Week 18 in the Texas legislature and you never know when something bad can still rear it's head.
After it was approved in the Senate, SB 421 is winding its way through the House and was voted out of the House Land & Resource Management Committee Thursday. It explicitly excludes high-speed rail from a 10 year moratorium that is imposed on other infrastructure providers. This is a troubling policy issue relating to the acquisition of real property by an entity with eminent domain authority. We will see if there are enough votes if and when it is approved by the full House. There was some good news. HB 71 (relating to the creation of regional transit authorities) has been sent to the Governor’s desk. We have supported this legislation since the beginning of session and it’s exciting to see it ready for Governor Abbott’s signature. The legislation was authored by Representative "Mando" Martinez of Weslaco. Rider 44 to the budget, which would not allow the Texas Department of Transportation to work with Texas Central, failed in conference committee and did not make it into the final bill. Similarly, all of the bad rail bills that targeted the train have either died completely or are at a standstill and are unlikely to see more movement. We will still watch for harmful amendments that could be added on to other bills. It is important to note that Tuesday of next week (5/21) marks the last day that the House can consider Senate bills on second reading. This means that if a Senate bill has not been heard for the first time in the House chamber by Tuesday, it is considered dead. Similarly, Wednesday of next week (5/22) is the last day that the Senate can consider any bills on second reading. We are down to the wire with just ten days left of the session, so deadlines are coming up quickly. The House will be in session today (Saturday) and the Senate will be in session on Sunday to further push some legislation past the goal line.