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:

Helpful resources:


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.

Good Bills

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.