What Happened, many have asked. I will try here to lay out some of the Bills we were involved with, what they were intended to do and what became of them.
SB 298 the Road Block Bill once again died in the House Committee after having passed in the Senate. Despite changing the name to Sobriety Check Point Texans saw it for what it was and said “NO THANKS MADD” This is the third time this Bill has been killed but MADD will never give up as long as they can find an Author. We have to be ready again next session.
SB 506 the Lane Splitting Bill Died in House Public Safety Committee after having passed in the Senate. This Bill came from a Man who moved here from California and asked for it. He said: “Give me a helmet law any time but let me split lanes like they do in California. We don’t agree with helmet laws so we wanted no part of the Bill. We were in committee when they laid it out and asked for our support. I told them I would not support the Bill but I would not oppose it. There were several of us in the hearing along with several written testimonies for our Highway Safety Bill. We finished our testimony and walked out. Our Bill passed but SB 506 died in committee.
SB 404 This Bill would have extended the life of TxDOT and continued on with selling our highway systems to Cintra Zachary for 50 years. It allows for TxDOT to continue to enter into agreements with private companies to create Toll Road Projects thru 2016 rather than being sunset out in August of next year. The contract is already written and awaits passage of this Bill to be signed SB 404 died in Calendars SB 17 Would basically allow for tolling highways already built. It lays out all kinds of ways to take over these highways in part or totally without requiring any form of cost except where the Federal government is involved. SB 17 died in Calendars.
SB 855 would allow local areas to add ten cents a gal to gasoline tax, charge for parking in downtown parking lots and garages and several other local taxes to build local highway infrastructure. This would allow TxDOT to spend the gasoline tax on other issues. It would also pave the way for more Toll Roads. This Bill also died in Calendars HB 11 & 13 are just the opposite of the two preceding Bills. HB 11 would Sunset TxDOT in August 2011 and eliminate any authority to sell out our highway system to Cintra-Zachary or anyone else by repealing the authority providing for establishment of the Trans Texas Corridor. HB 13 would remove any authority to toll highways that have already been built as free roads or freeways. Both of these Bills also died in committee.
Rep. Leibowitz the Author of these two Bills took both and added them as Amendments to HB 300 the actual TxDOT Sunset Bill. Senator Carona pledged to remove those two Anendments and add SB 404, SB 17 and SB 855 to get the Governors Bills back into play. HB 300 will come back to the House today and. The House will not concur and will call for a conference Committee.
They will instruct the Conferees prior to them being named. We can only hope the House will stand strong and refuse to allow the HB 300 out of Conference and let the whole thing die.
It is no surprise that Carona wants Rick Perry’s highway Bills back in play. The only surprise is the other names on his Bills. Senators you would never have expected to be willing to put the screws to the citizens of Texas who put them in office.
Some of us worked very hard to kill these two Bills on our own time. We felt they were far more important to the welfare of the state than the Bills we had introduced but unfortunately most riders didn’t share that view. Therefore those of us who felt that way were simply required to work that much harder. I am very proud of those riders who worked with other organizations to show that some Bikers do care what happens to this state.
We also worked very hard for the two House Bills as well as HB 300. We believe like all those we worked with that it is better to lose it all than to allow Rick Perry and Carona to win this time around. He will of course call a Special Session and I personally will have more time to work on these issues.
SB 362 was the Bill to require different forms of photo Identification to vote in Texas as well as having a Voter Registration Card. This Bill was placed on Major State Calendar as being very important. We expect the Governor to call a Special Session if this Bill doesn’t pass and of course it won’t. The Democrats called a slow down as the Bill was on Major State Calendar and would come up if they passed the Local and Consent Calendar too quickly. With 64 Democrats and 65 Republicans on the Floor they were afraid they couldn’t hold their members together and get one Republican to vote with them.
Of course Speaker Straus had abdicated his role as leader and allowed Rep Craddick to take charge and they may have been correct. Still I feel they should have fought it out. The one contentious vote to come up was 64 Ayes and 64 Nays and rather than vote Speaker Straus let the Bill die because it didn’t get one more vote to pass.
With all the school kids being recognized from the Floor, one of the Democrats (I won’t say who) had the nerve to ask (Do you think these students would be proud to see that we care about each Bill and ask questions about them) Their first question was “Mr. Chairman will you tell me when I have reached 9 minutes and 45 seconds please”. If they speak 10 minutes they kill the Bill and they didn’t plan to do anything but waste time. Those few who were involved in this fiasco should have been ashamed to have the kids see them acting like that.
As for our Bills:
This isn’t exactly a Bill but we asked Da’Lady, Rep Norma Chavez to get our Rider Training Fund back so DPS could not take over $250,000 off the top of our Budget to use for their own purposes. One Amendment was offered to rededicate our Training Fund and state that DPS could not take any part of it for their own use. A second Amendment to the Appropriation Committee was to return our full funding to $2,000,040 dollars for the next Biennium. This to me was a priority issue and it worked. Thanks Lady.
HB 1569 our Equal Access Bill passed unanimously in committee and was put on House Resolution and Consent Calendar. When it came to the Floor for a full vote it again passed by a vote of 100 Ayes to 36 Nays. It was then sent to the Senate. It was called up in Business and Commerce Committee.
We testified during the hearing but the Chairman never brought the Bill up for a vote. Therefore the Bill died in committee and I will have a conversation with the chair as soon as we go SINE DIEE in six days. I would have expected this of Senators Duncan or Harris but I was hoping Senator Fraser could be his own man once and let us see how each member voted. I personally believe every Bill deserves a vote if it is heard in committee.
SB 1967 the Highway Safety Bill. We worked this Bill out with what we believed was any group that had a stake in the outcome of the Bill. Each group gave something and this enabled us to come up with a comprehensive Safety Bill. The Bill passed in the Senate committee unanimously and was placed on Local and uncontested Calendar. It came to the Floor and again passed unanimously.
When we went to the House Committee we got a unanimous vote and the Bill was placed on Local and Consent Calendar. While sitting in the House Gallery waiting for the Bill to come to the Floor Terri came in and advised me we had a problem with the Bill. We headed for Da’Lady’s office ready for battle. At first we were shown a Bill Rep Brown wanted to attach to our Bill to Have the Spyder Bike registered as a motorcycle in Texas.
At first I refused the Bill as I didn’t feel comfortable with gambling with our Bill the way things were going down there this session.
Then came the blockbuster as the other shoe dropped. Houston and Dallas Police Dept. had a problem with the Failu
re to Yield section of the Bill.
Seems their paid Lobbyist had failed to notice this Bill until it was scheduled to come to the Floor for its second reading. They had a problem with the Class A and Class B Misdemeanor called for. They feared if they hit someone thru negligence and it injured anyone they could be found guilty of at least a Class A Misdemeanor and if it resulted in serious injury or death they could lose their license to be a police officer. They were OK with the fine but not the classification. Excuse me while I feel sorry for them…NOT. They were paying Lobbyist with taxpayer money and they come on the day we are scheduled for a vote and want to amend the Bill.
At first we said no then realized if we passed the Bill the way it read they could go to the governor and ask him to Veto the Bill. Finally we decided to go check with Senator Carona to see if he would concur with the Bill if we sent it back. He agreed so we asked about the Spyder Amendment and he accepted that one also. We passed the Bill as Amended and it has now returned to the Senate where it awaits concurrence.
Today we watched as SB 1967 received a vote in the Senate. Senator Carona, true to his word asked for concurrence and the vote to accept was unanimous. The Bill now goes to the governor for his signature. It has been a long hard battle but one well worth the effort. It has once again been my pleasure to represent your issues through another session.
Of course there are still committee hearings to attend throughout the next 18 months and campaigns to be worked for the upcoming year but those things are minor compared to what we have just gone through. Thanks to all who took part in the session. Special thanks to our TMRA 2 Legislative Task Force. They took up the slack and made things go much easier this session. And a very special thanks to Britney Parks the 13 year old protégé who served as the youngest member of that Task Force.
I have written a letter to the governor laying out the Bill’s history and asking that he sign SB 1967. Feel free to contact the Governor’s office asking for his signature if you are so inclined.
Texas Motorcycle Rights Association