It was a bit quieter at your Texas Capitol this past week as everyone turned their attention to transportation. Additionally, the House Appropriations Committee has readied a tuition revenue bond bill that the Governor has indicated he may add to the “call” before this second special session ends on July 30.
This week the House passed HJR 2 and HB 16, two bills that deal with transportation infrastructure funding. HJR 2 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would ultimately require voter approval, and HB 16 would become effective upon the Governor’s signature. Three different types of taxes are involved with these bills: oil and natural gas production taxes; motor fuels excise taxes; and certain motor vehicle sales, use, and excise taxes. Both pieces of legislation combined would generate about one-third of the $4 billion annually that TxDOT says is needed just to maintain current congestion levels on our highways. This legislation was amended by the Senate and will now be discussed in a conference committee.
Though these bills are not a long-term fix to the challenge of meeting our transportation needs, I believe they are a step in the right direction. Both bills, if approved, represent a sharp departure from relying on debt and toll roads as primary mechanisms for funding highways over the last decade. Since 2001, Texas has relied on enhanced authority to issue bonds, borrowing from public and private interests, and on concessions payments from private comprehensive development agreements to build and maintain toll roads. These past approaches do very little to help us in rural Texas and will not by themselves meet the growing demands the state is placing on transportation infrastructure. Rest assured that transportation will be a priority issue for the next legislative session, just as water was for the one that ended in May.
A resolution, HR 230, has been filed in the House seeking to impeach University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall. The bill, in addition to other grievances, contends that Regent Hall “may have obtained that office through misrepresentation of material facts regarding his experience and qualifications” and “may have abused that office by making numerous unreasonably burdensome, wasteful, and intrusive requests for information.” The House Select Committee on State Agency Operations had their first meeting this past week to discuss the process and how to move forward. I will keep you updated as developments occur on this topic, but it is interesting to note that should an impeachment occur, it would be the first time a university regent has been ousted in this manner.
On a sad note, East Texas lost one of its leading personalities this week with the passing of Bob Bowman. Mr. Bowman, 77, was an award-winning author, historian, folklorist and civic leader, whose work revolved around the history, beauty and brilliance of East Texas. He will be sorely missed.
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As always, my staff and I are available during the week at 936-634-2762 or 512-463-0508.