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Legislative Update

Transportation and air quality in the North Central Texas region are impacted by legislative decisions at the State and federal levels.

NCTCOG staff regularly update policy and technical committee members, transportation partners and others interested in monitoring legislative initiatives related to the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) legislative priorities.

Below is a summary of recent legislative news and action.
 

FRIDAY, MARCH 17, 2017

From Washington, D.C. | From Austin, Texas | Highlighted Bills | Monitored Bills | Hearings

FROM WASHINGTON, D.C.

President Trump released a broad outline of his proposal for a portion of the fiscal year 2018 federal budget. The budget proposes steep cuts or eliminations of a few popular transportation and infrastructure programs, like the TIGER grant program, but also leaves many other programs untouched. It also includes a proposed reorganization of the Federal Aviation Administration. The FY18 request would reduce the discretionary portion of the USDOT budget from $18.6 billion to $16.2 billion in 2018. The plan does not affect the mandatory side of the budget (including all Highway Trust Fund programs and the Airport Improvement Program). President Trump’s anticipated infrastructure plan would add any additional funding to the mandatory side of the budget, and not the discretionary side. Most are saying the plan is dead on arrival, but it does offer insight into the priorities of the Administration.


FROM AUSTIN, TEXAS

Bill filing for the 85th legislative session is basically complete as of March 10. Local bills, emergency appropriations, and bills that have been declared an emergency by the Governor can still be filed. The unofficial bill count totals 6,786, which is around 400 more than the 2015 totals. The focus now turns to committee and floor actions.

 

The Senate Finance Committee continued to meet and this week approved recommendations from the subcommittee workgroups. Two notable riders regarding high-speed rail and the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) program were included in the Committee’s adopted decision documents. Article VII, under the Texas Department of Transportation, includes a rider that would prohibit TxDOT from for the purposes of subsidizing or assisting in the planning, construction or maintenance, or operation of high-speed rail operated by a private entity. This is similar to a rider included in the Senate's proposed budget during the last legislative session. Senator West from Dallas was the only member of the Finance Committee to vote against the budget rider. Article VI of the Senate’s proposed budget, under the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, now proposes to reduce funding for the TERP program by $65 million over the biennium from the original Senate budget level. The introduced Senate budget included $208.6M/biennium and this reduction would reduce TERP to $143.6M/biennium. The House Appropriations Committee also approved workgroup recommendations, but the aforementioned riders were not included in the House’s decision documents.

 

Also related to TERP, Senate bill 26 by Senator Estes, which updates and extends the program was approved by the full Senate by a vote of 28-3. The bill now heads to the House for action. 

 

HIGHLIGHTED BILLS - TEXAS LEGISLATURE

 

AIR QUALITY

SB 2003 (Watson): Relating to the low-income vehicle repair assistance, retrofit, and accelerated vehicle retirement program and local initiative air quality projects. Similar to HB 2321 by Turner. Makes changes to the LIRAP/LIP program, updates the program and adds flexibility.

 

AUTOMATED VEHICLES

HB 4018 (Rodriguez): Relating to the operation of automated motor vehicles on highways in this state for research and testing purposes. Allows the operation of an automated vehicle for testing and research only.

 

TOLLS

SB 1909 (Campbell): Relating to the use of money in the state highway fund for toll projects. Would provide that the legislature may not appropriate any money deposited to the credit of the state highway fund to construct, maintain, or acquire rights-of-way for a toll project or system. Identical to HB 1518 (Leach) and SB 639 (Huffines).

 

TRANSIT/RAIL

HB 4160 (Pickett): Relating to voter approval of local acceptance and use of federal funds for commuter rail projects. Requires a vote Similar to SB 385 by Burton.

 

TRANSPORTATION FUNDING

SB 2012 (Taylor): Relating to the study of an economic impact zone by the Texas Department of Transportation. Contingent on the enactment of SB 84 allowing TxDOT to finance a project using a transportation impact zone, TxDOT must conduct a study on the benefit, limitations and effects of the zone and report findings to the legislature by December 2018.

 

SJR 58 (Perry): Proposing a constitutional amendment to set aside money from the economic stabilization fund to pay for certain state infrastructure projects and to create a state infrastructure endowment fund for funding certain costs.

 

SJR 59 (Perry): Proposing a constitutional amendment to set aside money from the economic stabilization fund and certain general revenue to pay for certain state infrastructure projects and to create a state infrastructure endowment fund.
 

 

MONITORED BILLS - ACTION THIS WEEK

If you need information on all the bills being tracked, please contact Rebekah Hernandez at (817) 704-2545 or rhernandez@nctcog.org. The Texas Legislature link includes all bills being tracked in both the Texas House and Senate.

A table of bills related to the RTC Legislative Program can be found here.

 

RECENT HEARINGS

US SENATE

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing on Wednesday, March 15 at 10 am.

  • Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Innovation, Integration, Successes, and Challenges
  • The hearing examined public policy issues related to the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems in the national airspace system. The Committee explored practical applications for this technology, as well as developing economic, privacy, and safety implications. Witnesses included Mr. Earl Lawrence, Director of the Office of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Federal Aviation Administration; Ms. Diana Marina Cooper, Vice President of Legal and Policy Affairs, Precision Hawk USA Inc.; President, UAV Coalition; Mr. Ben Fowke, Chairman, President and CEO, Xcel Energy; Mr. Brendan Schulman, Vice President of Policy and Legal Affairs, DJI; Dr. John Villasenor, Professor of Engineering and Public Policy, UCLA; Visiting Fellow, Hoover Institution; Dr. Emilio Gonzalez, Director and Chief Executive Officer, Miami-Dade Aviation Department.

US HOUSE

House Transportation and Infrastructure: Subcommittees on Highways and Transit hearing on Wednesday, March 15 at 10:00 am.

  • State and local perspectives on FAST Act implementation – The hearing was postponed until further notice.

TEXAS SENATE

Senate State Affairs Committee hearing on Monday, March 13 at 9 am.

  • SB 31 (Zaffirini) Relating to the use of a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle; creating a criminal offense; modifying existing criminal penalties. Reported favorably by the following vote: Yeas 6, Nays 3. Sen. Estes said, "For some reason people will not govern themselves on this issue and people are dying." Sen. Estes said he felt it was symbolic that the bill was number 31 because he felt they should pass it out 31-0. Sen. Schwertner asked if there is any difficulty in enforcing the law, Officer Don Egdorf, Houston PD, testified for the bill ensured that it is enforceable, just as seatbelts are. – Voted favorably from committee, placed on the Senate Calendar for March 20.

Senate Business and Commerce Committee hearing on Tuesday, March 14 at 8 am

  • The committee heard testimony statewide regulations for vehicle-for-hire companies (Uber/Lyft) that would either create statewide regulations and one bill that would deregulate ride-hailing companies and other transportation services like taxis and limos.
  • SB 113 (Huffines) Relating to the provision of and local regulation of certain for-hire passenger transportation. – left pending.
  • SB 176 (Schwertner) Relating to the regulation of transportation network companies. – left pending.
  • SB 361 (Nichols) Relating to transportation network companies. – left pending.

Senate Finance Committee hearing on Tuesday, March 14 at 9 am.

  • SB 2 (Bettencourt) Relating to ad valorem taxation. The Senate Finance Committee approved a slightly modified version of SB 2 (Revenue Cap bill). The committee adopted an amendment that changed the cap from 4% to 5%.The bill will now move the Senate floor.

Senate Transportation Committee hearing on Wednesday, March 15 at 8 am.

  • SB 312 (Nichols) Relating to the continuation and functions of the Texas Department of Transportation; authorizing an increase in rates charged for the use of state aircraft to provide for the acquisition of replacement aircraft. – Voted favorably from committee.
  • SB 88 (Hall) Relating to the use of photographic traffic signal enforcement systems. – Committee substitute version of the bill was approved from committee.

Senate Veteran Affairs and Border Security Committee hearing on Wednesday, March 15 and Thursday, March 16, 2017 at 1:30 pm

  • SB 840 (Zaffirini) Relating to certain images captured by an unmanned aircraft. – left pending in committee.

Senate Finance Committee hearing on Wednesday, March 15 and Thursday, March 16 at 9 am.

  • SB 1 (Nelson) General Appropriations Bill. The Committee approved recommendations from the workgroups.
  • Two notable riders were approved in the Senate budget. Article VI of the budget, under the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, included a rider reducing funding for the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) by $65 million over the biennium. 
  • Article VII, under the Texas Department of Transportation, included a rider that would prohibit TxDOT from spending funds to plan, build or operate high-speed rail operated by a private entity. This is similar to a rider included in the Senate's proposed budget during the last legislative session.

 TEXAS HOUSE

House Environmental Regulation Committee hearing on Tuesday, March 14 at 8 am.

  • HB 402 (Huberty) Relating to money used by certain counties for the low-income vehicle repair assistance, retrofit, and accelerated vehicle retirement program and local initiative air quality projects. This is the LIRAP bill that is only related to the Houston area as it is currently written. According to the Legislative Budget Board, the bill would provide Harris County the authority to divide their allocated LIRAP funding between LIRAP's Drive A Clean Machine program and the Local Initiative Projects program at its own discretion. Under current law Harris County was allocated $17.1 million in fiscal years 2016 and 2017. According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), if the provisions of the bill were implemented for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, Harris County would have received $14.4 million. – left pending in committee.

House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Articles VI, VII, VIII on Tuesday, March 14 at 7:30am

  • The Appropriations Subcommittee on Articles VI, VII, & VIII met in a formal meeting to discuss pending House budget items.
  • Workgroup recommendations on Article VI (includes TCEQ), VII (includes TxDOT), & VIII and riders were adopted.

House Transportation Committee hearing on Thursday, March 16 at 8 am.

  • HB 100 (Paddie) Relating to the regulation of transportation network companies; requiring an occupational permit; authorizing a fee. This is concerning statewide regulations for the Uber/Lyft transportation companies. – left pending in committee.

UPCOMING COMMITTEE HEARINGS

 

US US HOUSE

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on Tuesday, March 12 at 10 am.

  • Roundtable on Emerging Railroad Technology

House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Wednesday, March 22 at 10 am

  • H.R. 806, Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017

TEXAS HOUSE

House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee hearing on Monday, March 20 at 2 pm.

  • HB 1424 (Murphy) Relating to the operation of an unmanned aircraft over certain facilities or sports venues. Adds detention facilities, correctional facilities, and sports venues to the list of places where an unmanned aircraft may not fly operate over.

House Defense and Veteran’s Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday, March 22 at 10:30 am or upon adjournment

  • HB 890 (Geren) Relating to providing information to the public and to purchasers of real property regarding the impact of military installations. A city in which a military installation is located shall work closely with military installation to ensure most recent Air Installation Compatible Use Zone Study or Joint Land Use Study is publicly available on the local government’s website. Would add to a seller’s disclosure of property condition a notice if property is located near a military installation and may be affected by high noise or air installation compatible use zones or other operations. Requires that information related to high noise and compatible use zones be accessible on website of city in which military installation is located.

House Transportation Committee hearing on Thursday, March 23 at 8 am

  • HB 1140 (Anderson) Relating to the allocation categories for state funding of public transportation. For purposes of allocation categories for state transportation funding, would provide that a “large urbanized area” means an urbanized area with a population of 200,000 or more and a “Small urbanized area" means an urbanized area with a population of less than 200,000.

TEXAS SENATE

Senate Criminal Justice Committee hearing on Tuesday, March 21 at 1:30 pm

  • SB 395 (Campbell) Relating to the prosecution of the offense of operation of an unmanned aircraft over correctional facility or critical infrastructure. Extend existing restrictions on the operation of unmanned aircraft over critical infrastructure to include state, county, or municipal corrections facilities.

Senate Transportation Committee hearing on Wednesday, March 22 at 8 am

  • SB 385 (Burton) Relating to voter approval of local acceptance and use of federal funds for passenger rail projects. A political subdivision may not accept federal funds for the construction, maintenance, or operation of a commuter or passenger rail project, unless the municipality holds an election to determine whether or not to authorize acceptance or use of the funds. A political subdivision that is authorized to use federal funds for a project, but has not begun construction within five years of the election, may only use funds when a municipality (where a station or track is located) approves in an election to authorize the use of the funds. A political subdivision, MPO, or the department may not include the project funding in a transportation plan unless it has been approved as required.
  • SB 1305 (Nichols) Relating to the abolishment of the transportation infrastructure fund and the grant program using money from the fund. Removes a county energy transportation reinvestment zone from the definition of transportation reinvestment zone and removes the fund related to county energy TRZs.

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To view Committee Hearings for the Texas Senate click here:

http://www.senate.texas.gov/av-live.php

To view Committee Hearings for the Texas House click here: http://www.house.state.tx.us/video-audio/

3/22/2017 CH

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