Read how to restore a Pro-Taxpayer Road Policy
Below you will find TURF's analysis of the sessions as they happen. After the current session info, previous session reports are listed.
2021 (87th legislative session)
Tuesday, April 20 - House Transportation Committee - Now's Our Chance...To Get Relief from Excessive Toll Fines!
Bills relating to Toll Roads:
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.
2019 (86th legislative session)
See how your legislators voted - TURF 2019 Legislative Report Card
The 86th Legislature wraps up. Read about it in these articles:
TURF Bill Tracker for 86 (R) session 2019
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.
Toll road reforms -
SB 374 / HB 436 (Hall/Shaheen) - To remove a toll once a road is paid for. Politicians and bureaucrats can always find a use for the toll revenues. Toll projects are routinely expanded and extended as well as tied together financially into a ‘system’ so that a single project cannot be separated from the others to pay it off or take the toll down. This pushes out the pay-off date indefinitely to ensure no toll road is ever paid for. Without protection in state law, Texans are facing paying tolls in perpetuity. Keeping tolls in place in perpetuity is a violation of the Texas Constitution, Article I, Section 26 that prohibits perpetuities. A plank insisting tolls are removed once a project’s debt is paid is included in the 2018 GOP Platform.
HB 2781 (Middleton) - Toll cessation in certain counties.
SB 1733 / HB 803 (Paxton/Patterson) - To require toll entities to annually report key financial information to the public on their web site. Must show revenues, expenses, and outstanding debt for EACH project.
SB 1031 (Hall) - To subject Regional Mobility Authorities, unelected toll authorities, to sunset review and abolishment. Taxpayers have already spent more than $3 billion subsidizing these agencies, their toll projects and lobbyists. They don't do anything that TxDOT couldn't also do. They're a second tier bureaucracy designed ot create off-budget debt and off load segments of the STATE highway system to the LOCAL taxpayer.
SB 373 (Hall) - To require public access to board meetings of Regional Mobility Authorities via the internet and the agencies' web sites.
Criminal penalties for traffic violations/toll fines -
SB 382 / HB 4580 (Hall/Hefner) - Toll collection reform - to actually end toll fines and fees.
SB 87 (Hall) - Repeal of the driver responsibility program and the vehicle safety inspection program for certain vehicles; imposing replacement fees.
SB 198 (Schwertner) - Toll collection reform bill, requires no administrative fees to be added until determined if a customer has an electronic account. Must notify customer if tag may not be working. Must clearly mark bills to be paid.
SB191 (Miles) - Repeal of DRP, temporarily increases certain traffic fines.
SB 413 (Hall) - Red light camera ban.
HB 1027 (Bohac) - To require sigange at intersections stating red light cameras are present and the cost of the ticket for any violations. (We'd like to see a complete red light camera ban (they're unconsitutional), but this is a good minimal step in the right direction).
SB 88 (Hall) - To authorize a pilot program to utilize state sales tax in a zone adjacent to a highway to pay for expansion/improvements to that highway.
HB 44 (Romero) - Impact fees for roads.
SB 282 / HB 633 (Buckingham/Buckley) - Requiring TxDOT to give liquidated damages funds to the departments district where the liquidated damages were incurred. Tracking funds and requiring those funds to stay in the region that had to suffer through project delays is transparent and good government.
Govt surveillance society/Transparency -
SB 78 (Hall) - Restricts use of license plate readers for government spying and abuse of private information.
HB 1700 (Hunter) - Gives the public access to public information regardless of where that information is kept. Currently, public officials try to hide public documents on their personal cell phones and computers. This bill would force public information to be handed over regardless of who has custody over it. TURF is part of the Sunshine Coalition and this is one of the bills filed to try and end loopholes in open records laws to get public information into the hands of taxpayers. Sunshine is the best cleanser in the world of politics!
SB 653 / HB 1631 (Hall/Stickland) - Bans red light cameras and the high priced, unconsitutional ticketing scam being foisted upon drivers.
HB 537 (Murphy) - To require periodic traffic studies on alternatives to red light cameras to improve intersections.
Taxpayer Funded Lobbying -
SB 2329 (Creighton) - Prohibits lobbying by a Regional Mobility Authority (toll entity) unless the board specifically votes ot allow it.
SB 82 (Hall) - Restricts lobbying by entities with state funds.
HB 281 (Middleton) - Outlaws taxpayer-funded lobbying. When government entities can use your tax money to lobby against tax cuts, property tax reform, removing tolls when the road is paid for, it tilts the scales against taxpayers getting the representation that they voted for.
SB 702 (Bettencourt) - Regional Mobility Authorities and other pollitical subdivisions of the state that can levy a tax or issue bonds must have approval by a public vote of its board in order to expend money lobbying and they must publish the amount, the lobbyists, and the full contract on public web site.
Property Rights -
SB 421 / HB 991 (Kolkhorst/Burns) - Eminent domain reform that's been long overdue. Private entities as well as local units of government do not want any restrictions on their ability to take people's property for whatever use they want it for. This bill has common sense, basic protections for landowners to have a more transparrent and fair process, especially when dealing with private entities with the power of eminent domain (which we adamantly oppose).
HB 404 (Thompson, Senfronia) - To repeal civil asset forfeiture authority. This tackles the ability of law enforcement to seize a person’s belongings without charging them with a crime. There must be probable cause that a person’s belongings were involved in a crime before they can be seized. Many Texans never get their belongings back even when they’ve never been charged with a crime.
HB 347 (King, Phil) - To remove tiered system for forced annexation. Require a public vote regardless of population or size of area to be annexed.
HB 802 (Huberty) - To allow residents of special districts to vote as if they were residents of the city who annexed them for the special district.
HB 4154, HB 4156, HB 4382, HB 4423, HB 4573 (Zwiener) - Collection of excellent property rights bills to correct longstanding eminent domain abuses. These bills seek to address quick take eminent domain, place a moratorium on takings, eminent domain abuse by those claiming to be common carrier pipelines, land restoration after pipeline built, and best practices.HB 4156 (Leman) - Void contract for HIgh Speed Rail if company has no eminent domain auhtority.
HB 1951 (Krause) - FAKE toll road reform bill. The very first section of the bill authorizes public private partnership toll projects (known as Comprehensive Development Agreements in Texas statute), the WORST and MOST EXPENSIVE form of toll project. They're sweetheart deals that put taxpayers on the hook for the losses, guarantee the private operators' profits, and utilize eminent domain for private gain. These public-private hybrids also charge puntively high tolls, in excess of $1/mile. Governor Greg Abbott promised an end to more toll roads. So calling for a public vote on every toll project, as this bill does, pries that door back open. 'No' means no. Local officials with the help of the road lobby think they can manipulate the public into approving new toll taxes using their typical scare tactics (‘You won’t get that road fixed for 20 years unless you toll it’). Giving them the tool of a public vote option now would give them a get out of jail free card to undermine our Governor's promise and open up the door wide to tolls everywhere. They can refuse to fix our roads and simply orchestrate repeated elections until congestion weary drivers cry 'Uncle.' The bill also guts our toll cessation reform bill, HB 436, by allowing the Transportation Commission to extend the toll in 10 year increments (that's not toll cessation, that's toll extension!). The bill also keeps the criminal penalty for an unpaid toll bill. Texans need to speak up and defeat this bill and back up our Governor! Pass HB 436 (true toll cessation) and SB 382 (toll collection reform) instead of this bill crafted by lobbyists.
HB 1643 (Martinez) - This bill allows TxDOT and a Regional Mobility Authority (toll authority) to enter into a public private partnership for Grand Pkwy near Houston (an authority that expired, but would now authorize it up to the year 2029) as well as projects in Cameron and Hidalgo counties, which would privatize and toll our public highways, which the folks in the valley can ill afford since it's one of the most economically distressed parts of Texas.
HB 1644 (Martinez) - This bill would authorize even more public private partnerships beyond just Grand Pkwy in Houston and Cameron and Hidalgo counties (like HB 1643), but also for projects in Bexar County, Travis County, and Smith County.
HB 1646 (Martinez) - This is a third public private partnership toll road bill that further expands the ability of both TxDOT and toll entities to enter into virtually an unlimited number of design-build and a limited number of full blown Comprehensive Development Agreements for both toll and non-toll projects. Design build contracts drove up the cost of building public schools astronomically in California, and they replace low bid contracts with 'best value' contracts that allow these unelected entities to steer contracts to their buddies. Design-build contracts are more specialized and very few companies can foot the up front costs to do them, so it shrinks the number of contractors available to bid, also driving up the cost to build highways. This bill would re-authorize 18 CDA-style toll roads advanced in 2013 that have expired (thanks to Governor Abbott promise fulfilling his no more tolls promise). Back Governor Abbott and help us ensure these HORRIBLE private toll road bills never make it into law!
SB 1074, SB 1075, SB 1718, SB 1712, SB 2053 / HB 4227, HB 4231 (Watson, Lucio, Hinojosa/Israel) - String of public private partnership toll road bills (known as Comprehensive Development Agreements or CDAs in Texas statute). Some open to door to all of them with no protections, others open the door with some protections, others are project specific. ALL are BAD bills. Help us help Gov. Abbott keep his 'No toll' promise and defeat ALL CDAs and toll road bills!
SB 2414 / HB 4427 (Watson/Canales) - To extend the SH 130 CDA (public private partnership) contract until 2062! This is the private toll road that went bankrupt in less than 3 years. The bankruptcy court wiped out the private entity's debt and a new company took it over. Now they want to cash in on collecting tolls for another 20 years (beyond the current contract date of 2042), when all but $250 million is already paid for!
HB 506 (Metcalf) - Would totally undermine our reform from last session that prohibits the conversion of a free lane into a toll lane. This would expressly allow an existing non-toll highway lane to be downgraded to a frontage lane and the non-toll highway lanes to be converted into toll lanes, which is a double tax and would open up a pandora’s box of freeway to tollway conversions.
HB 505 (Metcalf) - Remove tolls once road paid for, but allows them to continue for 5 year increments if special interests manage to get the public to vote for it. HB 436 by Shaheen is the better bill for taxpayers and saves the money from having public votes and extensions of an unconstitutional toll/perpetuity. Allows an end run around a perpetuity by saying it’s a temporary extension.
HJR 27/HB 333 (Nevarez) - Constitutional Amendment and enabling legislation to form a Middle Rio Grande Regional Mobility Authority (an unelected toll bureaucracy involving 7 counties) by having the legislature pass a local law without the required public notice for local laws, and without the permission of the Texas Transportation Commission (this is an end run around Gov. Abbott and his 'no-toll' pledge). It also authorizes a fee (think new tax on vehicles and/or tolls without the public’s consent).
SB 215 (Seliger) - Allows TxDOT District Engineer to temporarily lower speed limits. This happened as part of a pilot project in San Antonio on Loop 1604 when in the middle of the day, when there was no traffic, the temporary speed limit sign on the shoulder directed people to go 25 MPH in a zone where the normally posted speed limit is 70 MPH!
SB 1073 / HB 4221 (Watson/Israel) - Would issue $4.5 billion in new debt for I-35 tolled managed lanes (while transit rides free) - $1.5 billion from the Texas Mobility Fund and $3 billion in borrowed money backed by our state gasoline tax.
SB 1080 / HB 4281 (Watson/Israel) - Local gas tax hike for roads and transit.
SJR 45 / HJR 133 (Watson/Israel) - Would raid the state highway fund (gasoline taxes) to fund non-road transportation (rail & transit). Massive diversion of gas taxes paid by road users to those not paying into the fund.
HB 4217 (Israel) - Would double the state gasoline tax from $.20/gallon to $.40/gallon!
SB 1078 (Watson) - Local $10 vehicle registration fee hike.
HB 2769 (Ortega) - Local $10 vehicle registration fee hike for counties over 800,000 population (all urban cities).
SB 2273 (Hinojosa) - Local $10 vehicle registration fee hike for the Regional Mobility Authority (the toll authority). So this would force all drivers to pay to build/maintain RMA toll roads. Dirvers who have to use the toll road would pay a third time (toll tax) to use it!
SB 2184 (Rodriguez) - Local $20 vehicle registration fee hike.
SB 2434 / HB 130 (Menendez/Minjarez) - Increases Bexar County vehicle registration fee AGAIN! They already raised it $10/year two sessions back and the money goes to an unelected toll agency that can use the funds on toll roads - it feeds an unaccountable bureaucracy and its another form of toll road subsidy and double taxation.
HB 642 (Raney) - Vehicle registration fee hike for county that borders the U.S./Mexico border and is next to an RMA.
HB 1666 (Martinez) - Another vehicle registration fee hike. Half would go the county and could only be used to fund transit, the other half would go to cities to fund roads/drainage.
2017 (85th legislative session)
See how your legislators voted - TURF 2017 Legislative Report Card
The 85th Legislature wraps up. Read about it in these articles:
TURF Bill Tracker for 85 (R) session 2017
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.
HB 432 (Metcalf) - To gradually dedicate 100% of the existing vehicle sales tax to the state highway fund by 2028. The funds could only be used for the construction and maintenance of roads and none of these funds could go to toll roads.
SB 84 (Hall) - To authorize a pilot program to utilize sales tax in a zone adjacent to a highway to pay for expansion/improvements to that highway.
HB 911 (Romero, Jr.) - A study to determine the impact of charging impact fees from developers to help pay for the expansion of infrastructure caused by that development.
HB 3834 (Workman) - Require impact fees to be proportional to the impact of the development. Currently, what little is charged in impact fees from developers is not proportional to the impact on the surrounding infrastructure.
HB 3957 (Stickland) - To require private toll operators to reimburse cities for emergency services on their private toll lanes.
Good government/Truth in Taxation:
SJR 35/SB 639/SB 1909 (Huffines/Campbell), HJR 65/HB 1518 (Leach), SB 114 (Huffines) - To protect the state highway fund from being raided to subsidize toll projects. Just as we protected Prop 1 and Prop 7 funds from going to toll roads, our gasoline taxes must also be protected to prevent runaway double taxation. Over $10 billion in gasoline taxes have been used to build toll roads in Texas with billions more planned. If a road is built with tax money, it should be a freeway, not a toll road.
SB 668 / HB 1282 (Kolkhorst/Shaheen) - To remove the toll once the debt is paid. Politicians and bureaucrats can always find a use for the toll revenues. Toll projects are routinely expanded and extended as well as tied together financially into a 'system' so that a single project cannot be separated from the others to pay it off or take the toll down. Without protection in state law, Texans are facing paying tolls in perpetuity.
SB 1555 (Kolkhorst), HB 772 (Burkett) - Would require each toll project to be financed and operate on its own and NOT lumped together into a 'system.' These bills would end system financing and allow tolls to be removed from a project without having ot pay off the debt for an entire system (network) of toll roads.
SB 812 / HB 303 (Kolkhorst/Pickett) - To require any entity that receives money from TxDOT for a toll project to repay that money. On Loop 49 in Tyler, Texas, TxDOT lent the Regional Mobility Authority (toll authority) $55 million to subsidize that toll project. Rather than repay the loan, TxDOT decided to simply 'forgive' the loan to make the RMA's credit look better as they sought to extend Loop 49 out even further. Taxpayers cannot allow such theft of taxpayer money nor should they tolerate double taxation.
SB 399/SB 1127 (Hall/Kolkhorst), SB 891/HB 1311 (Taylor, V./Sanford), SB 1143 (Hall) - To prevent the conversion of a freeway lane into a toll lane (another form of double taxation). Several of these bills would also explicitly prevent an HOV lane from being converted into a toll lane as well.
HB 3764 (Pickett) - To remove tolls from Cesar Chavez Border Highway - Loop 375 in El Paso.
HB 141 (Raymond) - Prohibit Hwy 255 in Webb County from being operated as a toll road.
HB 3645/HB 2530/HB 3456 (Shaheen) - To require TxDOT to hold a public hearing on any project that substantially changes the layout or function of a highway, including managed toll lanes, hOV lanes, bus lanes, or bike lanes. Currently, TxDOT uses an open house format where no formal presentation is made to the public nor is there any open forum for public comment. When major changes to the access and function of a highway are being made, at the very least, the public is entitled to a formal public hearing. Two of these bills would also impose an administrative penalty of $100,000 per violation if they fail to hold the public hearings as required.
HB 851 (Burkett), HB 792/HB 793 (Capriglione) - To make toll financial studies and traffic forecasts available to the public. Currently, state law allows traffic and revenue studies to be kept secret from the public and public officials.
SB 637, SB 638 (Huffines), SB 493 (Hall), HB 766 (Burkett), HB 2368 (Munoz) - To hold toll agencies more accountable by undergoing audits or sunset reviews. Huffines' HB 638 would also impose a ban on Regional Mobility Authorities from using public funds to lobby.
HB 720 (Burkett), HB 964 (Springer), SB 1437 (Schwertner), HB 3017 (Minjarez/Israel) - To reform toll collection procedures and penalties. The toll collection system in Texas is broken. Drivers are being financially ruined over toll fines and fees and have their ability to get to work threatened when toll agencies block their vehicle registration over unpaid tolls (many times the fines are imposed erroneously when a payment card expires and drivers are not notified or given the opportunity to update their payment cards).
SB 312/HB 3207 (Nichols, Taylor, V./Gonzales) - TxDOT is up for sunset review this session. The sunset bill is the best time to enact needed reforms at the agency and to require greater accountability and performance measures to restore the public trust and increase efficiencies in the Department.
Eminent domain/Property Rights:
SB 243 (Burton) - To allow commissioners courts to disapprove a condemnation.
HJR 40/HB 528 (Schofield) - To require authorities to make actual progress using the condemned property or give the original landowner the opportunity to repurchase.
SB 380/HB 1364 (Burton/Thompson, S.) - To repeal civil asset forfeiture authority. This tackles the ability of law enforcement to seize a person's belongings without charging them with a crime. There must be probable cause that a person's belongings were involved in a crime before they can be seized. Many Texans never get their belongings back even when they've never been charged with a crime.
SB 555 (Kolkhorst) - Makes it a criminal penalty if entity claims to have eminent domain authority when it does not in fact have that authority.
SB 740, SB 741, SB 742 (Kolkhorst), HB 2684 (Burns), HB 2694 (Kacal), HB 3687 (Ashby), HB 3170 (Bell) - Mandates better disclosure in eminent domain cases relating to pipelines. Requires protection from damages, most recent appraisal to be disclosed to landowners, must prove entity actually has power to exercise eminent domain, more flexibility for landowners in admitting evidence into the record, and allows royalties as means of compensation.
SB 626/SB 627 (Schwertner) - Requires landowners rights to be disclosed when eminent domain being used. Must disclose land being taken with eminent domain versus excess land entity wants to acquire. Must disclose land that has to be surveyed for eminent domain versus land not part of eminent domain.
SB 786 (Nichols) - Prohibits eminent domain for recreational purposes.
HB 2090 (Van Deaver) - Allows heritage property to receive 150% of appraised value in eminent domain compensation. We'd like heritage property to be blocked from any takings, but this is a good start in protecting heritage land. It may scare off condemnation if the entity knows it has ot pay 50% above market value for it.
High Speed Rail:
HB 2164 (Wray) - To block a private high speed rail company from gaining access to federal taxpayer backed low interest tax exempt loans for its private project.
NOTE: There are dozens of bills to stop or restrain the proposed high speed rail project between Houston and Dallas. We oppose high speed rail and the taking of private property through the use of eminent domain exercised by a private company for a for-profit project and encourage a 'Yes' vote on any bill to stop it.
HB 2557 (Miller) - To allow unlimited authority for a Ft. Bend Regional Mobility Authority to enter into public private partnerships (known as Comprehensive Development Agreements in Texas) for rail & port infrastructure in Ft. Bend (the committee substitute for this bill removed the controversial public private partnerships from the bill. We'll continue to monitor it closely).
Funding, Taxes, Tolls, Fees:
HCR 108 (Zerwas) - To raid Prop 7 funds that over 80% of Texas voters directed to be placed into the state highway fund. Passing this resolution would steal the funds BEFORE they even BEGIN to be directed to the highway fund. We vehemently oppose ANY raid of road funds!
SB 1959/HB 2861/HB 2915/HB 1589 (Phillips/Lucio/Lucio III/Oliveira) - 14 highways from Dallas-Ft. Worth, Austin, San Antonio, down to the valley including one bridge to South Padre, FM 1925 in Hidalgo County, Hwy 77 in Cameron County, plus re-authorize all 10 grandfathered CDAs until 2023, HB 1112 (Rodriguez) - I-35 in Bexar County, HB 1796 (Martinez) - authorizing 7 projects in Cameron and Hidalgo counties, HB 3779 (Martinez) - extending the expiration date on grandfathered CDAs to 2021, HB 2295 (Villalba) - I-635 Dallas.
All of these bills would hand over our public roads & infrastructure to private toll operators in 50 year government-sanctioned monopolies known as Comprehensive Development Agreements (or public private partnerships). TxDOt has been given a blank check and can keep details secret from the public. Every single CDA has used heaps of taxpayer money to subsidize or otherwise guarantee the loans of these private companies. No elected official has control over the toll rates, the private operators can lower the speed limits on the free routes and increase the speeds on the toll lanes, and they can involve non-compete or adverse event clauses that penalize TxDOT from expanding free routes (or make taxpayers compensate them for any decrease in toll revenue due to expansion of nearby free roads).
HB 901 (Minjarez/Rodriguez/Bernal) - Increase Bexar County vehicle registration fees by $20/year. Requires an election. The funds currently flow to the Regional Mobility Authority (toll authority), but if a provision is put in place to prohibit those funds from going to the RMA and/or from going to toll roads, we may be neutral rather than opposed to it.
SB 1645/HB 3826 (Watson/Simmons) - To allow the Regional Mobility Authorities (RMAs), which are toll authorities, to enter into toll projects without approval from TxDOT. Since most members of the public have no idea what an RMA is, they would have no way of knowing to check RMA agendas to know when I toll project is coming to their community. Having RMAs come before the Transportation Commission where they have posted regular monthly meetings and where people expect to go to find out right probject information is by far more transparent and the best way for the public to be informed.
Eminent domain/Property rights:
HB 1056 (Munoz) - To extend eminent domain authority of Municipal Utility District and Water District.
NOTE: There are so many bills to create or expand the powers of MUDs and special purpose districts, we literally lost count. We encourage a 'No' vote on all special purpose districts having eminent domain authority or the power to issue bonds without an election.
2015 (84th legislative session)
See how your legislators voted - TURF 2015 Legislative Report Card
The 84th Legislature wraps up. Here is a 3-part series on the results of this session:
TURF Bill Tracker for 84 (R) session 2015
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.
SB 5/SJR 5 (Nichols), SB 341 (Huffines), HB 202 (Leach), HB 373 (Simmons), HB 469/HJR 53 (Metcalf), HB 1081/HJR 53 (Paul), HB 2686 (Shaheen)- All of these bills would dedicate all or part of the existing motor vehicle sales tax to the State Highway Fund. Most also have a provision prohibiting this money from being used on toll projects. This is how we get more money for roads without raising taxes, but we won't support any bill that does not contain a prohibition on the money going to toll roads.
SJR 12 (Perry), SB 61 (Huffines), HJR 36 (Larson), HJR 27/HJR 28/HJR 29 (Pickett), HB 2737/HJR 114 (Capriglione) - These bills would end diversions of the gasoline tax to non-road purposes. Some would end the 25% that goes to public schools (Huffines, Capriglione), and others would just end the diversions that go to DPS (Perry).
HB 203 (Leach) - To dedicate the taxes paid for motor vehicle tires and parts to the State Highway Fund. Funds are currently flowing to General Revenue.
HB 13 (Pickett) - Would not issue the remaining debt under Prop 14 and Prop 12 programs, institutes objective performance and scoring measures for project planning and selection (the part we like about HB 20), and requires public support for the project. How this gets measured is unclear - the special interests and chamber of commerce crowd always shows up to support toll projects and drown out the ordinary taxpayer, but it's a vast improvement over today's very political project selection process.
HB 1030 & HB 1031, HB 1465(Leach/Huberty) - Would ensure these little known programs return the money to taxpayers actually paying into them, which will boost highway funding for affected regions.
SB 1595 (Campbell) - To opt-out of the federal highway program and have the Comptroller study how Texas could do it and what the benefits are. An opt-out should reap a net gain of our federal gas taxes back to Texas since a portion of Texas' gas taxes get sent to other states.
HB 399 / HJR 48 (Harless, Spitzer) - Slowly phases out the 25% of the gas tax that goes to public schools, indexes the gas tax to inflation (the highway cost index is too high, needs to be CPI with a cap), and restricts the increase to non-toll roads.
SB 1172 / HB 122 (Nichols, Pickett) - Stops issuing any new debt from the Texas Mobility Fund (TMF). TMF funds are the most abused pot of money to subsidize toll roads, street cars, and transit boondoggles most drivers will never use. Rep. Ron Simmons managed to get an amendment attached to HB 122 restricting the TMF to non-toll roads only. Excellent work!
HB 3984 (Romero) - Directs 5% of a municipality's impact fees on new development to be directed to TxDOT for roads that are the state's responsibility. Developers are currently passing the cost of the increased burden on public infrastructure that feeds into and out these private developments onto taxpayers.
Good government/Truth in Taxation:
SJR 43 / SB 1182 - (Huffines) Protects the State Highway Fund from being used to build, subsidize, or bailout loser toll projects.
SB 485 / HB 1734- (Kolkhorst/Shaheen), Toll cessation - This vital bill ensures Texans are protected from being charged tolls in perpetuity. This has become especially important since Senator Robert Nichols changed state law in 2011 to allow toll authorities to 'own' our public highways in perpetuity and allowed them to keep charging tolls in perpetuity. Koklhorst's bill follows the Texas GOP platform that demands tolls come off these roads when they're paid for!
HB 1838 / SB 1240 (Sanford, Taylor, V.) - Requires all current toll roads to become free roads within 30 years (by 2046)!
HB 122 / SB 1172 (Pickett, Nichols) - Forbids any more debt be issued from the Texas Mobility Fund.
HB 1837 (Sanford) - Requires toll road decisions (study, design, and construction) be made by county commissioners, so citizens can hold them accountable.
HB 3725 (Sanford) - Requires voter approval on toll projects, repeals 'system financing' that allows a Robin Hood raid of toll revenues from one road to pay for another, requires tolls to come off the road within 20 years, and forbids toll authorities from owning these roads in perpetuity so the toll roads would become part of the state highway system when they're paid for.
HB 2612 (Pickett) - Requires a report to the legislature regarding the elimination of toll roads. Reports can be very rigged to say what the bureaucracies want. While we want ALL toll roads eliminated, period, and passage of Sanford's bills NOW, this bill at least takes a step in the right direction to get all the numbers on the table.
HB 2611 (Pickett) - To require any state money lent to toll projects must be repaid. TxDOT 'forgave' a $55 million loan to the Tyler Regional Mobility Authority in 2014. This is an unacceptable double tax paid by all Texans. We think NO public money should EVER go to subsidize a toll road, ever. Taxpayers aren't a bank. This requires us to re-pay our own money back with interest through tolls! But this bill at least requires repayment to prevent outright subsidies.
HB 572 (Burkett, Larson) - Subjects the North Texas Tollway Authority to sunset review.
SB 1150 (Hall) - To abolish Regional Mobility Authorities.
SB 721, HB 528 (Burton, Larson) - Subjects Regional Mobility Authorities (toll authorities known as RMAs) to sunset review. We want to see RMAs abolished, but this is a start!
SB 1184 / HB 3114 (Huffines, Dale) - To audit Regional Mobility Authorities.
HB 1257 (Shaheen) - Prohibits Regional Mobility Authorities from lobbying and hiring lobbyists.
HB 748 / HB 2601 (Campbell, Larson) - To ensure only elected officials have voting powers on Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). MPOs decide how to allocate your gas tax money and whether or not local projects are tolled. (Note: Larson's bill allows the unelected Via Board to retain its voting power. However he has a separate bill to make the Via board elected.)
HB 856 / SB 1237 (Sanford, Taylor, V.) - Requires that the regional transportation planning organizations stream and archive videos of their meetings on their publicly accessible website.
HB 1834 (Sanford) - Requires County Commissioner Court resolution to approve toll projects.
HB 1183 (Shaheen) - Requires commissioners court approval for any public private partnership toll projects (known as Comprehensive Development Agreements in Texas statute). These are privatized toll roads that charge prohibitively expensive toll rates. They're 52-yr sweetheart deals where taxpayers guarantee the private company's losses. We don't want ANY CDAs to advance in Texas.
HB 1835 / SB 1238 (Sanford, Taylor, V.) - Prohibit the conversion of existing free lanes of highway into toll lanes, prohibits free lanes from being converted into tolled 'managed' lanes unless the lane is already being operated as a toll lane.
SB 939 / SB 1046 / HB 2620 (Kolkhorst, Hall, Burkett) - to make traffic and revenue studies that forecast toll revenues public. Currently, state statute allows this vital information to be kept SECRET from the public, elected officials, and decision makers.
SB 937 (Kolkhorst) - Prohibits TxDOT from slapping tolls on existing free lanes and downgrading those free lanes to frontage roads.
SB 340 / SB 714 / HB 142 / HB 1131 / SB 1340 / HB 3817 (Huffines, Hall, Stickland, Elkins) - Ban red light cameras or prohibits ticketing from the cameras.
SB 93 (Ellis) - Repeal of the Driver Responsibility Program that imposes steep fines/fees on certain traffic violations. Has caused financial ruin for many.
SB 557 / HB 1394 (Birdwell, Burns) - Allows counties outside a toll authority's jurisdiction to have a say in toll roads.
HB 3673 (Anchia) - Requires an environmental study for the controversial Trinity Toll Road in Dallas.
HB 3674 (Anchia) - Prohibits any state or federal funds from being used to build the Trinity Toll Road project in Dallas.
SB 1045 (Hall) - To give TxDOT the authority to use a design-build contract for the I-635 project long as no part of it is tolled. There's currently a big push by a high-powered lobbyist to push public private partnership toll lanes on I-635 from US 75 to I-30. We don't like design build contracts, but Hall is advancing a bill to try to make them more pro-taxpayer (SB 826).
SB 1674 / HB 3556 (Huffines, Burkett, Sheets) - Would expand I-635 (from US-75 to I-30), requiring a minimum of (5) free lanes and continuous frontage roads, and none of the expansion could be tolled.
SB 1089 /SB 1152/ HB 3593 - (Hall, Burkett) Requires Regional Mobility Authorities to broadcast their meetings.
HB 3306 (Sanford) - When purchasing a vehicle, allows buyers to receive a state sales tax credit for the amount paid in toll receipts over the prior year.
HB 3108 (Dale) - To limit fees for toll collection to 6% of the unpaid toll amount, and requires the toll collection entity to double the amount returned to customers for billing errors.
SB 1675 (Huffines) - Would study how to do away with the federal clean air emissions inspection requirement. So this is a bill to lower the tax burden by doing away with emission inspection fees, and reduce the size of government by saving Texans' time and hassle of getting their vehicles inspected.
SB 1685 (Huffines) - Would repeal the Low Income Vehicle Repair Assistance program and the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan. So this bill would do away with more fees/taxes.
SB 1607 (Huffines) - Frustrated with the length of time it takes to build highways, this bill seeks to designate two transportation projects as '5 year signature transportation projects' that must be financed, designed, and completed ina 5-year timeframe. We're confident that TxDOT could do it with the right efficiencies and motivation, which could become a model for project delivery.
HB 1121 / SB 1239 (Sanford, Taylor, V.) - Requires traffic light synchronization.
SB 1286 / HB 2867 (Hall, Rinaldi) - Restricts the use of license plate reader cameras for investigation of a crime only. All data would be dumped within 7 days. Law enforcement has been using such cameras to collect and store data on innocent travelers without any probable cause of a crime, and even sell the data to third parties without specific authorization in law to do so.
SB 398 / HB 871 (Schwertner, Tinderholt) - To prohibit the government from collecting fingerprints from all drivers (even those who have committeed no crime) and storing them in the DPS database.
In January 2014, the Texas Department of Public Safety began collecting all 10 fingerprints as part of the application for a driver's license or license renewal. For the first time Texans who are not suspected of a crime are required to submit their full fingerprints to the government. Prior to this change, DPS had only taken an applicant's thumbprints.
Eminent domain/Property Rights:
HB 1889 (Metcalf, Ashby, Wray) - Prohibits High Speed Rail in Texas.
HB 3915 (Wray) - To ensure landowners are compensated for loss of access to their remaining property taken for high speed rail.
SB 1601 (Kolkhorst) - Bans eminent domain by a private high speed rail company.
SB 444/ HB 1004 (Hall, Davis) - Removes private toll companies' ability to use eminent domain for private toll projects.
HB 565 (Burkett) - Prohibits private toll corporaitons from building toll projects that connect to the state highway system and removes their eminent domain authority. (Note: We'd like to add a provision to ensure a private toll road doesn't connect to any federal interstates, either. The company at issue is looking at two projects that would connect to interstates.)
SB 938 / HB 2619 (Kolkhorst, Burkett) - Allows landowners to repurchase their property taken for toll projects if the toll entity doesn't use that land for the public use that was intended.
SB 1812 (Kolkhorst) - Establishes an eminent domain database accessible and intuitive to the public. With over 5,000 entities with eminent domain authority, not all of them public or governmental entities. It's overwhelming to the public and a daunting task to even look-up to see whether a company with eminent domain power is even legally authorized to do so.
SB 809 (Taylor, Van) - To allow limits to be put on oil & gas wells to prevent wells from being a nuisance to neighbors (like time of day operations are allowed).
SB 178 (Nichols) - Prohibits use of eminent domain to take private property for recreational purposes.
SB 479 (Schwertner) - Forces entities to show substantial progress in projects where land was taken for a public use. If they fail to show progress, original landowners can repurchase their property.
HB 1562 (Schofield) - Also requires more progress be made on projects where private property was taken for a public use upping the ante from two requirements to three.
SB 1863 / HB 3171 (Burton, Simpson) - To protect against wrongful property forfeiture.
HB 20 (Simmons) - To establish State Infrastructure Advisory Committee, Stakeholder Advisory Committee, and performance and scoring measurements for TxDOT project selection. We see some good things with the scoring, but are uncertain about establishing more committees that aren't acocuntable to voters that are trying to steer project selection. The ordinary citizen never gets on these committees and if so, are outvoted by special interests or industry consultants.
SB 307 / HJR 8 / HJR 68 (Hancock, Otto) - To retire state road debt early using the spillover of the Rainy Day Fund. Not sure how we feel about using the Rainy Day Fund that's already been twice raided, but retiring debt early needs to be a priority. It's now 10% of TxDOT's budget.
SB 826 / HB 3109 (Hall, Simmons) - Attempts to reform design build contracting which we applaud. It's a step in the right direction from status quo. But we're very leery about the best value bidding (allows cronyism and contracts to be steered to the well-connected), change orders and many other provisions that would remain the same. We'd like to do away with design-build altogether. It's driven up the cost of road building.
SB 1294 (Nichols) - Restricts design-build contracts to 3/yr and for projects over $250 million. We do not like design build contracts, they soak taxpayers with change orders and best value (not low bid competitive) bidding. It's driven up our cost to build highways. We like the restrictions, but the problems with design-build contracts would remain status quo.
HB 3763 (Fletcher) - Allows TxDOT to establish Economic Impact Zones to capture sales taxes in the designated zone for state highway projects. The zones would be certified by the Legislative Budget Board and expire in 30 years. The trouble with this bill is it does not relate to road users. The vehicle sales tax is a better tie-in to road users if we're to capture sales tax revenues for highways.
HJR 13 / HB 1836 (Pickett, Sanford) - Directs 10% of sales taxes to be utilized for the construction and maintenance of free highways.The trouble with this bill is it does not relate to road users. The vehicle sales tax is a better tie-in to road users if we're to capture sales tax revenues for highways, which Sanford supports. This bill may be another way to redirect general revenue funds to one of the core functions of government if the other bills don't move or are insufficent.
SB 1594 (Campbell) - Establishes corridors of commerce that are to get priority over others (that connect to Mexico or border of another state, serves as a major thoroughfare for long-distance and strategic movement of freight. It mandates 25% of county fees (I believe), when appropriated, goes to the corridors of commerce, and the remaining 75% to the State Highway Fund under existing formulas. We share Sen. Campbell's frustration with the refusal of TxDOT to priortize funding on the major interstates and corridors in San Antonio and throughout the state, but we're not sure this mandate is how we should do it.
Funding, Taxes, Tolls, Fees:
SB 269 / HB 3899 (Watson, Rodriguez) - Would re-authorize 21 different public private partnership toll projects (known as Comprehensive Development Agreements or CDAs) that hand our public roads to private toll operators and adds I-35 through Travis County to the list.
HB 1968 / HB 2577 / SB 1591 (Martinez, Lucio) - Would re-authorize 21 different public private partnership toll projects (known as Comprehensive Development Agreements or CDAs) until 2019 that hand our public roads to private toll operators and adds FM 1925 in Cameron and Hidalgo counties from Interstate 69E to Interstate 69C.
SB 1729 (Lucio) - Would impose a toll tax on trucks for use of the state highway system. Would also impose a commercial vehicle registration fee hike. Neither seciton specifies the amount - so this would be a blank check tax in the hands of an unelected Transportation Commission.
SB 1849 (Nichols) - Takes the $5 emissions fee from the Emmission Reduction Fund and puts into the Texas Mobility Fund - the most abused fund that takes road money and spends it on toll roads, rail, bike and bus lanes, and other boondoggles. Using tax money to build toll roads is double taxation. We need to restrict TMF funds to non-toll highways before another penny goes into it.
SJR 62 (Nichols) - Guts the toll cessation bills and changes the Constitution to permanently authorize 'system financing' - the Robin Hood raiding of toll revenues from one road to pay for another, necessitating keeping the toll in place because the revenues are propping up/funding other roads.
HB 395 (McClendon) - Thirty cent gas tax hike, with no accountability. No prohibition on the new funds from being used on toll projects.
HJR 109 (Pickett) - To give counties the authority to establish Transportation Reinvestment Zones that use property tax appraisal increases (and sales taxes within the zone) to pay for STATE highway projects including TOLL projects (a double tax).
SB 270 /HB 594 (Watson/Israel) - Requires all Texas taxpayers to pay for truck toll discounts on SH 130.
HB 151 (Guillen) - Imposes a tax on every mile you drive known as Vehicle Miles Traveled tax or VMT.
HB 392 / HB 393 (McClendon) - Imposes another $10 local option vehicle registration fee hike in any county. She carried the bill to impose a $10 fee hike on Bexar County residents without a vote of the people last session. She's back for more. The second bill would impose the $10 fee hike statewide without county approval first.
SB 579 / HB 1432 (Watson/Howard) - Imposes a $10 vehicle registration in counties greater than 1.5 million population (that has an RMA, so Austin & San Antonio) if voters approve it. Allows the county to impose an additional $10 fee hike that goes up annually with the highway cost index (very high compared to consumer price index). The increased fees would go directly to the RMAs who will use tax money to subsidize its toll projects that can't pay for themselves - which is double taxation.
HB 1350 (Burkett) - Guts the Kolkhorst/Shaheen toll cessation bill and allows tolls to stay in place to pay for 'road maintenance' - hence perpetual taxation.
SB 1467 (Watson) - Imposes a $1 service charge on toll collection if an entity enters into an agreement with TxDOT to provide a location to make electronic toll payments. So taxpayers get dinged for toll collection if TxDOT does it, and get dinged at an even higher rate if someone other than TxDOT collect the tolls. This gets taxpayers comin' and goin'.
HB 3769 (Fletcher) - Allows TxDOT to establish 'Priority Corridors' of international importance and be given priority over other corridors. This is Texas and our priority is moving people and goods within our state for the benefit of our citizens. The bill also allows port authorities to expand beyond its own boundaries to establish Transportation Reinvestment Zones (TRZs) which capture property tax and sales tax in the zone for port projects (primarily dredging).
HB 3314 (Smith) - Would raid the State Highway Fund (that's already inadequate to pay to build and maintain Texas state highways, hence the push for toll roads) and give it to port dredging projects. This is after they already got access to property taxes and sales taxes through a special Transportation Reinvestment Zone bill as well as access to the Texas Mobility Fund (also road money) for this purpose last session. They're back at the trough!
SB 731 (Rodriguez) - Establishes a cross border infrastructure fund that makes Texans pay for infrastructure improvements in Mexico. We can't afford to fix our own roads, Texans shouldn't be asked to pay for road improvements for another country! If Mexico wants to improve trade, they can pay for the improvements themselves.
HB 3777 (Landgraf, Darby) - This would divert 7.5% of the severance tax to the county road and bridge fund and another 25% to schools. Seriously? Twenty-five percent of gas tax already goes ot schools, now we're going send another 25% of the severance tax to schools, too? The bill also looks like a county road slush fund. Counties just got a boost from last session's bill that allows them to create Transportation Reinvestment Zones (TRZs) to capture property tax in the zones to help areas hard hit by energy sector traffic and allowed them to get access to a grant program with TxDOT for more funds. Now they're back for more.
SB 1606 (Huffines) - Would authorize TxDOT to use 10 design build contracts per year with no reforms. Design build contracts are rife for abuses like cronyism (because of best value bidding not low bid), payments to losing bidders, and methods that drive up the cost to build highways (with change orders and by shrinking the pool of possible contractors).
Eminent domain/Property rights:
HB 1113 (Clardy) - Removes landowner's chances of challenging a conetsed case hearing. TCEQ makes sole determination.
HB 1422 (Lozano) - Gives rail districts power of eminent domain. There is an all out revolt happening in Texas against all forms of passenger rail, whether high speed rail between Houston and Dallas or within metro areas (like the Tex Rail proposal between Ft. Worth and Dallas). Texans don't want it. This bill would forcibly take private property from Texans for these controversial, unwanted rail lines.
Big government, Agenda 21, Social Engineering:
SB 422 / HB 1324 (Watson, Israel) - Establishing bus-only lanes on highways in Bexar, El Paso, Tarrant, and Travis Counties (and potentially counties touching those counties).
HB 383 (McClendon) - Would mandate a 3-6 foot buffer zone when passing all 'unprotected road users' (ie - pedestrians and cyclists) and impose penalities & fines for violators.
SB 1919 (Watson) - To allow TxDOT to impose variable speed limits with signs that change the speed limits in real time at TxDOT's sole discretion - what a great way to slow traffic down to force more cars onto its failing toll roads, don't you think?
HB 457 (McClendon) - Takes road money from emmissions fees and places it in the rail relocation fund (to relocate private railroads). So making taxes paid by car owners to relocate private railroad company tracks.
SB 1619 (Watson) - A veritable tax giveway bill. Extends the program to gives tax and other financial incentives for alternative fuel vehicles through 2023 and adds hyrdogen fuel cell to the list of goodies, a contract with the Energy Systems Laboratory at the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station for computation of creditable statewide emissions reductions, money for natural gas fueling stations, and on it goes. Corporate welfare and tax breaks based on politically acceptable fuel types and vehicles.
HB 80 (Craddick, plus 20 joint authors or co-authors) - To impose a $25 to $99 fine for using a mobile communication device in your car (unless engaging in a totally hands-free operation).
HB 2744 (Capriglione) - Though there's one good aspect requiring law enforcement to dump the information within 90 days, the net effect of the bill would legally authorize the use of license plate readers in statute without restricting the use of the cameras to those whom they have proable cause to suspect has committed a crime. Using such cameras to track and collect data on innocent drivers without probable cause is unconstitutional and has no place in a free society.
2013 (83rd legislative session)
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
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.
- 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.
2007 (80th legislative session)
Legislation covered this session:
- Privatization/Foreign management
- Public-Private Partnerships: (Comprehensive Development Agreements)
- Gas tax
- Local option sales tax for transportation
- Abolish Trans Texas Corridor
- Eminent Domain
- Tolling public freeways/conversion