The 86th Legislature wraps up. Read about it in these articles:
- BIG Fat 'F': Majority of state lawmakers earn failing grade
- Legislature fails to deliver for toll-weary drivers
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.
Good BillsToll 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 4156 (Leman) - Void contract for HIgh Speed Rail if company has no eminent domain auhtority.
BAD BILLSHB 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.