Patrick pushes bill to dedicate vehicle sales tax to highway fund

Link to article here.

Amen! It's about time we finally make progress on shoring up our road funding shortfalls - and this bill does it without raising taxes and it can't go to toll roads!

Patrick, Nichols: Put Car Sales Tax Toward Roads
by Aman Batheja
Feb. 4, 2015
Texas Tribune

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick publicly backed a plan Wednesday to boost transportation funding by billions of dollars a year by dedicating some of the sales tax already collected on car sales to road work.

Patrick said he supported a proposal from Senate Transportation Chairman Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, that would ask voters to amend the Texas Constitution to dedicate any vehicle sales tax revenue beyond $2.5 billion annually to the state's highway fund. Nichols' plan would start in fiscal year 2018; until then, all of the vehicle sales tax collected — about $4 billion annually — would continue to go to the state’s all-purpose general fund.

Tolls impede the American spirit of the open road

Link to article here.

We agree, toll collection methods are a HUGE threat to personal liberties.

Tolls impede the American spirit of the open road
By Tom Jackson
Equipment World
February 02, 2015

Jack Kerouac would weep, were he alive today.

The author famous for making road trips a rite of passage would be shocked to find how tolls, tickets and traffic fines are being used as revenue enhancement schemes and an extension of the American surveillance state.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Drug Enforcement Administration had developed a program to photograph license plates put them in a database to track drug dealers and criminals. You can read a synopsis of it here.

The government won’t say how many license plates are in the database, but it’s reportedly in the “millions.” And like so many other government programs, this one has morphed into a “massive domestic intelligence-gathering program.”

Repeal of private toll companies' eminent domain authority imminent

Link to article here.

NOTE: TURF prefers Rep. Yvonne Davis’ (HB 1004) bill and Sen. Bob Hall’s  (SB 444) bill to remove the eminent domain authority from these private toll corporations. Their bills are stronger than Burkett’s and no loopholes.

Texas Lawmaker Proposes Ban On Toll Road Land Confiscation
Texas state representative proposes to deny privately owned toll roads their authority to seize land through eminent domain.
February , 2015

Opponents of toll roads in Texas no longer want to see the public gets the worst end of the bargain in "public-private partnerships. That is why state Representative Cindy Burkett (R-Sunnyvale) introduced legislation for the current session to strip private entities of the power of taking land from citizens for the use of toll road builders.

Burkett's proposal, House Bill 565, would prohibit the Texas Turnpike Corporation from taking land through eminent domain as if it were a governmental entity. A law adopted in 1991 gave the corporation this exclusive authority.

Montgomery County rails against High Speed Rail plan

Link to article here.

Texans oppose high speed rail through their communities, as they did when it was packaged as part of the Trans Texas Corridor. Impacts deemed 'catastrophic'!

Montgomery County leaders, residents rally against proposed high-speed rail
by Liza Winkler
Impact News
February 3, 2015

An estimated 800 Montgomery County officials and residents gathered Feb. 2 at the Lone Star Community Center in Montgomery to speak out against the proposed construction of a 240-mile high-speed rail project between Houston and Dallas by 2021.

“[The high-speed rail] is one of the biggest threats to Montgomery County in many, many years,” retired Montgomery County Judge Alan Sadler said. “Once those [assessed property value] decreases take place if this train hits this route in Montgomery County, the entirety of the county will pay the tax differential to make up for the loss. It is extreme.”

TxDOT addresses toll collection, billing troubles with Xerox contract

Link to article here.

TxDOT just imposed $177,000 in fines for the problems associated with this contract. Who in their right minds spends $20 million a year to collect tolls for 3 lousy toll roads operated by TxDOT in Austin? This is a colossal waste of money. End this toll road abuse, get back to FREEways again!

TxDOT: Toll Billing Problems Being Addressed
by Aman Batheja
Jan. 29, 2015
Texas Tribune

Amid complaints from drivers about confusing bills and shoddy customer service, the Texas Department of Transportation said Thursday it is working to address concerns with its new toll billing system.

TxDOT signed a five-year, $100 million contract with Xerox last year for the company to take over its tolling operations, including billing and customer service. In recent months, some drivers on Texas toll roads have faced bills that were higher than they expected. Adding to their frustration? Long wait times on customer service calls and difficulty accessing accounts online.

MoPac toll road costs increase $60 million

Link to article here.

Note: the Original price tag was $136 million, now it’s going up to $197 million because of some ’stubborn’ limestone? That’s hardly a $61 million problem. That’s the trouble with these design-build contracts, the cost always goes up! Change orders, change orders, change orders - it’s how these companies game the system and the taxpayers. End the Regional Mobility Authorities. They exist to WASTE our money and impose unaccountable toll taxes.

MoPac's new toll roads likely to be delayed a few months
By Nick Simonite
Austin Business Journal
Jan 29, 2015

This highway has a habit of slowing anything down in its path — including construction crews. The toll lanes to be added to MoPac Expressway won't be typical. They'll be "managed lanes," meaning that the toll will fluctuate depending on traffic conditions. The heavier the traffic, the bigger the toll.

MoPac Expressway's new toll lanes may be ready at the end of the year rather than in September, the Austin-American Statesman reports.

Contractor problems and tougher-than-expected limestone are partly to blame, according to the report, which states that the 11-mile-long highway makeover still will cost less than the $197 million that the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority was granted for the project.

Washington state man pays more than $18,000 in tolls

Link to article here.

There will be no end to the abuses of toll collections if this is allowed to stand. It's extortion!

Washington state man pays more than $18,000 in tolls
Published February 01, 2015
Associated Press

A Washington state man says he just paid more than $18,000 in bridge tolls for his son who crossed the 520 bridge daily for work but never got a Good To Go pass.

KING-TV reports that Tom Rose's son thought he would be billed for the tolls and that he could pay later.

His son never received a bill. He learned the total of what he owed when he tried to sell his car: more than $18,000. That's $1,360 in tolls and more than $16,000 in penalties.

The department says they tried to bill Rose but their letters were returned. He will have to pay the tolls, but officials say they will try to work something out concerning the penalties.

KING-TV reports a lawyer has filed a class-action lawsuit against the department concerning its policies.

Toll agency impounds car for failure to pay

Link to article here.

The toll road gestapo is coming for you...

NTTA impounds car of driver who had been banned from road
Dallas Morning News
January 29, 2015

Dallas-area toll dodgers who think the North Texas Tollway Authority has been bluffing about towing your car, take note: The agency impounded a scofflaw’s vehicle for the first time this week.

NTTA spokesman Michael Rey said a state trooper Tuesday pulled over Rochelle Sanders on the Dallas North Tollway in Plano after she’d been told multiple times that she was banned from agency roads for not paying her tolls.

The Garland resident owed the agency $2,700 in unpaid tolls and fees for 1,300 unpaid violations dating back to May. That pales next to the tens of thousands of dollars that some drivers owe for violations that stretch back for years.

Sanders could not be reached for comment. Rey said she opened a TollTag account Thursday morning and began paying what she owes.

Lawmakers in 2013 allowed toll agencies to ban from their roadways drivers who have racked up more than 100 unpaid tolls in a year. Those caught violating the ban can be ticketed or have their cars impounded on the spot.
The NTTA has cameras that scan license plate numbers, run them against a database of banned drivers and notify the agency’s operations center of a violator’s location. Dispatchers can then notify state troopers stationed on the roads.

The agency has banned more than 21,000 drivers. Sanders, who previously received a ticket for violating the ban, was the first driver to have a car impounded.

“You’re going to see more this in the future,” Rey said.

He said Sanders was in a toll enforcement zone, where the license-plate readers are set up near state troopers ready to pull over violators, but he wasn’t sure if that’s what prompted the stop.

Officials said Sanders had outstanding warrants unrelated to any toll violations and was arrested during the stop.
Rey said more than 3,500 drivers have begun paying their dodged tolls after the NTTA mailed them ban letters. He said it’s unfair to those who pay for the roads not to go after those who don’t. He said the agency encourages people to talk to the agency about payment plans and TollTags. Ignoring the bills, he said, won’t work.

“This isn’t going away,” he said.

Empower Texans: Fiscal responsibility first with transportation

Link to article here.

Transportation Reform: Fiscal Responsibility First
January 26, 2015
By Ross Kecseg
Empower Texans

Predictably, the Austin establishment is calling for higher taxes, rainy-day raids and further expansion of “regionally managed” toll lanes as a means to finance roadway expansion. But before Texans allow more money to be indiscriminately thrown at transportation, the legislature should first reform the use of existing tax revenue.

The most obvious reform is to reduce motor fuel sales tax diversions, which currently sends 52% of tax revenue away from road projects and debt service. Even the federally mandated, state subsidized, liberal leaning planning bodies like North Texas’ Regional Transportation Council (RTC) oppose these diversions.

Doing so would likely require several other structural reforms to state budgeting; such as eliminating non-essential programs and agencies, dedicating future revenue streams to transportation, reforming the budgeting process to prioritize core conservative principles, and enacting stricter spending growth limits—all of which will enrage the lobbying class.

Traffic projections for Trinity Toll Road can be kept secret, says AG

Link to article here.

We've been trying to get this data made public ever since Rick Perry made it secret in 2007. We MUST have openess and transparanecy with this data - the pulci has a right to know if a toll road will be financially solvent BEFORE decisions are made, bond debt issued, or other public money committed.

Trinity Parkway traffic and toll estimates can be withheld, AG says
By BRANDON FORMBY This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Transportation Writer
Published: 26 January 2015

The North Texas Tollway Authority has spent 15 years and more than $1.7 million estimating the traffic impact and revenue potential of the proposed Trinity Parkway.

The agency collected the habits of Dallas drivers, the effect of various access points and how the toll road would affect nearby land usage.

That information could bolster or undercut arguments surrounding the project. It could also give a deeper understanding of the project’s potential risks and payoffs.

But the NTTA doesn’t have to share any of the information with the public.

Federal Agency Centralizes License Plate Spying Data

Link to article here.

Technology has become the enemy of personal liberty. There's no better example than the onslaught ocurring with motorists and the attempts to collect and mine data of our travel patterns and then criminalize us for it with tolls and other cameras that don't always tell the whole picture.

Federal Agency Centralizes License Plate Spying Data
Nationwide cameras track motorists for federal database centralized at the Drug Enforcement Administration.
January 27, 2015

The federal government is harvesting information from a network of hundreds of spy cameras to develop a centralized database that tracks the movement of motorists not suspected of any wrongdoing. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Monday released documents obtained from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that offer new details about how this national tracking program works.

The DEA's National License Plate Recognition Initiative uses a hundred automated license plate reader cameras (ALPR, known as ANPR in Europe) deployed in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, New Mexico and Texas. The information by the cameras is supplemented by thousands of cameras operated by other agencies with federal officials most anxious to use the technology to find automobiles and other property to seize.

"The pilot National LPR Initiative has received enormous support from all several government and law enforcement entitles and multiple request have been made to connect LPR devices from state and local law enforcement In anticipation of the pilot National LPR Initiative being utilized by all of DEA as well as federal, state and local law enforcement throughout the United States," a heavily redacted June 2010 DEA email explains. "We want to insure we can collect and manage all the data and IT responsibilities that will come with the work to insure the program meets its goals, of which asset forfeiture is primary."

Information shared between the Customs and Border Patrol agency with the DEA involved 794 million license plate reads over a four-year period. Local, state and federal police departments can search through the accumulated data stored by the DEA's El Paso Intelligence Center, which is accessible 24/7 through a system known as Firebird. The information is collected to "identify travel patterns" of motorists.

According to a July 2012 email, the DEA claims it stores license plate data belonging to innocent motorist for six months. The agency has released no information on what exceptions may apply or whether the policy has changed.

"As is the case with most police and federal law enforcement spy technologies, license plate tracking programs have flown under the radar of courts and legislators for far too long, silently collecting records about ordinary Americans in the cover of secrecy," ACLU analysts Bennett Stein and Jay Stanley wrote. "When programs are secret, we have no way of challenging them or ensuring they conform with our values and the law."

S. Carolina Governor proposes gas tax hike

Link to article here.

Here’s another Republican daring to propose a gasoline tax hike in South Carolina. She would offset it with an income tax break, but citizens don’t necessarily care for offsets, they want tax reduction. We’re not familiar with how the current state gas tax in South Carolina gets spent, but it’s like Texas and many other states, they need to end diversions of the gas tax to non-road purposes before asking taxpayers to dig deeper.

Traveling Haley route on roads makes sense
January 23, 2015
The Times and Democrat

THE ISSUE: State of the State; OUR OPINION: With governor making proposal, lawmakers should get to work quickly in ironing out details

Identifying the problem is not difficult, but fixing South Carolina roads will be expensive. Gov. Nikki Haley knows it, South Carolina legislators know it and the people of the state should accept the fact.

In outlining her long-awaited plan for infrastructure in Wednesday night’s State of the State address, Haley shifted positions on the gasoline tax but did so with a condition.

She calls for:
* Promoting economic growth by cutting income taxes at all levels by 30 percent over the next 10 years.
* Adding 10 cents to the state’s gas tax over three years, offsetting a portion of the income tax savings with a priority on infrastructure spending.
* Dedicating motor vehicle sales taxes to roads, further diversifying funding streams for transportation.
* Restructuring the South Carolina Department of Transportation and refocusing the agency on maintaining roads as a first priority and doing so in an apolitical way.

Haley states her plan will invest $3.5 billion in roads over 10 years while dedicating almost $5.6 billion in tax relief for South Carolinians.

“This is the real investment in infrastructure that South Carolina needs, and one that doesn’t raise taxes and promotes economic growth,” she said in a prepared statement on the night of the address to lawmakers.

For their part, lawmakers such as new House Speaker Jay Lucas and Sen. Joel Lourie, who gave the Democratic response to the speech, offered praise for the governor and acknowledged her leadership role. While neither directly endorsed her approach on roads, lawmakers would be wise to use her plan as a serious jumping-off point for moving and moving quickly on the infrastructure issue.

The governor has earned the political capital to make her plan a top priority. And with lawmakers making it such, Haley will not be standing in the way of plans that seek a different approach.

The governor has focused on development in her four years in office and can boast of considerable success. But with business leaders such as Zeus Industrial Products CEO John Worley, writing in Thursday’s T&D, stating that road conditions are endangering development, Haley realizes that continued progress depends on action.

Currently, 46 percent of the state’s primary road system is in poor condition and 1,600, or a third of the bridges, are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. South Carolina has the additional challenge of owning the fourth-largest state highway system in the nation.

Next year alone South Carolina is projected to need more than $75 million just to maintain roads in their current condition. In 10 years, the amount will rise to be almost $200 million per year.

In total, the DOT has said it needs an additional $1.5 billion yearly for the next two decades just to bring roads to good condition.

The price tag is high and the timetable is long, but fixing the problem must begin now.

The current 16-cents-per-gallon gas tax has not changed since 1987. With an increase to 26 cents, the tax would still be below neighboring North Carolina’s 37.5 cents and in line with Georgia’s current 26.5 cents. It’s a price that has to be paid and should be supported.

TxDOT Spends Millions in Tuition Reimbursements

Link to article here.

More waste at TxDOT. Taxpayers pay TxDOT engineers for continuing education at PRIVATE, very epxensive universities. Cut the waste and get back to building highways!

TxDOT Spends Millions in Tuition Reimbursements
By Terri Langford, Bobby Blanchard and Becca Aaronson
Jan. 22, 2015
Texas Tribune

When it comes to reimbursing state employees for education costs, the Texas Department of Transportation is far more generous than other state agencies.

After reporting this month that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission paid a top aide's $97,020 MBA tuition, The Texas Tribune took a closer look at how much state agencies reimburse employees for education costs. Of the $23.8 million state agencies spent from 2002 to part of January 2015 on tuition, conferences and other educational programs for employees, close to half went to TxDOT staffers, according to data from the Texas comptroller’s office.

TxDOT spokeswoman Veronica Beyer could not explain why the agency spends much more on staffer education than other agencies. She said doing so helps the agency attract and retain the most talented staff.

Toll roads are elitist road system

Link to article here.

More reasons not to build toll roads
By Tom Jackson
Equipment World
January 19, 2015

As a follow up to my earlier post on the Texas SH 130 toll road, I wanted to elaborate on another reason why I think toll roads are a bad idea: elitism.

Tolls for me, free for thee
Most of the sophisticated toll systems today photograph your license plate or read an RFID transponder in your car, digitize the information and send you a bill at the end of the month. Pretty slick actually, and I don’t doubt that it’s less expensive than paying the salaries of toll collectors sitting in toll booths.

Man receives toll bill for a vehicle from another state that he does not own

Link to article here.

Man Keeps Receiving Toll Road Bill
The bill is for a vehicle from another state that he does not own
Jan 14, 2015

MISSION - A Mission man said he has been battling with the Texas Department of Transportation for years. The problem is a TxTag toll bill he received by mistake.

The man called 5 On Your Side for help.

Elwood and Avis Hedin have been coming down to the Rio Grande Valley from Minnesota for years.

“It's very frustrating. When you are talking to a person, it's like talking to a machine,” said Elwood Hedin.

It was back in 2012 when Hedin first got a bill from the Texas Department of Transportation's TxTag Office, which handles toll roads.

He paid his small bill, but then started getting billed for another vehicle which was not his.

Multiple segments of Texas 130 eyed for truck toll discounts

Link to article here.

Why should a single Texas taxpayer pay for truckers to have toll discounts when we all have to pay full price to take the failing SH 130 tollway? This is not good policy and only prolongs the inevitable - bankruptcy for an ill-conceived toll road. This taxpayer subsidy should never happen.

Multiple segments of Texas 130 eyed for truck toll discounts
By Keith Goble
Land Line state legislative editor
January 9, 2015

Truckers traveling through central Texas could soon get another enticement to avoid driving on Interstate 35.

In an effort to reduce congestion on I-35 through the Austin area, multiple Texas state lawmakers are behind an effort to reduce truck tolls along a 49-mile stretch of state Highway 130.

The 90-mile highway connects the state capital with San Antonio to the south. It is split into six segments. Segments 1 through 4 link Georgetown to south Austin and are run by the state Department of Transportation. Segments 5 and 6 are closest to San Antonio and are run by a private group.

Sens. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and Rep. Celia Israel D-Austin, have filed bills for consideration during the session that begins Tuesday, Jan. 13, that would reduce the expense for truckers to travel along segments 1 through 4.

Senators call for federal gas tax hike

Link to article here.

Senators call for federal gas tax hike
By Mary Troyan
USA Today
January 11, 2015

WASHINGTON — Low gas prices have rekindled talk on Capitol Hill about raising the federal gas tax to eliminate huge annual deficits in the federal Highway Trust Fund that pays for road and bridge work around the country.

While some top Republicans remain adamant a tax hike is not the answer, there are signs that the idea, including one from Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, is at least getting a fresh look.

Corker and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., have proposed raising the federal gas tax by 12 cents over two years and indexing it to inflation. To make the concept more palatable to fiscal conservatives, the measure would lower other taxes.

The 18.4-cent-per-gallon gas tax hasn't been raised since 1993. As vehicles have become more efficient, the revenue generated by the tax has dropped. Current stopgap funding for the Highway Trust Fund expires in May, and transportation officials in Tennessee and other states are holding back projects until uncertainty about the federal money is addressed.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said this week a gas tax increase could not be ruled out. Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, agreed.

They did not endorse Corker's bill, but their comments represent more of an opening than when gas prices topped $4 a gallon.

"What we floated is obvious. There is not enough money coming in," Corker said last week.

Bills focus on funding, taxes

Link to article here.

Transportation: Pay As You Go
Transportation bills focus on funding and taxes
By Michael King
Fri., Jan. 9, 2015
Austin Chronicle

If there's an incipient theme in the transportation-related bills filed thus far, it's roughly "Show Me the Money." There are several bills, including joint resolutions aimed at eventual constitutional amendments, that would re-allocate various taxes and/or fees related to transportation, mostly attempting to confine all such funding to direct highway construction. That's the thrust of HJR 28 and 29 (Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso) as well as HJR 36 (Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio), although each has different emphases; curiously, both are drafted as temporary, two-year amendments to the infinitely flexible Texas Constitution.

A similar trend includes various attempts to make certain all transportation money is dedicated to highways – and highways only. One strategy is to require a public referendum for any attempt to create and manage a "fixed rail system" (HB 527, Larson); such high democratic standards seldom seem to apply to major highway construction. Other bills would redirect all gas tax revenue to road construction, and away from the permanent school fund or anything else not highway related (SB 61, Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas; HB 129, Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth). With new funding headed to transportation following the passage of November's Prop. 1 (Rainy Day Funds for transportation), there will certainly be persistent efforts to define "transportation" to mean exclusively "poured concrete." And Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, would attempt (SB 119) to make transit system management more difficult by requiring that agency boards be elected, not appointed.

Woman received toll bill to place she's never been

Link to article here.

The litany of toll billing problems continue. Erroneous bills could impound your vehicle and block your car registration, which impede your ability to get to work and earn a living!

Woman Receives Toll Road Bill by Mistake
Jan 07, 2015

HARLINGEN - A Harlingen woman said she got a toll road bill by mistake and tried to resolve it without any results.

She called 5 On Your Side for help.

Due to a combination of computer and human error, it is possible to be issued a bill for a place where someone has never been.

Diana Rosales got a letter in the mail last month from some place she knew nothing about.

She received a bill from the North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority (NET RMA) for $2.11, along with a threat of added penalties and fines if she did not pay up.

“We haven't even traveled out of the (Rio Grande) Valley during the month of November,” said Rosales.

She had supposedly driven her Mercedes on something called Toll Road 49, which loops around the city of Tyler.

NET RMA is an independent government agency involved in transportation projects in Northeast Texas.

Rosales tried calling the number on the bill.

She said, “Several times. And I say that because I did call several times. After waiting 30 minutes on hold on one occasion, I gave up. I said this is crazy. This is just insane.”

The authority places cameras along the toll roads. These cameras read the license plates of vehicles that travel on those roads.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS contacted the agency, and a spokesperson said they dismissed the bill over the weekend. She said lighting caused a bit of glare on one vehicle's license plate. That caused them to think the vehicle was the one Rosales owns.

“There is nowhere on there where I can contact or even submit a form, or go online and submit a form. Please send me a picture or send me some proof that I was there,” said Rosales.
She almost paid the bill just to get it over with.

“It's the principle of the thing and you multiply that two dollars and whatever cents by how many? And how many people are actually willing to call 5 On Your Side? Wouldn't it have been easier to just write a check and just bill the two dollars and whatever cents?” she asked.

Rosales's case does bring up the question of how many incorrect bills the regional mobility authority send out to drivers by mistake each year, and how many people pay money they do not actually owe?

If they send you a bill by mistake and you pay it, can you get a refund? Those are the questions. CHANNEL 5 NEWS is trying to get answers.

The attorney for NET RMA said they are working on the answers to those questions. There are eight regional mobility authorities operate in Texas, including agencies for Hidalgo and Cameron counties.

The North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority does have a way you can dispute a toll.

It cannot be done online. A letter must be mailed in.

The attorney for the NET RMA explained their process for reading license plates.

The attorney said license plates are read by a camera, and that image is then entered into a computer. Software handles optical character recognition. That information is then reviewed by a person.

One problem is that some characters look virtually identical, such as an "l" and the number one.

So both the computer and the human have to make a mistake on the same license plate for someone to receive a bill in error. The NET RMA said their error rate last week was less than one percent.

Transportation Committees major factor in needed reforms

Link to article here.

Transportation Committees major factor in needed reforms
By Terri Hall
January 25, 2015

When Texas voters elected a new Governor and Lt. Governor, they ushered in a new era of leadership that promised key reforms in the arena of transportation - promising to address the structural funding shortfalls without tolls as well as problems with processes and efficiencies. Much of the new policy will be shaped by who Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker Joe Straus tap as Transportation Committee members. Patrick just announced his picks Friday and Straus is expected to announce his soon.

So let’s take a look at Patrick’s picks for the Senate Transportation Committee. Senator Robert Nichols (R - Jacksonville) will remain the Chair, but most notable are the new faces on the committee, including four new senators Bob Hall (R - Kaufman County), Don Huffines (R -Dallas), Lois Kolkhorst (R -Brenham), and Van Taylor (R - Plano). Taylor and Kolkhorst formerly served in the Texas House. All of the new senators are anti-toll. Huffines was appointed Vice Chair, which is a big nod. Compare that to just one anti-toll committee member last session and none in prior sessions, and this is a Texas-sized step forward for taxpayers.