March 26, 2021 - TRA Austin -
Things are on the move at the State Capitol. This week Texas Rail Advocates supported four bills that were introduced in the Texas House.
These bills were heard in House Committees this week and we were there to support:
HB 1759 by Matt Krause-Relating to the operation of vehicles and certain equipment at railroad grade crossings when on-track equipment is approaching. This is an "add-on" to Representative Krause's bill last session that became law regrading the movement of pedestrians in front of, under, between, or through rail cars at a railroad grade crossing.
HB 2219 by Terry Canales-Relating to the issuance of Texas Mobility Fund obligations. Voters approved the Texas Mobility Fund in the early 2000's and many transportation projects were completed but the clock ran out on it in 2015. Passage would once again make bonding available up to about $3 billion over a period of several years for transportation programs, including rail projects.
HB 2223 by Terry Canales-Relating to a study by the Texas Department of Transportation on the impact of certain classifications of motor vehicle on the roads for bridges of this state. There is a companion bill in the Senate. If enacted this would determine who is paying their fair share of utilizing our highway system and who isn't. Do trucks and private buses pay their fair share of roadway use or do they have an unfair advantage over railroads?
HJR 99 by Terry Canales - Proposing a constitutional amendment authorizing a county to finance the development or redevelopment of unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted areas in the county; authorizing the issuance of bonds and notes. It's called a Transportation Reinvestment Zone. Cities and ports already have this ability to issue bonds but counties do not. This bill received a whopping 17 cards of support from different entities including Texas Rail Advocates.
Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson commented this week that despite the fact that approximately $17 billion in additional federal funding is coming to Texas, she has concerns about the conditions or “hooks” that will come with it. She has every intention of keeping the budget incredibly tight as a safeguard.
We certainly hope there will be a little wiggle room in the budget to allow a TxDOT "Exceptional Item Request" for $35 million to fund a border inspection facility at Presidio, Texas so that a critical international rail link can once again be established between Texas and Mexico. http://texasrailadvocates.org/2021/03/08/tex-mex-rail-bridge-needs-a-35-million-state-appropriation-to-start-cross-border-service/ No trains will be able to utilize the rebuilt rail bridge over the Rio Grande at Presidio until the CBP railcar inspection facility can be constructed.
Here's what is scheduled for next week in the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday:
It's deja vu time as the anti-high speed rail crowd has three bills to be heard. The bills have been filed to try to kill a privately-financed high speed rail project between Dallas and Houston. All three are similar in nature to bills filed in previous sessions that were not enacted into law. If enacted, it would effectively keep any entity from building a high-speed rail line in Texas, ever.
HB 901 by Dewayne Burns-relating to the acquisition of real property by an entity with eminent domain authority.
HB 3312 by Cody Harris-Relating to the disposition of real property acquired for high-speed rail projects.
HB 3633 by Ben Leman-Relating to establishing a High-Speed Rail Legislative Review Committee; authorizing a fee.
Texas Rail Advocates will be filing in opposition to all three bills. If you are in the Austin area and can attend the Land and Resource Management Committee session on Tuesday, March 30, you can fill out a card to oppose those three bills.
We will be in favor and support:
HB 2730 by Joe Deshotel-Relating to the acquisition of real property by an entity with eminent domain authority. This establishes a landowner's bill of rights and has been long in the making. It would be made available on the Attorney General's website in plain language to be easily understood by the average property owner. If enacted this would help the landowner understand the process when an entity, such as an electric utility, a pipeline company or a railroad would need to acquire property rights.
You can see all of the rail bills filed during the 87th Session on our Under The Dome page: http://texasrailadvocates.org/2021-texas-legislature-rail-issues/