4/12/2007Texas Toll Road Moratorium Proceeds
The Texas House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a two-year moratorium on new toll roads.
The Texas House of Representatives on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to place a two-year moratorium on the use of toll roads in most of the state. State Representative Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) offered the measure as an amendment to a larger transportation projects bill.
"This is great news," wrote Sal Costello, founder of the Texas Toll Party. "It is more momentum for the people of Texas."
Specifically, the measure forbids the Texas Department of Transportation from entering into any new agreements giving private companies the power to collect tolls on new roads or to sell existing roads to tolling companies. The moratorium would end on September 1, 2009, giving a new legislative study committee time to weigh the potential costs and benefits of toll proposals.
The House also adopted additional amendments weakening the moratorium by exempting regional mobility authorities allowing tolls in the North Texas area. The moratorium's 134-5 vote of approval ensures enactment if vetoed by Governor Rick Perry (R) who has objected to the measure. A state Senate committee passed an version of the moratorium with several significant loopholes on April 4. If passed by the full Senate, a conference committee would have to work out the differences between the measures before they would be sent to the governor.
Article Excerpt:Amendment No. 1
Representatives Kolkhorst, Pickett, Quintanilla, Harless, Harper-Brown, Crownover, Anderson, Leibowitz, Hochberg, Keffer, Straus, W. Smith, Laubenberg, Macias, Gattis, Murphy, Otto, and Zerwas offered the following amendment to CSHBi1892:
Amend CSHB 1892 by adding the following appropriately numbered SECTION of the bill and renumbering subsequent SECTIONS of the bill accordingly:
SECTION ____. Subchapter E, Chapter 223, Transportation Code, is amended by adding Section 223.210 to read as follows:
Sec. 223.210. MORATORIUM ON CERTAIN TERMS IN COMPREHENSIVE DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENTS OR SALE OF TOLL PROJECTS. (a) In this section:
(1) "Toll project" means a toll project described by Section 201.001(b), regardless of whether the toll project:
(A) is a part of the state highway system; or
(B) is subject to the jurisdiction of the department.
(2) "Toll project entity" means a public entity authorized by law to acquire, design, construct, finance, operate, or maintain a toll project, including:
(A) the department;
(B) a regional tollway authority;
(C) a regional mobility authority; or
(D) a county.
(b) A comprehensive development agreement entered into with a private participant by a toll project entity on or after the effective date of this subsection for the acquisition, design, construction, financing, operation, or maintenance of a toll project may not contain a provision permitting the private participant to operate the toll project or collect revenue from the toll project, regardless of whether the private participant operates the toll project or collects the revenue itself or engages a subcontractor or other entity to operate the toll project or collect the revenue.
(c) On or after the effective date of this subsection, a toll project entity may not sell or enter into a contract to sell a toll project of the entity to a private entity.
(c-1) Subsections (b) and (c) do not apply to any project within the boundaries of a regional tollway authority created on September 1, 1997.
(c-2) To the extent that Subsection (c-1) conflicts with Section 228.012, Section 228.012 shall govern.
(d) A legislative study committee is created. The committee is composed of nine members, appointed as follows:
(1) three members appointed by the lieutenant governor;
(2) three members appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives; and
(3) three members appointed by the governor.
(e) 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.
(f) 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 representatives.
(g) On December 31, 2008, the legislative study committee created under this section is abolished.
( ) This section does not apply to a comprehensive development agreement for a managed lane facility toll project the major portion of which is located inside the boundaries of a regional tollway authority created on September 1, 1997, and for which the department has issued a request for qualifications before the effective date of this subsection. Before the department executes a final contract for a project described by this subsection, the commissioners court for any county in which a majority of the project is located must pass a supporting resolution that:
(1) acknowledges that the contract may contain penalties for the construction of future competing transportation projects built at any time during the life of the agreement; and
(2) states that the commissioners court is aware of and agrees to pay the penalties if any are rendered.
(h) This section expires September 1, 2009.