and TURF along with We Texans and Independent Texans, are urging voters to defeat Prop 4, which is based on the Constitutional Amendment HJR 63 authored by Rep. Joe Pickett (D - El Paso). Prop 4 would expand Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and Transportation Reinvestment Zone (or TRZ) authority to counties. Cities already have TIF and TRZ authority.

The amendment is also linked to HB 563, authored by Pickett. The Texas Attorney General has indicated that the TRZ authority granted to counties in HB 563 is not sufficient to withstand legal challenge, so he recommended a Constitutional Amendment (HJR 63/Prop 4) in order for counties to exercise this authority. So if voters say 'NO' to Prop 4, counties will not have the authority to establish TRZs.

Prop 4 ballot wording:
"The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to permit a county to issue bonds or notes to finance the development or redevelopment of an unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted area and to pledge for repayment of the bonds or notes increases in ad valorem taxes imposed by the county on property in the area. The amendment does not provide authority for increasing ad valorem tax rates."

Prop 4 would give counties the authority to:
-Increase property tax (through higher property valuations) to pay for STATE transportation projects
-To use and/or increase sales tax (in the zone) for transportation projects without coming to voters
-To use property taxes to build TOLL roads (a DOUBLE tax) or ANY transportation project (transit, light rail)
-Enter into bond debt without coming to the voters
-Grant tax breaks to their buddies (special interests) in the zone (causing residential taxpayers to pay more)
-Use TRZ surpluses as unaccountable slush funds

The ballot wording is vague and misleading. It fails to even mention tax increment financing, transportation reinvestment zone, or even the the word 'transportation' on the ballot. However, it does reveal one of the purposes of the amendment which is to give the government more power to decide whose private property it wishes to "redevelop."  TRZs are as much about "economic development" as it is financing transportation projects, and means those who live in the zone will have their property taxes go up due to higher property values from the government-encouraged development.

TRZs allow local governments to use your property taxes to back bonds for transportation (or other) projects, WITHOUT COMING TO THE VOTERS.

"Your property taxes aren't going to go down once your city (which already has this authority) or county (who will get this authority if you vote 'yes' on Prop 4) sells bonds dependent on ever increasing property tax appraisals," said Terri Hall, Founder of TURF.

STATE OUTSOURCING TAX INCREASES
TRZs are a way for STATE legislators to punt on their responsibility to build and maintain STATE highways and their responsibility to end diversions of the gas tax to non-road uses. It allows them to outsource tax increases for roads by passing it down to the LOCAL level. By using appraisal increases to pay for transportation projects, it takes that revenue away from what cities and counties usually use that money to fund. So it's likely to necessitate further property tax increases in order to make up for the shortfall in city and county services that will be diverted to transportation.

TRZS CAN FUND TOLL PROJECTS
TRZs heist property tax appraisal increases within the designated zone to pay for transportation projects, including to subsidize toll roads (which would be a DOUBLE TAX). HB 563, would allow this zone to fund a pass through toll agreement with a private entity under Sec 222.107 (b) (which refers to Sec 222.104). Sec 222.104 (c) states: "(c)  The department may enter into an agreement with a private entity that provides for the payment of pass-through tolls to the department as reimbursement for the department's design, development, financing, construction, maintenance, or operation of a toll or non-toll facility on the state highway system that is financed by the department." Such deals begin to look an awful lot like public private partnerships that Texans have repeatedly rejected.

Also, in this legislation it states that any revenue collected in a TRZ that's over and above the amount needed to cover the bond debt on transportation projects can be used as a slush fund for politicians, without ever having to come to the voters again. Transportation Code Chapter 222.107 (h-1) states: "Any amount received from installment payments of the assessments not pledged or assigned in connection with the transportation project may be used for other purposes associated with the transportation project or in the zone" (which could mean virtually ANYTHING!). In addition section (k-1) says the boundaries of the zone can be expanded/amended at ANY time without the permission of the voters.

ROAD UTILITY DISTRICTS
Counties could also establish road utility districts under the TRZ law (Sec. 222.107 (i)) even if Prop 4 doesn't pass WITHOUT coming to the voters. However, the Texas Attorney General has determined counties would invite legal challenges because such authority is not expressly granted in the Texas Constitution. Counties can use ANY funds above the cost of the transportation project in a road utility district established under this section for ANY purpose (Sec 222.107 (k)).

TAX BREAKS FOR THEIR BUDDIES
Counties can also elect to grant tax abatements to ANY property owners in the zone (exceptions for their buddies) under Sec. 222.107 (h) which says: "The commissioners court by order or resolution may enter into an agreement with the owner of any real property located in the transportation reinvestment zone to abate all or a portion of the ad valorem taxes or to grant other relief from the taxes imposed by the county on the owner's property..."

INCREASE SALES TAX WITHOUT VOTER APPROVAL
Counties will also be able to grab sales taxes to fund transportation projects in the zone without coming to the voters, and possibly to raise sales taxes under the language. Section 222.110 (b) says: "The governing body of a municipality or county may determine, in an ordinance or order designating an area as a transportation reinvestment zone or in an ordinance or order adopted subsequent to the designation of a zone, the portion or amount of tax increment generated from the sales and use taxes imposed by a municipality under Section 321.101(a), Tax Code, or by a county under Chapter 323, Tax Code, attributable to the zone, above the sales tax base, to be used as provided by Subsection (e)."

Texans celebrate repeal of Trans Texas Corridor

(AUSTIN, TEXAS - October 16, 2011) - For the first time since the 80th legislative session in 2007, all the grassroots groups that took on Texas Governor Rick Perry to stop the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) and place a moratorium on public private partnerships (or P3s) gathered at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center in Austin, Saturday, October 15, to celebrate their collective victory in finally achieving the complete repeal of the Trans Texas Corridor from state statute (Kolkhorst's  HB 1201 was signed into law June 17, 2011).

Several current and former state representatives gave emotional acceptance speeches saying they were "honored" to received awards at TURF's 'Stars of Texas' award luncheon. The event recognized and celebrated the work of Texas State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst and former State Rep. David Leibowitz to repeal the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC), former State Rep. Jim Dunnam and Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson's efforts to keep tolls off existing roadways and stop the sale of Texas roads to private corporations, and Rep. David Simpson's work to rein-in invasive searches by the TSA that impede freedom to travel.

Rep. Kolkhorst has introduced legislation to repeal the TTC for the last three sessions. This year, it finally passed. The pie-in-the-sky, 4,000-mile, 1,200 foot wide network of toll roads, rail, utilities, telecommunications, etc. that would confiscate 580,000 acres and displace 1 million Texans on TTC-35 alone is DEAD. However, in SB 1420, 14 Texas road projects remain eligible for P3s that will cost urban commuters dearly, 75 cents per mile, and still pose sovereignty, eminent domain, and monopoly concerns.

Terri Hall, Founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) noted, "So taking a line from the movie Princess Bride, the Trans Texas Corridor is 'mostly dead.' Regardless of the final status, the TTC has been officially repealed, which is cause for our celebration today. We put the proponents in serious retreat, yet we will remain vigilant."

Hall pointed out that by its own admission, the highway department (TxDOT) plans to break-up the TTC in smaller pieces and do the project using the original road or loop name like, SH 130, and Loop 9 around DFW. However, the size and scale will be greatly diminished, which Hall thinks is a tremendous victory for property rights and Texas landowners.

Kolkhorst teared up as she listened to Hall recount the stories that lead up to the repeal of the TTC. As she accepted her award she remarked, "How could we even think of selling off our infrastructure to foreign companies? Shame on us, shame on us for thinking about it. I will fight any Republican, any Democrat, anyone who wants to take our state from us."

"I don't know how you did it. The deck was so stacked against you...You inspire me, you will inspire other generations. God bless Texas and may it always stand as a free and sovereign nation," Kolkhorst concluded at the end of her emotional speech.

Simpson in typical form, brought a hush over the room as he spoke, "Civil government has destroyed many lives. What is fundamental to property or to working is the movement of our bodies, in a sense, transportation. I'm encouraged by the people who are waking up and listening who are holding coffees, holding town hall meetings, looking at voting records."

Simpson described the proper role of government, which should be limited to just two things: enforcing the rules between individuals and punishing the wrongdoer who harms his neighbor and beyond that, government should "get out of the way," a statement which drew hearty applause. "The role of force should be very limited. The role of force has not made Texas great, it has not made America great, freedom has made Texas great."

Leibowitz praised the grassroots who worked together toward a common goal to slay the TTC, "This really is a very special group you have put together. Many different political philosophies, different walks of life, urban, rural, people that have come together for a common cause. People that come forward and work together to get something accomplished, they do end up, in fact, literally moving mountains."

Then he noted that he was unusual in the legislature in that he didn't have a lot of photos of himself alongside notable figures hanging in his office, like the many dignitaries and celebrities that visit the Texas Legislature while its in session, but "I will in fact cherish this" (referring to his 'Star of Texas' Award).

Attendees roared after viewing a video clip of Dunnam's exchange with TxDOT's Phil Russell over private toll roads that could best be described as a body slam that left Russell reeling and ultimately killed the P3 re-authorization in the special session of July 2009 that lead to the expiration of P3s a month later.

Dunnam said the "danger we have today in all levels of our government is that certain people 'own' it...the people stood up and stopped these toll roads in my district. It was all about the money, all about money for private interests making money off the government."

He went on to assert that elected officials are afraid to stand up to the money, "but, fortunately, they're also afraid of y'all" (pointing to Hall).

In his usual style, Adkisson recounted the history of Bexar County from the Battle of Alazan to the Battle of the Alamo to express that they've never been a bunch to back away from a fight. Adkisson has been in a battle royale trying to stop tolls on existing roads in San Antonio for 6 years.

"We ran the king out of town in 1776 and established our freedom as Americans and then we proceeded to establish big, private money as a modern monarchy. They're at work on a regular basis, and your elected officials are constantly tugged at by these people and they're trying to figure out if they're going to agree with you or the big money boys. I salute you because the dream of American democracy and American freedom is one that's made possible by your daily efforts."

"Never ever believe there are just Republicans or Democrats in this process, there's a marbling of commonality that runs throughout our democracy. We are Americans today and we are Americans forever," Adkisson concluded and received a standing ovation. In fact, every elected official honored received rousing standing ovations throughout the awards ceremony.


David and Linda Stall, founders of Corridor Watch and the couple that ignited the firestorm of opposition to the TTC, gave impassioned speeches about what motivated them to continue on in the face of great odds against them. "We could move somewhere else and do our jobs, but the neighbors I could see out of every window made their living off the land and this corridor would have not only taken their land, it would have destroyed their livelihoods," Linda Stall acknowledged.

In addition to paying tribute to a roomful of honorees, Hall was sure to give credit to Austin Toll Party and Texas Toll Party Founder Sal Costello for the movement's success.

Hall said Costello had a knack for marketing, he was edgy, and one of the most effective advocates against the toll roads and TTC in the state. He used the online petition to gather his email list that not only riled politicians but grew his army to over 50,000. Costello mastered how to use alternative media, like blogging, before blogging gained legitimacy.

"I stand on his shoulders. The information and techniques I learned from him were absolutely invaluable, though he moved on and lives in Illinois, I know he's here in spirit today," Hall remarked.
2011 Stars of Texas
TURF Founder Terri Hall with Truth Be Tolled filmmaker William Molina

Award-winning filmmaker William Molina, also an honoree, condensed footage from his four films in the Truth Be Tolled series to share with those gathered as a finale -- bringing attendees through the full gamut of emotions, anger, tears, and even laughter as the film montage ended to the tune Trans Texas Corridor Blues.



Complete list of honorees below.




The 'Stars of Texas' Honorees:

The Honorable Texas State Representative Lois Kolkhorst, Brenham
The Honorable Former Texas State Representative David Leibowitz, San Antonio
The Honorable Former Texas State Representative Jim Dunnam, Waco
The Honorable Texas State Representative David Simpson, Longview
The Honorable Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson, San Antonio

Hank Gilbert, Co-founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom
David & Linda Stall, Founders, Corridor Watch
William Molina, Filmmaker, Storm Pictures
Ralph & Marcia Snyder, Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission (ECTSRPC)
(Also accepting awards on behalf of the Honorable Mae Smith, Mayor of Holland, TX, President of ECTSRPC & Dan & Margaret Byfield, American Stewards of Liberty)
David Van Os, Attorney, Advocate
Melissa Cubria, Texas Public Interest Research Group
Agnes Voges, Blacklands Coalition (Also, accepting an award on behalf of Chris Hammel, Blacklands Coalition)
Trey & Jennifer Duhon, Citizens for a Better Waller County
Linda Curtis, Independent Texans
Martha Estes, Working for Accountable Government
Judith McGeary, Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance
Don Dixon, Citizen Advocate
Gina Parker Ford, TURF Board Member, Eagle Forum, Advocate

State Dept holds hearings on controversial TransCanada Keystone pipeline

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Connecting the dots: Tar sands oil pipelines part of Trans Texas Corridor concept
Eminent domain threat remains

(Austin, TX - September 28, 2011) Though the Trans Texas Corridor statute was officially repealed on June 17, 2011, the tar sands oil pipelines are part and parcel of the original Trans Texas Corridor concept that lives on. The TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, the subject of a public hearing conducted by the U.S. State Department today in Austin, is just one of two tar sands oil pipeline routes that will affect over 20,000 acres of private property in 6 different states either by eminent domain or by the threat of eminent domain to directly benefit a foreign corporation.

The other identified tar sands pipeline will also connect Texas with Alberta, Canada through the Ports to Plains corridor, formerly one of the Trans Texas Corridors. According to the Great Plains International Trade Corridor Assessment Report done by Cambridge Systematics for the Texas Department of Transportation in 2008, Ports to Plains is “an important economic link between the three countries (United States, Canada, & Mexico)....consequently, NAFTA has elevated the importance of intermodal infrastructure connecting the trading partners” and explains that one of the major emerging oil extraction areas of the world is the Athabasca Tar Sands area of Northeastern Alberta. The report states that oil & gas pipelines are part of this trade corridor and that truck transportation of fuel oils is expected to increase 329% in 2035.

“...Oil exploration and extraction activities could increase truck traffic in the corridor as oil pipelines transporting oil from Canada to points south for refining reach capacity.”

“The people of Texas have been crystal clear on this issue - they DO NOT want ANY form of the Trans Texas Corridor or eminent domain for private gain, nor will they tolerate these foreign companies who masquerade as a common carrier to get eminent domain authority, when in fact, their pipelines are for a private purpose, not a legitimate public use,” emphasizes Terri Hall, Founder/Director of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom.

On August 26, 2011, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in the Texas Rice Land Partners v Denbury Green Pipeline Case that “transporting gas solely for the benefit of a corporate parent or other affiliate is not a public use of the pipeline.” On page 10 it states: "To qualify as a common carrier with the power of eminent domain, the pipeline must serve the public. As explained above, extending the power of eminent domain to the taking of property for a private use cannot survive constitutional scrutiny.”

TransCanada’s pipeline cannot qualify as a common carrier pipeline under Texas law and therefore ought not threaten landowners with eminent domain.

“If it wants to build this pipeline, it must do so without the use of eminent domain and TransCanada must pay willing landowners a price they’re willing to sell for if they want to come after Texas property,” contends Hall.

TURF also notes that there are legitimate environmental and safety concerns that were not accurately nor adequately studied in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Keystone XL pipeline, and it is the duty of our government to protect the public from the dangers of contamination and exploitation of our water supply, especially on projects of this magnitude. The EIS also failed to sufficiently study the impacts of the projected 329% increase in truck traffic needed to transport the oil nor the strain that places on Texas roadways at a time when highway dollars are scarce. Nor did the EIS sufficiently study the cumulative impacts of multiple tar sands oil pipelines running from Alberta, Canada to Texas.

The public can submit comments through October 9 here.

For more information on the Keystone Pipeline with points made by both Trans Canada as well as its critics, go here.

TURF Report Card for 82nd Legislative Session in 2011

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TURF releases Report Card for 82nd Legislative Session
Rick Perry, Dewhurst, Straus get failing grade, Phillips gets dishonorable mention

(Monday, September 12, 2011) Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom released its Report Card for the 82nd Session of the Texas Legislature today. The Report Card reflects what TURF Founder and Director, Terri Hall calls “the worst legislative session since the dawn of the Trans Texas Corridor and Rick Perry’s version of toll roads in 2003.”

According to TURF, the 82nd regular session contained some of the most anti-taxpayer transportation and infrastructure-related bills ever conceived, including SB 1048 which spreads public private partnerships to every kind of public infrastructure beyond roads and SB 19 which grants toll entities that exercise their development rights, ownership of our state and federal highways in perpetuity (which gives them the ability to keep tolls in place in perpetuity).

The passage of SB 1048 and SB 1420 means eminent domain for private gain will continue. SB 18, that lawmakers call a property rights bill, specifically allows eminent domain for private gain, for economic development, and for blight, despite the opposition of a coalition of property rights groups, as long as the project is in the name of a listed “public use,” like a road. TURF contends the bad far outweighs the good from bills like the repeal of the Trans Texas Corridor, HB 1201, by Rep. Lois Kolkhorst.

All the bills used in the Report Card became law (listed in detail under “Methodology” on the Report Card). Larry Phillips gets a special dishonorable mention for authoring the bill, HB 3789, that would have resurrected the Trans Texas Corridor without limitations, public protections, or expiration (Phillips pulled it down thanks to the grassroots backlash). He also authored some of the most damaging, anti-taxpayer, pro-industry, pro-big government bills and amendments of the session.

Phillips led the charge to tack on the amendment that makes fourteen Texas roads eligible for public private partnerships (PPPs) that sell- off Texas sovereign land/public roads to private, even foreign, entities in 50 year monopolies. PPPs use taxpayer subsidies including gas taxes, contain non-compete clauses that penalize or prohibit the expansion of surrounding free routes, and put the power to tax in the hands of private corporations, that have resulted in toll rates as high as 75 cents per mile (like adding $15 to every gallon of gas you buy).

SB 1048, written by a British firm, Balfour Beatty, will also allow all public buildings, nursing homes, hospitals, schools, ports, mass transit projects, ports, telecommunications, etc. to be sold-off to corporations in deals without a time limit (could be 100 years or more), where the entity can charge “user fees” to gain access to public facilities or charge “lease payments” as a means of compensation, where the taxpayers secure the private entity’s debt, where the entity gets access to loans of taxpayer money through the State Infrastructure Bank, and where the private company gets to profit off the land taken through eminent domain that surrounds the public facility in a virtual government-sanctioned monopoly over critical public infrastructure.

Tolling existing freeways legal or not?

“Texans deserve protection from the DOUBLE TAXATION of converting freeways into tollways. Perry is dead wrong to imply Texans are protected in state law. They’re not, and the legislature once again failed to act,” Hall emphasized. “Add to that, fourteen Texas road projects are currently eligible to be become foreign-owned toll roads through the public private partnership amendment added to the TxDOT sunset bill, SB 1420 (Amendment #90 by Phillips & Perry signed the bill). When toll rates for such projects are as high as 75 cents PER MILE, Perry’s claim that he’s against selling America to foreign creditors and that he’s kept taxes low is a FARCE!”

Questions still loom about whether or not it is legal to convert free highway lanes into toll lanes in the state of Texas, despite Perry’s claim that it is illegal during the January 29, 2010 Republican gubernatorial debate.

Hall notes, “Not only are they planning to toll existing lanes, they're misleading the public about what they’re doing. The feds are not only aware of the plans to toll existing highway lanes on US 281 in San Antonio in particular, they had already granted clearance until we sued to stop them.”

Perry's insists that the Texas legislature passed a bill in 2005 prohibiting the conversion of free lanes to toll lanes. However, the bill, HB 2702, tells precisely how TxDOT can LEGALLY convert existing highway lanes into toll lanes through 6 exceptions, one that TxDOT claims allows a conversion of free lanes by simply downgrading the free lanes to access roads adjacent to the tollway.

Though the language doesn’t specifically use the term “access roads” to refer to the relocating of free lanes adjacent to the tollway, TxDOT has consistently interpreted the law to mean it has the authority to downgrade freeway lanes to access roads without triggering a public vote based on HB 2702. See the two-part discussion of this law before the Sunset Commission in 2008 here and here. Part-two shows former TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz stating TxDOT’s interpretation of HB 2702 allows highway lanes to be downgraded to access roads.

The bill also contains a gaping grandfather clause that exempts virtually all the toll projects currently on the table (because they were designated as toll roads in MPO plans prior to September of 2005), so no public vote would be triggered for the dozens of grandfathered toll projects.

“Perry's elitist ‘you can eat cake’ attitude is this: if you can't afford the toll lanes, you can sit in congestion on the stop-light ridden access roads. He thinks replacing free highway lanes with access roads is acceptable and his highway department is doing it all over Texas,” says Hall.

The citizens’ fight to stop the conversion of existing FREEway lanes into toll lanes on US 281 and Loop 1604 in San Antonio and 290 West in Austin, has languished precisely because of the loopholes in HB 2702.

TURF worked in the last session to fix these loopholes. Sen. Robert Nichols has introduced a bill to eliminate some of those loopholes every session during his tenure in office. TURF wants all of the loopholes nixed and believes Nichols’ version adds a new one. Nichols’ bill, SB 730, passed the Senate and Rep. George Lavender carried it in the House, but the bill didn’t make it out of Calendars Committee. It was clear in the House Transportation Committee that members felt frontage roads were NOT an acceptable replacement for highway lanes.

###


Link to blog here.

Rabblerouser Roundup

A: Roads and Property
Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Terri Hall, whose Texans United for Reform and Freedom helped lead the fight against the Trans-Texas Corridor a few years back, has never been a fan of Gov. Rick Perry, godfather to Texas toll roads. Not surprisingly, she’s just as un-enamored these days of the Texas Legislature. TURF issued a release this week calling the recent disaster in Austin “the worst legislative session since the dawn of the Trans-Texas Corridor.” Static could not agree more except perhaps to amend it to “since the dawn of time.”

NO-TTCvinyl-175Hall’s group presented their list of the worst of the worst — the baddest ol’ bills that the Legislature passed this summer — topped, not surprisingly, by a bill that opens the door to selling off everything the state owns, down to hospitals and schools, to private for-profit corporations, in the name of “public-private partnerships.” Then there were the bills that will allow private companies, including foreign corporations, to keep ownership of Texas toll roads in perpetuity and perhaps move all “free” traffic off some highways — so that even if your big wide Texas freeway has already been paid for with your tax dollars, you won’t be allowed to drive on any of its main lanes without paying hefty tolls. No sir, frontage roads will be good enough for the likes of most of us. If only Perry’s presidential campaign could be moved to the frontage road, perhaps re-routed to some bumpy dead-end. Next to some farm whose owner has lost half her land to a toll road …

Coalition protests Grand Pkwy tollway gas tax subsidy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Misplaced priorities: $350 million subsidy to road for ExxonMobil
Grand Pkwy poster-child of all that's wrong with road policy in Texas

(Austin, TX, May 25, 2011) - As TxDOT hosts its final public hearings on its Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), a broad coalition of groups are protesting the misplaced priorities of the highway department that's choosing to allocate scarce resources to funding Grand Parkway around Houston ahead of all 100 most congested roads throughout the state. The Texas Transportation Commission voted on April 28, 2011 to make Grand Parkway Segment E a statewide "priority" and assigned ~$350 million of statewide discretionary funds toward the project that's being pushed ahead of other projects because ExxonMobil want to build its headquarters there. Construction of Segment E is slated to begin this summer.

Grand Parkway in its entirety has also been designated to become a privatized toll road using a Comprehensive Development Agreement or CDA (which is currently in the TxDOT Sunset Bill SB 1420). Over 100 grassroots groups have gone on record opposing CDAs (also known as public private partnerships) and such public subsidies that benefit private corporations.

Two press events were held by the coalition, one in Austin and one in Houston, to bring attention to what it feels is the poster-child of the bad road policy in Texas, Grand Parkway. Among the grassroots groups opposed to public subsidies for private toll roads are: Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), Citizens Transportation Coalition, Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG), Independent Texans, Central Texas Republican Liberty Caucus, Texans for Accountable Government, Houston Tomorrow, and Sierra Club along with over 100 more groups that signed onto an Open Letter opposing public private partnerships and such public subsidies.


STIP revisions include advancing funds both to engineer and construct portions of SH-99 Segment E. Refer to the STIP quarterly update for details (SH-99 projects begin on page 17): http://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/tpp/stip/rev/fy_11_14/highway/houston_hwy_072510.pdf

"So TxDOT can come up with $350 million for the Grand 'Porkway,' a greenfield project to nowhere to benefit developers and ExxonMobil, but can't fix the highly congested Hwy 290 without making Texans pay toll taxes 'cuz we're out of money to fix our roads'? Truth is TxDOT has plenty of money to subsidize toll projects to benefit their buddies, but refuses to fix our freeways and keep them free because of their political agenda to pick winners and losers,” contends Terri Hall, Founder, Texans Uniting for Reform & Freedom, “These misplaced priorities are obvious to anyone with a pulse. It's public money for private profits and it's this sort of piracy of the public's assets that has caused the public to mistrust TxDOT and the elected officials who allow this abuse of public funds to continue."
 
“Five of the top 10 most-congested roads in the state (35 of the top 100) are in Harris County, but TxDOT would rather waste our tax dollars building a new toll road across the Katy Prairie,” notes Robin Holzer Board Chair of Citizens Transportation Coalition (CTC) in Houston, "TxDOT's unelected Commissioners have 'found' billions for a speculative toll road that will destroy the Katy Prairie in order to subsidize a few private land developers. Meanwhile, a quarter million taxpaying commuters will sit in traffic on US-290 indefinitely. TxDOT's gross misallocation of our tax dollars is appalling.”

“The Grand Parkway is a giveaway to special interests,” said Melissa Cubria, Advocate, Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG). “According to TxDOT officials, ExxonMobil’s consideration to build its headquarters outside Houston is contingent upon the completion of portions of the Grand Parkway. So TxDOT has declared the Grand Parkway a high priority, using scarce resources to pay for its construction, while Texans remain stuck in traffic and thousands of unsafe bridges are left to crumble.”

Linda Curtis of Independent Texans is already looking ahead, focussing on holding lawmakers accountable for these decisions made by them and a rogue agency they refuse to clean-up, "Texans made a big mistake giving one party super-majority control of both chambers. The ‘Porkway’ sausage we're supposed to eat is just the topping on an unpalatable cake cooked up by the Governor and mega-special interests.  Truly independent Texans must come out of the shoot next week ready to clean house in upcoming elections.”

###

_____________________________________________________________________________________

MEDIA ADVISORY
For immediate release

May 24, 2011
Contact:  Robin Holzer, Board chair


Misplaced priorities:  $4.8 billion to advance SH-99 while US-290 commuters sit in traffic
Coalition to protest Grand Parkway as poster child of all that's wrong with Texas transportation policy

(Houston, TX) - As TxDOT hosts the final public hearings on its Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) Wednesday, a broad coalition of groups will hold press events in two locations to challenge the misplaced priorities of the transportation agency.

While Harris County commuters suffer on 34 of the 100 most-congested roadways in the state, including US-290, the Texas Transportation Commission will squander our scarce tax dollars to fund the entire proposed 180-mile Grand Parkway around Houston.

TxDOT's Commission voted on April 28, 2011 to make Grand Parkway Segment E a statewide "priority" and assigned ~$350 million of statewide discretionary funds to expedite construction. This April allocation increases TxDOT's planned expenditures to more than $4.8 billion for the Grand Parkway over the next four years. The 41 planned  expenditures affect all  project segments (B, C, D, E, F1, F2, G, H, I1, and I2) except for A. The 180-mile project will skirt largely uninhabited and environmentally-sensitive areas. TxDOT's John Barton described the Grand Parkway as "an opportunity to open up areas for development" in Northwest Harris County, subsidizing private land development, and inducing more new roadway congestion.

In contrast, TxDOT's plan includes one-tenth that amount for US-290 projects, or just $468 million of the $2.3 billion needed for improvements TxDOT outlined in the US-290 Final Environmental impact Statement (FEIS). According to the Texas Transportation Insitute, US-290 is the 11th most-congested highway in the state, affecting more than 230,000 Houston-area commuters daily. Other than some initial work on the US-290/IH-610 interchange, TxDOT will mostly leave these taxpayers waiting for relief.

"TxDOT's unelected Commissioners have 'found' billions for a speculative toll road that will destroy the Katy Prairie in order to subsidize a few private land developers. Meanwhile, a quarter million taxpaying commuters will sit in traffic on US-290 indefinitely. TxDOT's gross misallocation of our tax dollars is appalling," says Robin Holzer, board chair of the Citizens' Transportation Coalition (CTC).

For more on this misallocation and how TxDOT could better use our tax dollars, see David Crossley's recent oped, "Let's tell TxDOT where to spend its $350 million"

"So TxDOT can come up with $350 million for the Grand 'Porkway,' a greenfield road to nowhere to benefit developers and ExxonMobil, but can't fix the highly congested Hwy 290 without making Texans pay toll taxes 'cuz we're out of money to fix our roads'? Truth is TxDOT has plenty of money to subsidize toll projects to benefit their buddies, but refuses to fix our freeways and keep them free because of their political agenda to pick winners and losers. These misplaced priorities are obvious to anyone with a pulse. It's public money for private profits and it's this sort of piracy of the public's assets that has caused the public to mistrust TxDOT and the elected officials who allow this abuse of public funds to continue," contends Terri Hall, Founder, Texans Uniting for Reform & Freedom.

###


TxDOT to solicit input on May 2011 STIP revisions
From TxDOT's meeting notice:

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) will conduct a public meeting tomorrow to solicit public comments and input to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 May Revisions to the 2011-2014 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). The STIP is a mechanism used by TxDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to fund projects for the next four years and includes all federally funded projects. The FY 2011 STIP amendment for May 2011 may be viewed on line at http://www.txdot.gov/business/governments/stips.htm or at any TxDOT District Office prior to the meeting.

What:  TxDOT public meeting to solicit input on May 2011 STIP revisions
When:  Wednesday, May 25, 2011 from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Where:  TxDOT - Houston District Auditorium, 7600 Washington Ave., Houston, 77007 (map)

The meeting will be informal and all interested citizens are invited to attend and express their views on the program.

Written comments may be submitted to: Texas Department of Transportation, Attention: Lori Morel, 118 East Riverside Drive, Austin, Texas, 78704, or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..   

Comments must be received by 5:00 p.m. (CST), Monday, June 6, 2011.

Texas for Sale? Lawmakers push litany of bills to sell-off TX to private corps

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Texas for Sale?

Litany of bills would sell-off Texas to the highest bidder,
Granddaddy of them all up for vote Monday

(Austin, TX - May 23, 2011) - A steady stream of bills to sell-off Texas infrastructure to private corporations have flooded the pipeline during the 82nd Session of the Texas Legislature with a key bill, SB 1048, up for a vote in the Texas House on Monday that would privatize virtually every kind of public infrastructure (except roads) and charge user fees or lease payments for the public to access its own buildings: schools, hospitals, nursing homes, water supply facilities, ports, mass transit, libraries, even telecommunications and pipelines.

Chair of the House Transportation Committee Larry Phillips authored the most sweeping public private partnership (PPP) bill pertaining to roads (HB 3789 that never even got a hearing in Committee when the grassroots got wind of it), with Rep. Bill Callegari (HB 2729 passed both chambers) and Rep. John Davis carrying bills (HB 2432 the companion to Sen. Mike Jackson's SB 1048) for other types of civil works projects. In total, more than 30 bills to privatize Texas infrastructure were filed this session.

"Apparently Texas is for sale, and this bill would be Katie-Bar-the-Door on selling off virtually everything not nailed down," commented Terri Hall, Founder/Director of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, "The priorities of this legislature are crystal clear. It's not ending diversions of road taxes to non-road uses. It's not cleaning up the highway department. It's not getting all of Texans' gas taxes back to Texas (HB 3390 has effectively died in the Senate Transportation Committee). It's not reining in the $31 billion in road debt (the House caved in conference committee adding $3 billion more in Prop 12 debt to the budget). It's selling off Texas to the highest bidder, which is the MOST expensive, anti-taxpayer method of funding infrastructure."

TURF along with over 100 grassroots groups just delivered an Open Letter (note: this version of letter includes only the list of groups, not individuals, due to file size) with 2,000 signatures (collected in just one week) to Governor RIck Perry and every single legislator putting them on notice about PPPs, yet it seems the GOP-dominated legislature is ignoring the public opposition. The bill was written by British infrastructure firm, Balfour Beatty, which doesn't sit well with a plurality of Texans who don't like the idea of foreign ownership of our public infrastructure. Unlike the 52 year cap on road PPPs, SB 1048 gives no limit on the length of time a PPP can last (one example given in Austin was for 100 YEARS) or whether such broad authority expires.

Two anti-taxpayer provisions in SB 1048 are the fact taxpayers secure the private entity's debt (2267.061 (f)) and it authorizes public subsidies for private profits by raiding taxpayers' money through loans from the State Infrastructure Bank, which is currently NOT authorized in law (Sec. 2267.060 (2)). The House already voted for Rep. Lois Kolkhorst's amendment to the TxDOT Sunset Bill, SB 1420, to ensure the Phillips' Amendment regarding the State Infrastructure Bank could not lend taxpayer money to private entities. Will the House insist on the same protection in SB 1048?

Eminent domain for private gain
PPPs represent eminent domain for private gain, which is what caused much of the backlash to the Trans Texas Corridor, where PPPs were the financing mechanism that grants these private entities the control of not just the facility, but the right of way/surrounding property where they make a killing on concessions. SB 1048, in Sec. 2267.001 (10) (a), grants the private entity rights to apurtenance, which the legal definition given by Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law is “property (as an outbuilding or fixture) or a property right (as a right of way) that is incidental to a principal property and that passes with the principal property upon sale or transfer.”

In Sec. 2267.002, SB 1048 also uses “public purpose” (which could mean a shopping mall) as opposed to the stricter “public use” (to ensure the taking through eminent domain is for a legitimate public necessity). Texans hold private property rights sacred, and these bills will throw gasoline on the Trans Texas Corridor fire that lawmakers are attempting to convince constituents has been extinguished. Kolkhorst's TTC repeal bill, HB 1201, has passed both chambers.

New authority granted
The bill analysis for SB 1048 specifically says it GRANTS AUTHORITY to local units of government to enter into PPPs. The bill's supporters claim cities and counties are already entering into PPPs (which they apparently lack the legal authority to do) so they believe the Legislature needs to give guidelines or try to impose some limitations on them because right now, it's sky's the limit.

"The Legislature should be banning PPPs altogether not granting authority to enter into them and make the 'guidelines' permissive. So we're basically granting them a blank check," contends Hall.

Sweetheart deals, government-sanctioned monopolies
The bill requires entities to use a design build method of procurement which eliminates low bid competitive bidding and replaces it with "best value" bidding, rife with abuses and favoritism.

Michelle Malkin has called PPPs corporate welfare. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were PPPs, which required massive taxpayer bailouts.

"We're not willing to bet this crap shoot will favor the public interest. PPPs socialize the losses and privatize the profits. They're horrible public policy and are sweetheart deals that grant government-sanctioned monopolies with guaranteed profits to the well-connected," argues Hall.

Public interest not protected, kept secret
Under the trade secrets and financial records exception in SB 1048 (Section 2267.067 (1)(B)(c) & (g)), these contracts can be negotiated in SECRET, without financial disclosures (like financing, the structure of the ‘user fees’ or lease payments, viability studies, public subsidies, or whether or not it contains non-compete clauses or other gotcha provisions).

The only oversight is by the Comptroller and only periodically, not EVERY contract and not prior to signing it. The Partnership Advisory Commission is NOT required to review the contracts included as riders in the budget (nor would it have veto power if it’s determined that the contract is not in the public interest), and it simply exists to advise the governmental entities outside the public purview.

Sec. 2267.057 allows a private entity “to collect lease payments, impose user fees." This means a private entity will have the power to levy a tax.

"The public cannot pressure nor hold accountable a private corporation if the 'fee' or 'tax' is too high. A private entity ought NEVER to have the power to tax our citizens! It’s the marriage of the corporation with the state and grants monopolies to private entities for a private benefit," noted Hall, "PPPs violate the public trust and the fiduciary duty of lawmakers to Texas taxpayers. It’s piracy of the public’s assets."

Texas TURF is a non-partisan, grassroots, all-volunteer group defending Texans’ concerns with toll road policy, Trans Texas Corridor-style projects like public private partnerships, and eminent domain abuses. TURF promotes non-toll transportation solutions.

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