Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Warm and Fuzzy Day in Austin

By Faith Chatham - DFWRCC - Jan. 14, 2009
Yesterday was a rare day in Texas History. The opening day of the 81st Texas Legislaturerare day of amiability in the Texas Legislature was exceptionally warm and fuzzy as Democrat after Democrat seconded the nomination of Rep. Joe Strauss of Bexar County for Speaker of the Texas House. Voted Speaker by Acclaimation, Strauss, a two-term representative (R) is heralded as the conciliator, listener, get things done for the people guy for the job. His election was greeted with a standing ovation with everyone in the house on their feet. There were more "hold outs" when the crowd was urged to thank outgoing Speaker Tom Craddick and his wife for their service to the State of Texas!

Today the real work begins. As the House and Senate begin debating what laws need to be repealed and what needs to be passes, much of the warmth will probably fade. The Trans Texas Corridor has merely been rebranded -- not killed. Years of special interest bought and paid for private public partnership toll road legislation needs to be wiped from the books. Statutes which allows TxDOT or contractors on the TTC who contaminate Texas property in planning or constructing the Trans Texas Corridor to 1. perform their own environmental studies 2. condemn contaminated property and adjacent property must be wiped from the books.

Texas needs to repeal Perry's substitute for the Texas Toll Road Moratorium which requires market pricing on Texas toll roads. Hopefully, the Obama administration will repeal George W. Bush's outgoing gift to the American people - requirements of market valuation aka congestion pricing on Federal toll roads and HOV lanes. Congestion pricing does not clean up the air. It merely fleeces the least able to pay of more dollars when they have to commute during rush hour while allowing those with discretionary income or able to pass along the cost to clients, employers or the american public through expense accounts to utilize the fast lane while the rest are left in their exhaust fumes in traffic gridlock. Local townships, cities and counties eat the fruit of so-called congestion pricing as they scramble to maintain and expand local roadways to accommodate the cars which seek other routes home and to work.

Another hot topic this session is education financing. School funding has not been indexed to meet inflation. Cuts in education funding in the prior session is resulting in cuts in programs, staffing.

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