Friday, May 18, 2007

SB 792 about summer break, not passing a good bill

May 18th, 2007 by Terri Hall (Executive Director of T.U.R.F. and San Antonio Toll Party)
The REAL truth behind today is that Governor Perry called the Legislature’s bluff. He successfully did what he did to win re-election…he got North Texas and Harris County to drink his poison pill last weekend (remember that three extra days he bought himself for arm-twisting by refusing to accept HB 1892), which was evidenced by the unanimous vote of the Senate Monday.

This is why veto overrides are so rare. The whole thing was a ruse. The Senate used HB 1892’s vote margins as leverage to get Perry to the table. They never intended to override him. Harvey Kronberg was right! The rest of this was a foregone conclusion ever since. Our San Antonio guys were ready to vote against this disastrous “compromise,” but voted for it since HB 1892 had a loophole for the corridor. So SB 792 with all it’s horrific flaws was the only means to get a moratorium that also included TTC 35. San Antonio roads were already in both (even stronger language made it into SB 792).
However, there are so many exceptions to this moratorium, that of all the CDAs currently being negotiated, only TTC 35, San Antonio, and El Paso are in it. The moratorium does stop TxDOT from signing more. So here we are again in yet another session where a last minute omnibus transportation bill where the good stuff gets watered down and the bad stuff gets rushed through with people voting on things WITH NO DEBATE. They had a shell of a debate with foregone conclusions at the outset. It ended up being like what happened to Senator Robert Nichols who was sandbagged and brought in and asked for his opinion on the bill AFTER they had the votes to outnumber him.

Word in the “back room” today was follow Wayne Smith. The leadership said if he votes for something, follow. If he votes against, follow. That’s what the Governor wants. So it went something like this: thumbs up, thumbs down, that’s our ticket out of town. They had a special room off to the side of the House floor with TxDOT arm twisters…they defeated Macias’ amendment to restore open government and allow PUBLIC access to toll feasibility studies….they shut down EVERYTHING. In fact, Smith said he would testify in favor of Macias’ amendment to keep toll studies OPEN to the PUBLIC, then he turned on him at the last minute. Smith couldn’t look Macias in the eye afterwards…what a TRAITOR! That’s what they were being told would avoid a special session.

I love how these sorry excuses for human beings sleep at night when they worry more about missing summer vacation than passing a good bill (stripping this “market valuation” language) or doing what the citizens ask. Don’t get mad at our San Antonio reps who heard you loud and clear; they asked us how to vote…we did the best we could given the circumstances. At least we could get the TTC 35 fixed. It’s the North Texas and Harris County reps that sold the rest of the state out.

If you want to take out your venom on someone, it’s the Senate. John Carona’s office assured us “no compromises” on the key provisions like the buy-back clauses. They said they were pushing to get the equivalent of HB 1892 or better. I beg to differ, it’s worse, far worse! This bill kicks the teeth out of the killer clause that would have chased off private operators for good. Instead, they’re just crippled. We could have knocked it out of the ballpark, but our representatives acted more like politicians than public servants. The Senate set the example of caving into the pressure so the House followed suit. They didn’t have the guts to take this Governor down and override his veto. They wanted summer break more than fighting FOR the citizens of Texas. That market valuation language will bury this state under oppressive tolls if we don’t beat that door down next session.

Guess Senator Carona’s concerns about high tolls only applies when they’re going to Cintra instead of his tolling authority. Both fleece the taxpayer, except under the PUBLIC toll road fleecing they justify it this way: “at least those high tolls go to build more roads.” Goodie! Are these Republicans we’re talking about here? Because this sounds like tax and spend if I’ve ever heard it.
We did get an amendment that PUT 281/1604 UNDER the moratorium (stronger than previous intent language)…but our REAL problem now is Perry’s NEW language that allows the same “market value” poison to be inflicted on us through PUBLIC tolling entities…we only stopped CDAs, not the toll train. They get you coming and going…

Market valuation just opened a new can of worms. TTC 69 is still on the table though support for it as a CDA is already starting to crack. The best medicine? VOTE the rascals out.

Perry is poison for this State and no one will go up against him even though we handed them the golden opportunity for a showdown with this Governor. Even Rep. Joe Pickett voted with KRUSEE!!!

All we truly got today was TTC 35 in the moratorium…everything else just got worse. The Governor beat them with his billy club and they said Uncle inside of 30 seconds without a whimper. Like Lee Iacocca says in his new book, Where have all the Leaders Gone?

Look, at this Ben Wear story (below)…today was all about making it acceptable to the Governor, and turf battles over the pot of money they can extract from “market-based” highways rather than about the PEOPLE of TX that have to pay for these horrific decisions for generations (with interest!)!

READ MORE about MARKET VALUATION language in SB 792

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