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2013 (83rd legislative session)

Category: Grassroots Action Center

See how your legislators voted - TURF 2013 Legislative Report Card

The 83rd Session: It’s a wrap: Legislature drops boom on taxpayers with more tolls, fees

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Pay-as-you-go funding of road construction can be done with a comprehensive transportation package, which should include:
  • State government restructuring to eliminate overlapping, duplicated effort;phase-out of funding for budget items beyond the core constitutional responsibilities of state government;
  • TxDOT operational reforms & increased transparency;
  • Reigning in flagrant waste (documented) via “local control” RMAs, MPOs and COGs spending millions on “enhancements”;
  • Refocus on building highways to relieve traffic congestion – not funding light rail, street cars, biking/hiking trails, parks and roads for economic development (the “build it and they will come” scenario);
  • Ending diversions;
  • Dedicating vehicle sales and use tax revenue to highway construction (the Nichols Plan – SB 287);
  • Early debt retirement, if approved by the people (the Eltife Plan – Constitutional Amendment via SJR 47)

Reforms Required as part of the package:
  • Return to pay-as-you-go; no more public road debt (state or local).
  • Make all toll viability studies OPEN to the public (currently kept SECRET) - (HB 2870 - Capriglione)
  • No more Public Private Partnerships (P3s), handing control of our Texas infrastructure to private, even foreign, corporations. This applies to roads and other public facilities such as the Capitol Complex. No more use of eminent domain for private gain.
  • No more public subsidies, credit enhancements, or loan guarantees for any type of toll project.
  • Comprehensive financial audit of TxDOT prior to the agency’s next sunset review in 2015 to gain efficiencies and end practices that drive-up costs, e. g., Design-Build CDAs, P3s, and multi-million dollar “enhancements” that have nothing to do with moving traffic.

New Revenues:
  • End diversions of all road user fees (motor fuel tax, vehicle sales tax, tire sales, auto parts sales tax) to non-transportation uses.
  • Phase-in motor vehicle sales/use tax revenues to the Highway Fund, consistent with Nichols’ SB 287.

Constitutional restrictions on the use of New Revenues
  • No diversions: May only be used for planning, design, construction of new state highway system road capacity and the maintenance of this new capacity once built.
  • Not Used for Toll Roads: May not be used on comprehensive development agreements or projects involving the construction of toll lanes.
  • No Debt: Shall be used for pay-as-you go projects and may not be used as backing for new debt financing (whether at the state or local level).
  • No non-road expenditures: None of these funds may be used for any expense related to bike trails, transit or pedestrian walkways.

TURF Bill Tracker for 83 (R) session 2013


Note: Bills that originate in the House are labeled HB for House Bill. Bills that originate in the Senate are labeled SB for Senate Bill.

Download full text in PDF file format: Good, the Bad and the Ugly Bill List



Good Bills

Funding:
HJR 22 / HJR 29 / HJR 95 / HB 1627 / HJR 108 / HB 2278 / SJR 31 / SJR 25 / SB 309 / SB 1140 / SJR 46 - Pickett/Larson/Harper-Brown/Phillips/Davis/Paxton/Lucio - To end some or all of the gas tax diversions, and others to dedicate tire sales to roads.
SPECIAL NOTE: Any new revenue dedicated to roads MUST have taxpayer protections that limit the use of those funds to non-toll capacity and maintenance only.

HB 514 / HB 479 / HB 2904 / HB 2492 / HB 782 / HJR 68 / SB 287 / SJR 20 - Harper-Brown/Frank/Phillips/Nichols - Dedicates existing vehicle sales tax we already pay to roads. This is a robust, long-term reliable source of revenue TxDOT needs to comply with federal rules that requires the agency to show how its projects will be funded 25 years out. The free market sets the price of a car and it goes up on its own with inflation. Best source to replace the declining gas tax revenue without tax hikes.
SPECIAL NOTE: Any new revenue dedicated to roads MUST have taxpayer protections that limit the use of those funds to non-toll capacity and maintenance only.

HB 1485 / SB 678 - Lavender/Paxton - To opt-out of the federal highway program an Texas’ money back in a block grant. Estimated to reap $1 billion/yr back to our state.
SPECIAL NOTE: Any new revenue dedicated to roads MUST have taxpayer protections that limit the use of those funds to non-toll capacity and maintenance only.

Good government/Truth in Taxation:
HB 1054 / SB 1029 - Lavender/Campbell - Ensures that if a toll project involves an existing freeway, that existing freeway main lanes cannot be converted into toll lanes and/or downgraded to access/frontage roads. Existing free main lanes would stay free.

HB 3343 - Kolkhorst - To take tolls off the roads when they’re paid for.

HB 2043 - Pickett - Prohibits any more DEBT from being issued through the Texas Mobility Fund.

HB 3489 - Hughes - A tax CUT! Extends requirement for payment of vehicle registration fee from every year to every 5 years.

SB 507 - Watson/Eltife - Puts vital public protections on public private partnerships like a public vote, competitive bidding, and more transparency.

SB 1253 - Zaffirini - Prohibits the manipulation of/downgrading of speed limits on free roads adjacent to tollways, which slow free routes in order to incentivize use of tollways.

HB 3682 - Workman - Would use Rainy Day Fund to buy back SH 130 segments 5 & 6 from Spanish company, Cintra -- the first foreign-owed toll road. The smartest thing we can do is return Texas highways to the PEOPLE. Then NOTE: We’d want to ensure that SH 130 would revert back to a FREEway if our tax money is used to buyback this failing project. Then trucks may actually use it and help relieve congestion on I-35.

HB 2870 - Capriglione - Would repeal the statute that allows traffic & revenue (toll viability studies) to be kept secret from the public. This bill would make this vital financial information open to the public.

SB 1650 - Campbell - Requires certain transportation & toll authority boards (RMAs, MPOs) to broadcast their meetings via internet. Long overdue transparency for these boards that meet during the work day.

HB 117 / HB 118 / HB 121 / SB 1331 - Larson/Campbell - To ensure elected officials make decisions about allocating tax money & levying taxes (tolls). HB 116 would also make RMAs subject to sunset review.

HB 80 - Simpson - To prohibit invasive pat downs by government officials, like the TSA, as a condition of travel without probable cause.

HB 3025 - Zedler - Repeals the use of unconstitutional traffic cameras to levy civil fines by local authorities.

Property rights:
HB 20 / SB 180 - Kolkhorst/Van De Putte - Allows landowners to buy back their property taken with eminent domain if the entity does not use it for the public use for which it was taken within 10 years.

HB 1250 / HB 2586 / SB 829 / SB 655 - Frank/King, P./Huffman/Birdwell - Requires the entity taking land using eminent domain to use it for the public use for which it was taken. HB 2586/SB 655 would require entities with the power of eminent domain to only exercise the power for a public use in accordance with Section 17, Article I, Texas Constitution.

HB 3547 - Oliveira - Gives State Office of Administrative Hearings ability to determine common carrier status for the exercise of eminent domain. Currently, there is no entity that determines whether a pipeline company currently has the legal authority to exercise eminent domain - meanwhile they exercise it and land is being taken.

SB 1782 - Zaffirini - Allows landowner to recover damages done to their property from pipeline companies.

Bad Bills

Funding: None of these bills solve the long-term, structural funding shortfall at TxDOT. Many push the debt and tax hikes to the local level (unacceptable), and would make taxpayers re-pay their own money with higher taxes or with interest through tolls (or both).

HB 3129 / HB 3130 / SB 1319 / HB 2493 / HB 3393 / HB 3391 / SB 1730 - Lucio III/Lucio/ Harper-Brown/Phillips/Nichols - Authorizes more Comprehensive Development Agreements (Public Private Partnerships) that hand control of our PUBLIC highways to PRIVATE, even foreign, corporations that erode our state sovereignty over infrastructure, that limit expansion of free routes, guarantee profits, use massive taxpayer subsidies, and charge Texans a premium to drive. HB 3391/SB would expand CDAs/P3s to rail, which is supposed to be private already. So this means the industry is seeking ways to get taxpayer subsidies for its projects.

HB 3650 - Harper-Brown - Puts all Texas taxpayers (State Highway Fund and any funds available to TxDOT) on the hook for availability payments for certain toll projects, a form of CDA/PPP.

HB 3665 / SB 1632 - Darby/Hinojosa - Deposits our federal highway funds (which should be going to build free roads) into the State Infrastructure Bank (SIB) to be used to guarantee local toll debt. The State will issue loans and provide credit assistance/enhancements for toxic local toll debt. It would fund mass transit and multi-modal projects as well. The public entity they loan the money to can use ANY tax or levy any NEW tax available to them to pay back the loan from the SIB. So taxpayers will not only repay their own tax money with interest through tolls, they'll have their local taxes sucked into paying the loan and possibly have a local tax increase to pay back the loan of our own tax money! We the taxpayers are still on the hook for all this debt and if the SIB has to back these local toll loans, that means the toll projects are not toll viable roads that can be paid for with the users of the road. So this whole SIB idea is a scheme to enter into risky loans to guarantee the debt that the private sector wouldn't touch.

HB 3663 - Callegari - This bill would create a whole new class of bonds, called century bonds, with a pay-off date of 100 years! This is literally INSANE to borrow money for roads and owe the money with heaps of interest over a CENTURY, well beyond the useful life of these roads. This will en debt GENERATIONS of Texans for today’s roads, simply because our lawmakers REFUSE to dedicate the taxes we already pay to roads. This borrow and spend debt bomb is taking Texans off a fiscal cliff. This insanity has got to stop! KILL THIS BILL!

SJR 38 - Williams - Deposits $3 billion in emergency (Rainy Day) funds into the State Infrastructure Bank (SIB) to be used for loans or to guarantee local toxic toll debt for projects that can’t pay for themselves with the tolls. So this whole SIB idea is a scheme to enter into risky loans to guarantee the debt that the private sector wouldn't touch. The State will issue loans and provide credit assistance/enhancements for toxic local toll debt. It would fund mass transit and port infrastructure projects without defining how much of the revenues go to which type of project. Specifies only economic development toll projects qualify, which generally means greenfield projects vs adding needed capacity to already congested roads. So priorities won’t likely get funded.

SJR 39 - Williams - Though it restricts the money from being used to issue debt or enter into a CDA, as well as limit the new revenue for TxDOT to non-toll capacity only, it involves a tax hike.

HJR 139 - Callegari - Would issue MORE state debt for roads, including for subsidizing toll roads.

HB 19 - Darby - Deposits emergency (Rainy Day) funds into State Infrastructure Bank instead of the State Highway Fund. The SHF can only be used for highways, but the SIB can be used to fund virtually anything. There is no protection in place to prevent this money from being used to build toll roads, which makes taxpayers pay their own money back with interest through tolls.

HB 2685 / HB 1716 / SB 971 / SB 1110 - Deshotel/Pickett/Williams/Nichols - All relate to expanding the use of Transportation Reinvestment Zones (TRZ) without accountability to the voters/taxpayers, which pledge LOCAL property taxes and/or sales tax revenues to pay for STATE highway projects, including toll projects (which is a double tax to use tax money to build it, but charge Texans a toll to drive on it) and even port infrastructure or facilities.

HB 1198 / HB 1573 / HB 2144 / HJR 107 / HB 3040 / HB 3126 / HB 3664 / HB 3665 /SB 790 / SB 1154 / SB 1318 / SB 1605 / SB 1790 - Raymond/McClendon/Riddle/Pickett/Lucio III/Darby/Rodriguez/Davis/Lucio/Zaffirini/Watson - Authorizes vehicle registration fee hike, whether at the local or state level. SB 1790 would allow the fee hike to back MORE road debt. HJR 107 would hike fees and place it into Texas Mobility Fund (vs the State Highway Fund) which is not restricted to funding roads, but can also fund transit/light rail/trolley car boondoggles. HB 3665 puts the fee hike into the State Infrastructure Bank, another unrestricted slush fund. HB 3664 restricts the fee hike to non-toll projects. SB 790/SB 1154 increases the fee Texans pay for dismissal of violation for not having current vehicle registration. HB 3040, enabling legislation for HJR 107, would restrict the fee hike from going to fund toll projects.

HB 3157 - Harless - While it would capture half of the existing vehicle sales tax for roads, it would also increase gas tax 10 cents a gallon and DOUBLE vehicle registration fees.

SB 1670 - Nichols - 43%-200% increases for overweight truck permits (fees).

Bad policy/Anti-taxpayer/Anti-property rights:

HB 2096 - Davis - Does nothing to protect the public from eminent domain for private gain or cronyism as it relates to public private partnerships. The bill grows government and costs taxpayers' money in more bureaucracy. Second, the Comptroller only makes recommendations, has no veto power and cannot stop any bad deals. Third, all of the details are to be kept SECRET from the public, even after the deal is signed - there would be no disclosure even if requested through Open records requests.

HB 3048 / SB 1792 / SB 1793 / SB 1329 - Phillips/Watson/Paxton - Grants more power to toll entities to collect tolls. In every bill but one, it punishes the registered owner of the vehicle, not the driver who committed the violation. Would keep Texans from being able to make a living (drive to work) by blocking vehicle registration for failure to pay tolls. Gives RMAs their own courts, no third party due process to contest toll fines/fees.

HB 2247 / SB 1018 - Harper-Brown/Carona - Gives the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) sweeping new powers, including their own court system for toll collection/enforcement (removing due process from a third party mediator to contest toll fines/fees), ability to capture property taxes for toll roads, expands sales tax in a TRZ to pay for “aesthetic improvements” (think Harper-Brown’s complete streets bill HB 1102 for hike & bike trails, etc.). Authorizes NTTA to allow a private company to takeover any of its turnpikes or toll projects (think Cintra, who really wants Hwy 121 & I-35) without taxpayers’ consent. Allows excess revenue to be put into a general fund and spent for whatever purpose they want. Allows tolls collected from one turnpike/project to spent on another. Changes definition of a turnpike to toll project to give NTTA control of an entire highway even if only part of it is tolled. Can issue bonds to pay-off other bonds (uses borrowed money to pay-off other borrowed money, like using a credit card to pay-off another credit card). Can transfer part of a turnpike or project to another governmental entity who can levy taxes to pay bonds to subsidize the toll project, and allows that entity to create new taxing districts to pay for toll roads.

HB 3645 - Harper-Brown - Puts state taxpayers on the hook for relocation of utilities for toll projects.

HB 2680 - Guillen - Giveaway to private engineering firms. Mandates that in order to get financial assistance from TxDOT for a local project, a private sector engineering firm has to study a way to reduce the State’s responsibility for STATE highways by a local financing mechanism (think local taxes/tolls) for ‘economically-driven mobility’ projects - ie - mobility is code for tolling. Completely changes how TxDOT funds would be dispersed.

SB 1794 - Watson - Completely changes the purpose of MPOs from planning boards to a type of bank by authorizing a ‘revolving fund’ account to funnel gas taxes & fees to local toll authorities as loans to be repaid with interest through tolls. Again charging taxpayers a toll for a road that’s paid for with their tax and making them pay back their own money with interest!

HB 563 - Guillen - Creates new layer of government to administer funds for roads in shale oil areas. Allows unelected board to issue bonds without a public vote.

HB 1102/ SB 565 - Harper-Brown/Ellis - Complete streets bill. Mandates road money be used on hike & bike trails. Agenda 21 and raids scarce road funds from autos to pay for modes they may not use.

SB 1294 - Davis - Gives bidding preferences to certain contractors.

HB 3304 / SB 335 - Geren/Rodriguez - Expands use of unconstitutional traffic cameras to levy civil fines and HB 3304 prevents a driver from ability to make a living/drive to work by blocking vehicle registration renewal for failure to pay fine from traffic camera violation. SB 335 expands the use to railroad crossings.

HB 1309 / HB 3836 - Guillen/Harper-Brown - Implements a tax for every mile you drive, known as vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax.

HB 3246 - Callegari - Increases fees for speed violations.

HB 2379 / HB 2859 / SB 1573 - Gooden/Harless/Patrick - Doubles allocation to implement Clean Air Act from $5 million annually to $10 million.

HB 371 - Alonzo - Allows land forcibly taken for a public use (road) using eminent domain to be donated (as if for FREE) to a non-profit corporation (could be an economic development corporation that deeds it over to their developer buddies). This is pure theft of private property taken from one and given to another, chosen by the government who gets to pick the winners & losers.

HB 2748 - Lewis - Completely removes the ability of a landowner to challenge the public use of a pipeline and hence a pipeline company’s ability to use eminent domain.

HB 2580 - Harper-Brown - Gives a freight rail district the power of eminent domain. Railroad companies are private and need to stay that way. By forming these Freight Rail Districts they obtain the power of eminent domain for private gain.

SB 1637 - Duncan - Gives Railroad Commission authority to determine whether pipeline company meets the legal requirement of a common carrier for the purposes of eminent domain. The Railroad Commission has only three commissioners who can very easily be influenced by the industry to be granted a permit as a common carrier. HB has the Ofc of Administrative Hearings determine common carrier status. A much unbiased source that performs other functions that just for the energy industry.

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