Good News on Toll Roads
Today, the Texas House gave preliminary approval to SB 312, defining the rules for the Department of Transportation until 2029.
The “sunset bill” – a term for bills with an expiration date – provided lawmakers on both sides of the aisle the opportunity to tack on some transportation reforms that have otherwise failed to pass this session.
The first amendment was by Rep. Jonathan Stickland, who had an excused absence today. Rep. Tony Tinderholt laid it out in his stead. The amendment would have moved up the expiration date from 2029 to 2023. It failed, but no one called for a record vote, so no one can be sure how their representative voted.
Many Texans complain that many toll roads are built, at least partially, with government money. They call this “double taxation” because they pay the government to build the road, and they pay the toll company to drive on it.
Amendment 12 by Rep. Joe Pickett ends this “double taxation,” if you will, by requiring toll companies to repay all public money they receive from the state. It was adopted 73-65. [Rep. Gooden voted “For.”]
Amendment 16 by Rep. Matt Rinaldi requires the Texas Department of Transportation to contract only with companies who use E-Verify to make sure taxpayer dollars are not going to pay the wages of illegal immigrants. It was adopted 83-59. [Rep. Gooden voted “For.”]
Amendment 32 by Rep. Matt Shaheen would have removed tolls from toll roads, once the road had been paid for by the collected toll monies. It failed 53-74. [Rep. Gooden voted “For.”]
Amendment 37 by Pickett prevents the state from operating HOV lanes as toll lanes. It was adopted without objection (no record vote, presumably no Nays).
Amendment 39 by Rep. Ina Minjarez restricts the amount a motorist can be fined for being late on toll payments. The Department of Transportation can now only charge a $6 administrative fee per notice. They cannot charge more than $48 per year in administrative fees. Additionally, they can only levy a $25 civil penalty per six months, and only after two or more notices have been sent out. It was adopted 136-3. [Rep. Gooden voted “For.”]
There were many other amendments, including one by Rinaldi which would have banned red-light cameras statewide, but the Speaker decided it was not “germane” to the bill, and refused to allow it to be voted on.
The Kaufman County Tea Party would like to thank Rep. Gooden for changing his position on toll roads, or at least it appears. We have no idea who or what changed his mind, but we are grateful that he voted correctly on each of these amendments, and we would like to take this opportunity to thank him.