SB 312

  • 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.
  • TxDOT bill hijacked by toll lobby, loopholes diminish anti-toll progress

    Hastily approved TxDOT sunset bill offers some toll relief, but riddled with new loopholes
    By Terri Hall
    May 28, 2017

    As the Texas legislature comes to a close tomorrow, the antics of some lawmakers warrants scrutiny when it comes to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) sunset bill, SB 312, that passed 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. SB 312 must pass or the highway department goes away. Rather than concur with the 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.
  • URGENT ACTION TO SAVE TOLL COLLECTION REFORM

    CALLS NEEDED NOW TO SAVE TOLL COLLECTION REFORM

    We’ve been told that the toll collection reform amendment that we support, by Rep. Ina Minjarez of San Antonio, is under threat of having its key provision - to decriminalize people who cannot pay toll fines/fees -- stripped from the TxDOT Sunset Bill SB 312. If lawmakers keep the current law in place for what they call a 'habitual toll violator,' that means that if a person simply has a payment card expire and they pass under a toll gantry 100 times, they can be labeled a habitual toll violator and have their vehicle impounded, be taken to court, and be taken to jail if they fail to appear in court. This is a very low threshold and easy to have happen. Toll gantries record vehicle license plates/toll tags and are positioned every 3-5 miles on toll roads. So a driver can pass through 10-20 per day and be deemed a habitual toll violator in under 30 days. By the time a driver is even notified in their monthly statement that there’s a problem, they’re already a ‘habitual toll violator’ and face criminal penalties if they don’t pay up. This doesn’t even touch on the erroneous billing problems that bring the same severe criminal consequences to folks who never even got on a toll road. 
     
    No Texan should have their ability to drive and hence have their ability to make a living threatened for failure to pay a fine, especially one handed down so easily and so prone to abuse. The House voted in favor of this amendment by an overwhelming majority of 136-3. But some want it removed, including TxDOT.
     
    URGENT ACTION ITEM
    Please contact conference committee membersIMMEDIATELYand ask them to: 
    “Keep the Minjarez Amendment #39 in tact in SB 312 and retain the House language that de-criminalizes toll violations and ends this horrific abuse that has financially ruined thousands of Texans." 
     
    Senate Conferees:
    Robert Nichols
    (512) 463-0103
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    Van Taylor
    (512) 463-0108
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    Juan ‘Chuy' Hinojosa
    (512) 463-0120
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    Kirk Watson
    (512) 463-0114
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    Kelly Hancock
    (512) 463-0109
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    House Conferees:
    Larry Gonzales
    (512) 463-0670
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    Geanie Morrison
    (512) 463-0456
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    Cindy Burkett
    (512) 463-0464 
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    Richard Raymond 
    (512) 463-0558 
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    Senfronia Thompson 
    (512) 463-0720 
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