No movement on the Birdwell budget rider to stop high-speed rail Three bad rail bills out of House Transpo Committee
There is no news to report this week on the budget rider (#44) that Granbury Senator Brian Birdwell attached to the state budget bill. As we said previously, it's now in the hands of the combination House and Senate budget conferees and they did not meet this week. Thank you for your efforts with calls and emails asking the budget conferees to strike this out when it comes up. The language would not allow the Texas Department of Transportation to communicate with an entity (Texas Central Railway) wanting to build the high-speed rail line from North Texas to Houston. This back door tactic was tried last session and thrown out at the last minute. The conference committee hearings are not public, so TRA will keep our eyes and ears open and monitor for any news. Three bad rail bills made it out of their House committees this week, including HB 1367 by Cody Harris and HB 1986 and HB 1987 by Ben Leman. After a bill is favorably voted out of its respective committee, it is sent to the House Calendars committee. The House Calendars committee then contemplates which bills will go from there to the full House floor. The House Calendars committee is currently drowning in bills, with the last count we understand it was hovering near 700 bills. Our political observer in Austin has never heard of such a number sitting in House Calendars committee. There is speculation that Speaker Bonnen is doing this on purpose to keep a strong control over the flow of the House, but it’s also possible that the large backlog is a result of growing pains with a new Speaker and several new Chairs and committee clerks.
May 9th is the last day House bills can be heard on second reading on the House floor. This means any bill that originated in the House that is not heard on the House floor by midnight on May 9th is dead. The House has been working at a glacial pace on House bills. At this time in session, this is a good thing for advocates of intercity passenger rail because there are several bad bills that will die in this process. In other news, all the bad rail bills that were previously heard in the House Transportation sub-committee are still pending. This week "under the dome" Texas Rail Advocates filed in opposition to these bills: SB 975-Relating to the compatibility of a high-speed rail facility with multiple types of train technology. (OPPOSE) SB 478-Relating to authorization to enter onto property to survey for a proposed high-speed rail facility. (OPPOSE) Next week TRA will issue its support to the following rail bill: HB 2775-Relating to the movement of pedestrians in front of, under, between, or through rail cars at a railroad grade crossing. (SUPPORT)
(See complete legislative rail coverage: http://texasrailadvocates.org/texas-legislature/ )