Any time there is very little movement in high-speed rail bills in the Texas Legislature that is good news. All the eleven bad rail bills heard in the April 16th sub-committee, as well as those by Rep. Cody Harris and Rep. Ben Leman are officially dead, as they are bills that originated in the House and were not heard on the House floor by the deadline of midnight last night. Today marks 17 days until the end of the current session. TRA is still watching a couple bad bills that originated in the Senate (meaning they are not dead just yet), including SB 975, SB 552, SB 553, and SB 478. There is still no concrete news on the budget and talk of movement on it has been scarce. TRA is closely watching the rider that Senator Brian Birdwell placed into the budget that would be detremental to high-speed rail development in Texas. Rider 44's language would prevent the Texas Department of Transportation from working with high-speed rail private developer Texas Central Railway.
"The budget bill is designed to distribute state funding to its governmental agencies and should not be used as a weapon against a private company that doesn't even want or need state or federal handouts to build a high-speed railway," according to TRA President Peter LeCody. "The Birdwell rider takes away discourse from the public's view and throws it into darkness, buried in a budget bill that runs hundreds of pages." In some good news, House Bill 71 by Mando Martinez (relating to the creation of regional transit authorities) has been placed on today’s (May 10) Senate calendar. Due to the Senate’s strange rules, it is possible the bill will not actually be heard today, but it is in a great spot at this time in the session. Once it passes the Senate, it will be heading to the Governor for his signature. Similarly, HB 2775 by Matt Krause (relating to the movement of pedestrians in front of, under, between, or through rail cars at a railroad grade crossing) is waiting to be brought up on the Senate floor. Texas Rail Advocates supported these bills in committee and their movement is encouraging. As of right now, there are no bills set for next week though this may change.