The 87th Legislature wraps up:
- Abbott, state leaders increase fees, road debt & fail to restrain toll fines
- See how your legislators voted - TURF 2021 Legislative Report Card (PDF)
- 2021 Transportation Legislative Priorities - TURF (PDF)
- 2021 Legislative Agenda - TURF (PDF)
- Co-sponsor Our Top Priorities - TURF (PDF)
Bills relating to Toll Roads:GOOD -
SB 756 (Kolkhorst/Hall)/HB 1117 (Shaheen) - Remove the toll when the road is paid for, ends the practice of combining toll projects together into one financial system using ‘system financing,’ gimmick used to ‘show’ no toll road is ever paid for. Perpetual tolling violates the Texas Constitution Art. I, Sec. 26 that prohibits perpetuities.
SB 1000 (Hall/Kolkhorst)/HB 3314 (Cain) - Toll billing/collection reform, creates uniform, more transparent billing practices, caps excessive fines and fees, and de-criminalizes an unpaid toll bill.
SB 890 (Eckhardt) - Must provide at least one non-toll general purpose lane for any toll project. Does not interfere with Section 228.201 that prohibits conversions and same # of non-toll lanes as before conversion.
SB 858 (Paxton/Johnson)/HB 2421 (Davis) - Keep trip data and financial info on transit trips private. This exact protection is in our toll billing reform bill, SB 1000/HB 3314 as well. It should also apply to drivers, not just transit users.
HB 2435 (Cain) - Prohibits tolls being imposed on Fairmont Pkwy in Harris County.
HB 4539 (Cain) - Prohibits tolls on segments of Hwy 146.
HB 1508 (Middleton) - Removes tolls from SH 99 in Chambers County.
HB 827 (Huberty) - Can't disclose speed on tollway to law enforcement.
SB 1685 (Powell)/HB 4188 (Romero) - Study of Comprehensive Development Agreements (CDAs, known as public-private partnerships), requiring a report on the provisions relating to maintenance and safety and the private entity’s responsibility for both. This is due to the 133 car pile-up during the recent ice storm where 6 people died on I-35W operated by a Spain-based corporation under one these controversial CDA contracts. This tragedy must be prevented from ever happening again and the parties responsible held accountable for their actions.
SB 1727 (Nichols) - Restrains local govt corporations from being formed to bypass any restrictions on keeping toll revenues for that particular toll road or toll system. The bill is a response to Harris County forming one to refinance their toll system for the express purpose of cashing out funds to do flood control projects that those toll users may not directly benefit from and have nothing to do with driving. Toll revenues should stay with that project and fund maintenance and improvements to that segment only.
HB 1441 (Schaefer) - To increase the burden of proof needed to seize one's car and personal assets, something that has been horribly abused against people not even charged with any crime. This bill is desperately needed!
SB 15 (Nichols)/HB 2099 (Schaefer) - This bill protects the personal information of drivers by preventing government entities from selling your data to private companies for marketing or other purposes.
HB 1116 (Thompson, Ed, Oliverson, Perez) - Bill to allow toll bills to be combined into one payment plan when using multiple toll roads across several jurisdictions. Warning: could attach amendment of his bill last session that gives private toll entity under Comprehensive Development Agreement ability to impose its own toll fines/fee structure despite any changes in state law to protect consumers from outrageous toll fines/fees.
HB 737 (White), HB 1085 (Moody) - HB 737 would allow military qualified to get discounted tolls to not need to display special license plate in order to participate in the discount program. This discount program does, in effect, increase toll for others whenever discounts for a special class of drivers.
SB 1174 (Schwertner) - Directs governor to appoint board members from each county on a rotating basis for multi-county Regional Mobility Authorities (RMAs). We want RMAs to be abolished. They've received $3 billion in state gas taxes (a double tax), loan guarantees, and more for their toll roads, and yet they're responsible for operating very few toll projects around the state. They duplicate the role of TxDOT and have little to no accountability or oversight. We don't have a problem with this bill, but we'll watch every RMA bill closely.
SB 1838 (Eckhardt) - Modifying a 99-yr lease of state-owned property. Likely a public-private partnership gone bad. How can anyone negotiate a contract for 99 years that protects the public interest? That’s generations from now? (Text currently not available).
HB 3480 (Rose)/HB 3495 (Herrero) - Toll entities must discount the tolls for electronic toll tag users.
HB 3497 (Metcalf) - Fake toll cessation bill that would allow Commissioners Court (at its own discretion or by request of TxDOT) to hold elections to extend the toll in 5 year increments in perpetuity.
HB 3498 (Metcalf) - Unravels our ban on tolling existing highways passed in 2017. Brings in a loophole allowing the conversion of free highway lanes into toll lanes if a non-toll frontage road lane is included. Downgrades existing free highway lane to frontage road lane allowing double taxation and restriction of express travel by forcing drivers to pay again, a toll, for what their taxes already paid for.
SB 1453 (Alvarado) - Allows private, foreign toll operators to have a different toll fine/fee structure than TxDOT. In 2017, the legislature overwhelmingly passed toll collection reform for TxDOT, capping the fines and fees it could add to toll bills ($48/yr in admin fees/$250/yr cap on criminal penalties). So SB 1453 would allow a PRIVATE entity to gouge Texas drivers with unlimited fines and fees that the legislature agreed was NOT acceptable for a public entity to do!
HB 3968 (Thompson) - Bill to re-authorize controversial Comprehensive Development Agreements (CDAs or pubic private partnerships) if over $1 billion estimated cost. TxDOT could enter into at least two per year, with no sunset date, voter approval is only in counties where road is, not voters from outside those counties who may still have to take it), and allows them to keep calling for a vote every 5 years until they get it approved, and repeals all taxpayer protections put in place in 2007, 2011, & 2013.
HB 2114 (Cyrier) - To enter into a Comprehensive Development Agreement (or public-private partnership toll road) in Travis and Williamson counties (likely I-35 that was already designated to be expended non-toll).
HB 3467 (Canales) - To amend the SH 130 Comprehensive Development Agreement (or CDA, known as public private partnership). No text currently available but if it’s the same bill as last session, it would extend the contract and allow the private foreign company to collect tolls for another 20 years when the road is already paid for.
HB 3159 (Martinez) - To allow both TxDOT and Regional Mobility Authorities (RMAs) to enter into Comprehensive Development Agreements (or public private partnership toll roads) for 31 different toll projects.
HB 3160 (Martinez) - To allow both TxDOT and Regional Mobility Authorities (RMAs) to enter into an unlimited number of Comprehensive Development Agreements (or public-private partnership toll roads), including combining two or more projects into one contract (in one procurement - giving mini monopolies to a single firm).
SB 1326 (Hinojosa/Lucio) - To re-authorize controversial Comprehensive Development Agreement toll projects (CDAs or public-private partnerships) for 7 projects across Hidalgo, Cameron, and Jim Hogg counties.
HB 545 (Thompson, Ed) - To allow a city to annex a portion of the state highway if approved by TxDOT [Does this relate to the SH 288 private toll contract, Comprehensive Development Agreement (CDA) or public-private partnership, with private entity wanting more control thru a local government to force drivers onto its privately operated toll road?).
HJR 48/HB 916 (Morales) - To create a new 7 county toll bureaucracy - a Middle Rio Grande Regional Mobility Authority.
HB 2195 (Morales) - To impose $5 toll to cross Presidio International Bridge.
HB 2306 (Fierro) - A county may and TxDOT MUST block vehicle registration over unpaid tolls.
HB 1085 (Moody) - Allows certain veterans to ride completely free on toll roads. This, in effect, increases tolls for other drivers to make up for the tolls not paid by a special class of drivers, similar to giving certain classes of people a property tax freeze. Government needs to stop picking winners and losers. That's why we insist on a fair system where all users pay the same toll or make it a freeway.
HB 4532 (Ortega) - Relating to the development of transportation projects by a Regional Mobility Authority or RMA (no text available).
Relating to Road Taxes/Fee Hikes/Debt:
SJR 59 (Nichols), SB 1560 (Nichols), SB 1456 (Nichols)/HJR 161 (Ashby) - All overweight truck permit fees must be deposited to state highway fund and used only for roads.
SB 1728 (Schwertner, Nichols, Powell)/SB 1720 (Eckhardt)/HB 2986 (Martinez), HB 3797 (Israel), HB 427 (King, K.) - Impose road use fee onto registration of electric vehicles. Currently, electric vehicle owners use our state highways without paying for them since they do not use gas and gas tax is the primary source of funding for state highways.
HB 1489 (Dean) - Re-calibrates how tax paid on the sale of used vehicles to be more accurate (thereby lowering value and hence the taxable amount owed).
WATCH LIST -
HB 3474 (Thierry) - Bill involving the state gas tax, which funds the highway fund. It seeks to get gasoline taxes paid by the actual end-user (consumer) not at the terminus. It appears to be a way to crack down on the use of unauthorized credit cards/payment cards at the pump.
SB 2107 (Schwertner)/HB 1651 (Wilson) - Relating to a study by the Texas Department of Transportation on the feasibility of charging a pavement consumption fee for the operation of certain motor vehicles on public highways. While it may reveal the inequity of the current gas tax structure (trucks do far more damage than passenger vehicles, therefore they should pay proportional to the damage they inflict), this would still be creating a new fee which many view as a new tax structure. Trucks already pay higher gasoline taxes plus overweight truck permit fees. So if a study shows trucks aren't paying their fair share for the road damage they inflict, then perhaps it's better to adjust overweight truck permit fees or the diesel gas tax rather than create a whole new tax regime.
HB 2503 (Guillen) - A Regional Mobility Authority (RMA) must get permission from TxDOT in order to apply for federal transit funds. The RMA must demonstrate financial capacity and projects must be viable (not pie in the sky wishes). Transit should be a local government policy. There should be no federal or state role in transit, so making TxDOT a gatekeeper may not be a good move. However, since federal funds originate from state and federal gasoline taxes, perhaps state oversight before an RMA applies for federal funds is a good accountability measure to ensure projects are viable (at least until transit funds are eliminated at the federal level).
SB 1984 (Lucio) - Relating to Private Activity Bonds (PABs). PABs are bonds backed by the federal taxpayer (YOU!) that get doled out to private, foreign corporations in these 50-year public-private partnership toll road contracts. The text of this bill is not yet available. Count on us to watch this bill!
HB 207 (Lopez)/HB 2218 (Canales) - Increases gas tax by indexing it to Consumer Price Index.
HB 2219 (Canales) - Issue new debt from Texas Mobility Fund (that currently cannot issue new debt which preserves gas tax for roads instead of paying off debt).
SB 584 (Blanco)/HB 156 (Ortega) - Allows MPO to impose $10 vehicle registration fee hike in border county that solely created a Regional Mobility Authority.
HB 995 (Fierro ) - Increases penalty (fine) for improperly registered vehicle.
HB 996 (Fierro) - Increases vehicle title fee to counties in non-attainment areas.
HB 997 (Fierro) - Increases vehicle inspection fee by $25.
HB 1020 (Fierro) - Increase the county’s portion of the vehicle registration before it goes to State Highway Fund.
HB 1688 (Morales) - Increase in county vehicle registration fees in border county that is part of a Regional Mobility Authority that’s also comprised of two adjacent counties.
HB 3237 (Israel) - To increase vehicle registration fees.
SB 1803 (Johnson) - To allow an increase local sales tax above the 2% state cap up to 2.5% for county road improvements. It would come before the voters.
HB 2577 (Kuempel) - To give motorcycles a $2,500 tax incentive.
HB 3956 (Kuempel) - To increase vehicle registration fees in a county with a population of 1.5 million or greater that’s coterminous with a Regional Mobility Authority (Bexar County & other major metros).
SB 624 (Schwertner)/HB 1698 (Raney) - $10 vehicle registration fee hike in county coterminous with a Regional Mobility Authority (must be approved by voters).
SB 781 (Hinojosa) - Vehicle Registration Fee Hike in non-RMA area not in a border county.
SB 310 (Eckhardt) - Repeals tax credit for high-cost gas (thereby increasing the fee for those consumers).
HB 2222 (Canales) - A&M Study on funding needs out to the year 2045. We expect tolls debt, and tax and fee hikes to be pushed by our public institution to further bloat the transportation budget.
SB 1041 (Eckhardt)/HB 2931 (Israel) - Double the gas tax to 40 cents per gallon.
SB 1412 (Paxton)/HB 4142 (Sanford) - Adopt and repeal an additional ad valorem (property) tax for maintenance of county roads.
SB 1905 (Blanco) - Increase vehicle title fee by $5 if commissioners court & voters approve.
SB 1837 (Eckhardt) - Increase vehicle registration fee $20 in Travis County if county approves.
HB 3515 (Thompson, E.) - Eliminates competitive bidding on certain state highway contracts and lets unelected TxDOT employees decide whether to do so on its own with no oversight or accountability to taxpayers.
SB 1455 (Nichols) - Eliminates one of the restrictions on issuing new debt through the Texas Mobility Fund. Governor Abbott promised no new debt for roads, period.
Anti-Car/Big Govt Initiatives:
SB 234 (Hall/HB 749 (Middleton) - To ban taxpayer-funded lobbying by governmental entities. This is the practice an overwhelming number of Texans want stopped whereby government uses YOUR taxpayer money to lobby for growing government, to give themselves more power, and raise your taxes. This is true of toll agencies and local governments wanting to increase your vehicle registration fees, gas taxes, get an unlimited number of toll projects approved (without oversight or strings attached to the money) and more.
HB 4514 (Morales Shaw) - Under the guise of ‘revenue enhancement,’ this bill would downgrade highways to boulevards using ‘highway capping and stitching,’ and lease out the real estate along highways using public-private partnerships for commercial development in state-owned rights of way. This is an assault on the free market, express travel in your car and represents eminent domain for private gain. The idea is to slow down cars, force you into transit or walkable transportation and lease out publicly-owned rights of way to private real estate developers in cozy arrangements where government can grant monopolies to the well-connected and pick the winners and losers of who gets the sweetheart deal and access to previously off-limits state land.
HB 4513 (Morales Shaw) - Mandates TxDOT do a 24-year plan for ‘safe options’ of all modes of transportation, adding walking and biking, and requiring there to be equitable access to all modes, even when those modes represent a tiny fraction of the traveling public and those users do not pay taxes for roads. It would also require the plan to bring an end to traffic fatalities (which is impossible).
HB 4520 (Morales Shaw) - Mandates one Texas Transportation Commissioner have experience as a transit user, bike or pedestrian commuter, or person with disability, also forces such representation on all transportation boards, (MPOs, RMAs, etc.) and forces equal portion of decision-making based on these classifications even though less than 3% of all commuters use these modes, and bicyclists and pedestrians don’t pay gasoline taxes that fund the projects these boards oversee. Also, turns transportation into a social justice platform, forcing all projects to be analyzed through the lens of race, gender, or disability, forcibly injecting identity politics into road policy.
SJR 40 (Miles)/HJR 109 (Walle) - Would raid the constitutionally dedicated state highway fund and give state gas tax funds to transit, bike lanes and sidewalks. Currently, state gasoline taxes are constitutionally protected and can only go to highways (since vehicle owners pay the taxes). Once the federal gas tax was raided for non-highway uses, it went bankrupt. Texas should not fall into the same trap.
HB 761 (Israel) - Allows buses use of shoulders (whereby they get a faster, more reliable ride and additional capacity not afforded the cars who paid for those shoulders). Again, government picking the winners and losers. (The GOP 2020 Platform has a plank opposing restricted lanes of all tyes.)
SB 221 (Zaffirini)/HB 442/HB 3877 (Israel) - Lowers speed limits to 25 MPH in ‘urban districts’ (effectively turning major thoroughfares like Congress Avenue and Lamar into school zones). HB 3877 would apply to cities over 950,000 population.
HB 795, HB 1946 (Goodwin) - Doubles fines/tickets in anything they designate as a ‘highway safety corridor.’
SB 490 (Paxton)/HB 1105 (Paddie) - To issue digital license plates. Security risks exponentially come into play with a digital license plate. For instance, digital plates can be hacked by criminals to change license plate numbers in order to evade police when committing crimes like theft, murder, human trafficking, etc. committed using vehicles to escape a crime scene or otherwise commit crimes. Also involves health risks like radiation emissions from RFID chips in the license plates, putting human health at risk. Also allows government to track you in your vehicle at any time. Greatly increases the cost of license plate for drivers as well as introduces digital problems, glitches, and errors needing constant maintenance or repairs compared to metal license plates.
HB 273 (Canales) - To authorize ‘pilot program’ for issuing digital IDs (identification). Invites similar problems as with digital license plates above.
HB 1531 (Reynolds) - To allow counties to regulate roadside vendors. Likely to allow counties to collect permit fees. (Text not yet available, but similar bills filed every session)
HB 2221 (Canales) - To impose an electrification fee and use that public money to create new bureaucracy, an ‘electrification council.’
HB 1122 (Darby) - Removes county road reporting requirements in order to apply for certain TxDOT grants, reducing transparency and accountability in how these funds are used and whether or not to continue receiving them.
HCR 65 (Stucky) - To waste $8-$80 million in state highway funds on building a statewide hike and bike trail system that gas taxpayers do not use.