Archive for May 15th, 2009
While the Texas House adds almost 200 amendments to the TxDOT sunset bill, showing the members’ displeasure with the agency, the Texas Senate is taking a markedly different approach, and one columnist called for “adult supervision.”
First, here is an Austin American Statesman story about the difference between the House approach, which is led by El Paso state Rep. Joe Pickett as chair of the House Transportation Committee, and the Senate approach, led there by Senate Transportation Committee chair, state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas: As the 199-page bill moves to the Senate, the real fight between the two chambers — one that could gridlock the legislation in the session’s final three weeks — is over language that state Rep. Joseph Pickett, D-El Paso , inserted into the bill that basically would defang the transportation agency.
As presented in a Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee meeting Wednesday , it would have TxDOT take its money and then parcel it out to the 25 metropolitan planning organizations across the state. Those bodies, made up of a combination of local elected officials and legislators, would then have final authority over which highway projects get done.
Some senators, acting on information from TxDOT officials, say that could run afoul of federal law requiring that final authority for spending on the state highway system rest with a state’s department of transportation. Violating that, they said, could mean that federal highway money could be cut off.
Then there is the Paul Burka blog: The House was out of control Thursday during the debate on the TxDOT Sunset bill. The process was living proof of the old saying that there are two things you should never see being made: sausage and legislation. This was not serious lawmaking. It was an orgy–an orgy of hatred for TxDOT. Why bother to offer amendments at all? Why not just make personal privilege speeches that say, “I hate TxDOT worse than you do.” “No, I hate TxDOT worse than you ever dreamed of hating them.” Then vote for the person who hates TxDOT the most and let him or her write the bill.
So two city reps who faced tough re-election battles didn’t make it to a City Council legislative review meeting Monday. The meeting would have looked at ticketing cell phone use while driving, suggested by city Rep. Rachel Quintana, and a police oversight commission, suggested by city Rep. Eddie Holguin.
But the Texas House did pass a rule, which still faces hurdles, that, as stated in the Dallas Morning News, would make it a ticketable offense to talk on a cell phone while driving in a school zone. Wrote the DMN:
More than 20 cities now have laws prohibiting talking on a handheld cellphone while driving through an active school zone – a movement started in Highland Park in December 2007 that would be extended statewide under the House bill.