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:

Helpful resources:


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.

Good Bills

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.

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