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Transportation bill heads to conference committee

There’s still that fundamental disagreement in approach to be worked out somehow.

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Representatives from the House and Senate are preparing to spend the next week informally negotiating a compromise proposal to boost funding for the Texas Department of Transportation, with the goal of fully passing a measure by next Friday.

Senators convened briefly Friday to accept House Joint Resolution 2, a transportation funding measure passed by the House a day earlier. Senate Transportation Chairman Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, made clear that version was dead on arrival in the Senate by immediately amending the bill to replace its text with language similar to a proposal the Senate had passed earlier. Senators voted unanimously to accept Nichols’ amendment and then passed that new version of HJR 2.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst then appointed Nichols and four other senators — Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler; Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; John Whitmire, D-Houston; and Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands — to represent the Senate in negotiations on working out differences between the two proposals. The House is not scheduled to convene again until Thursday, preventing House Speaker Joe Straus from formally appointing members to a conference committee on the bill until then. Dewhurst said he has arranged with Straus for members from both chambers to negotiate informally in the interim, with the hope that a compromise can be reached by Wednesday and presented to both chambers on Thursday.

“As of today, we have 11 days left in the special session to address some significant policy differences with the House on transportation … I believe that time is of the essence,” Dewhurst said.

They could have passed something in the last special session if Dewhurst hadn’t been so pigheaded about the abortion bill, but whatever. There is time to deal with this now, if there is a deal to be made. Time isn’t really the issue here, it’s whether or not the House and Senate can work out their differences. After that, if it happens, it’ll be up to the voters.

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