Joe Pickett

  • 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.
  • Chair wants tolls to come off, says tolls cause congestion

    Transportation Chair wants tolls to come down, insists tolls cause congestion
    By Terri Hall
    August 31, 2016

    As toll weary Texans anxiously await Governor Greg Abbott’s promise to fix our roads without tolls to come to fruition, House Transportation Committee Chair Joe Pickett is one of the few taking action to make it happen. At yesterday’s House Transportation Committee meeting, Pickett continued his war against toll ‘managed’ lanes on several fronts.

    First, he argued that tolls are actually causing congestion on some roads.

    “Toll projects actually exacerbate congestion. The one in my community does,” proclaimed a determined Pickett. Pickett’s referring to the Cesar Chavez Border Highway toll managed lane project where only 6% of traffic utilizes the lanes, leaving 94% of commuters stuck in congestion.

    Pickett told KVIA News in El Paso last year that, “Things have changed and if you want to lessen congestion, you open up the roads to everyone.”
  • 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.
  • 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.

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