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The Senate TxDOT sunset bill is not the House TxDOT sunset bill

As we know, the massive House sunset bill for TxDOT, HB300, contained a boatload of amendments that greatly altered the original bill, including one that would make TxDOT a 15-member elected commission and one that would have outlawed red light cameras. As I suggested, however, the Senate version of this bill would look quite a bit different. Here’s a brief overview of that.

[T]he Senate version laid out in committee this morning (after the House last week passed a version festooned with 177 amendments) does not have the 15-member elected Texas Transportation Commission. It would stick with the current five-member commission appointed by the governor. Mostly. The difference from current law is that the members would have two-year terms and, if the governor didn’t reappoint them or name a new one by Feb. 28 of odd-numbered years, the appointment would then fall to the lieutenant governor.

There are of course myriad other differences, all of them presented in a 70-page “side-by-side-by-side-by-side” that compares current law, the original Senate version, the passed House version and the current Senate version.

Another difference between the House and this Senate version: Red-light cameras would remain legal under the Senate version. The House zapped it. Senate sponsor state Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, said that while he personally opposes red-light cameras, there’s enough support for them among other senators that that’s not something he wants to take on.

As for the key underlying issue — whether TxDOT would be neutered, as in the House version, by giving real power over project decisions to local planning organizations — Hegar said his current version does not do that.

The “legislative oversight committee” for TxDOT recommended by the Texas Sunset Review Commission is different between the two bodies. The House would have an eight-member group of House and Senate members, including the chairs of the transportation, finance and appropriations committees. The Senate version basically uses the existing committee structure, having the House and Senate transportation committees meet as a group once a quarter to look over TxDOT’s shoulder.

So there you have it. It’s still early on, and we haven’t gotten to the conference committee yet, so consider all of this to be written on water until a final bill emerges. Given that the only other bill I knew of to kill red light cameras never made it to the House floor, I’d say the odds are good we’ll have them to kick around for a little longer. But as always, it ain’t over till it’s over.

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