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Posts Tagged ‘pickett

NPT Capitol: House (Pickett) and Senate (Carona) negotiations get down to TxDOT local option tax

As House and Senate conferees put the final touches on the jointly hashed out TxDoT sunset bill, one sticking point remains — and it’s getting heated.

That sticking point is language that would give metropolitan areas the ability to call elections in order to authorize raises in automobile fees and gas taxes — in order to pay for transportation projects.

State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, says he has a list of 77 House members who are willing to vote for the TxDOT bill if it has the local option language in it.

That’s surprising, considering the House took a vote on leaving the language in earlier this week. It went down 86-59.

State Rep. Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, with a wry smile, said that number was “ambitious.” State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, went further saying that the 77 names Carona has simply aren’t there and that something “close to deceit” has been going on.

According to Pickett, lobbyists have been rounding up state Reps and asking them to sign a petition that asks the conference committee to keep the debate open. Those numbers are what Carona is touting, said Pickett.

It’s all getting a bit heated now. Carona said that the only thing in the way of getting this bill passed is Pickett. Pickett went outside of the chamber about an hour ago and openly argued with the lobbyists who were shopping for signatures.

This morning, at a rally on the Capitol’s southern steps, a Tarrant County Judge called for those who oppose the local option language to “get out of the way” while supporters chanted “let us vote!,” reported the Fort Worth Star Telegram. (Carona spoke at the rally.) According to the Austin Chronicle they were complemented by a “radical anti-tax crowd.”

More to follow…

Update: Things might have calmed down a little now. Isset and Carona are sat on a windowsill in the House chatting rather amicably. Meanwhile, Pickett and House Republican Caucus leader Larry Taylor are deep in conversation.

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Written by newspapertreeelpaso

May 29, 2009 at 2:43 pm

NPT Capitol: House conferees named for TxDoT sunset bill

Conferees were named in the House for HB 300, the TxDoT sunset bill, after the Texas House refused to concur with the Senate amendments.

House Transportation chairman Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, also initiated a record vote over language in the Senate version that would permit metropolitan areas to call elections to okay increases in gas taxes and vehicle fees – in order to raise funds for transportation projects. The House voted, along with Pickett, in opposition to the inclusion of local option language, taken from Sen. John Carona’s SB 855, in the Senate version.

The conferees are: Pickett, Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, Ruth McClendon, D-San Antonio, Linda Harper Brown, R-Irving, Wayne Smith, R-Baytown.

It is worth noting that none of the areas the aforementioned House members represent are what one would term rural.

–Ben Wright

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

May 27, 2009 at 5:09 pm

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NPT Capitol: Shapleigh to be on TxDoT conference committee

State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh will join fellow senators John Carona, Glenn Hegar, Robert Nichols and Kirk Watson on the TxDoT conference committee, according to a source in the Senate.

Shapleigh is an interesting pick. He knows his stuff being on the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee. But he is also not on best terms with House Transportation Chair Joe Pickett. (Let’s just say they’re not on each others’ Christmas card list.) They have clashed so far this session on Stormwater exemption fees and the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority.

Is Shapleigh there to keep Pickett in check so that the other Senators don’t have to?

The TxDoT sunset process has revealed differences in approach and philosophy between the Senate and House versions of the bill. There has been a fair bit of sniping from the sidelines in both chambers. [link] Shapleigh could provide a valuable counterweight to Pickett, who is committed to overhauling TxDoT, while Hegar, author of the Senate version of TxDoT sunset, seems content with making the agency more transparent. [link]

NPT were also told that Hegar was not pleased so many of the conferees were from urban areas. (His district is predominantly rural.) Hegar has also spoken against the local option tax proposal (Carona’s SB 855) which was rolled into the Senate sunset bill. That would give urban areas the ability to raise revenue for transportation projects.

Apparently there have been last minute maneuvers to swap out a couple of the conferees, which haven’t (yet) succeeded.

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

May 27, 2009 at 3:54 pm

NPT Capitol: Pickett explains the ins and outs of the stimulus package

pickettThe stimulus package is a funny thing. State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso and chairman of the House Transportation committee gave me a little insight into how it works yesterday.

Regarding transportation, Texas will receive about $2.6bn. But it’s not like DC just cuts Texas a check. It cuts hundreds. Of the $2.6bn, $1.1bn goes straight to local Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPOs) through a complex formula funding rubric. The rest, in theory, goes to goes to TXDOT.

For El Paso this means about $21m in-pocket, since Governor Perry asked for the money last week. Sounds like a lot right? Let’s get boots on and shovels in the ground! This is supposed to be a “stimulus package” after all. Gosh, imagine what you could do with $21m…

Not a lot, would seem to be the answer….

–Ben Wright

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Written by newspapertreeelpaso

February 25, 2009 at 10:29 am