Thursday, January 24, 2008

TxDOT on the legislative griddle Feb. 5

By Ben Wear - The AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN - Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Shine your shoes and haul out a clean shirt, TxDOT. The Legislature wants to see you on Feb. 5. All day.

The Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee and the Senate Finance Committee have called what would be a very rare joint meeting at 9 a.m. Feb. 5. The meeting would be in the Finance Committee’s meeting room in the Capital Extension, E1.036.
The subject: “The Texas Department of Transportation’s 2008-09 appropriations.” Translated, that means, we want to pin you down and find if you really and truly are suddenly out of money. TxDOT shook up the Texas transportation world, and quite a few powerful legislators, over the past two months by suddenly cutting money for project engineering and right of way and announcing it will award no new road construction contracts after Feb. 1. Frankly, a lot of lawmakers think TxDOT is playing politics with its books.
After these two committees are through, probably around noon, then the Legislative Study Committee on Private Participation in Toll Projects (called the CDA committee or 792 committee informally) will meet at 1 p.m. in the same room. That committee, which includes three appointees each by Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick, was created by SB 792 and told to look at the private toll road contracts that stirred up the Legislature last year. This is that committee’s first meeting.
Meanwhile, TxDOT is under review by the Sunset Advisory Committee as well.
Better get a couple of clean shirts. And maybe some underwear as well.

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Committee Information:
Senate Members:

Sen. John Carona
Sen. Robert Nichols
Sen. Tommy Williams

House Members:
Rep. Aaron Peña
Rep. Larry Phillips
Rep. Wayne Smith

Public Members:
John W. Johnson
Robert W. Poole Jr.
Grady W. Smithey Jr.


Committee Members; Rep. Aaron Pena, Rep. Larry Phillips, Rep. Wayne Smith
Committee Charges:
1. The legislative study committee shall select a presiding officer from among its members and conduct public hearings and study the public policy implications of including in a comprehensive development agreement entered into by a toll project entity with a private participant in connection with a toll project a provision that permits the private participant to operate and collect revenue from the toll project. In addition, the committee shall examine the public policy implications of selling an existing and operating toll project to a private entity.
Not later than December 1, 2008, the legislative study committee shall:
(1) prepare a written report summarizing:
(A) any hearings conducted by the committee;
(B) any legislation proposed by the committee;
(C) the committee's recommendations for safeguards and protections of the public's interest when a contract for the sale of a toll project to a private entity is entered into; and
(D) any other findings or recommendations of the
committee; and
(2) deliver a copy of the report to the governor, the
lieutenant governor, and the speaker of the house of
Note: Created pursuant to SB 792, 80th Legislature.
NOTE: Martha Estes contributed to this post.

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