May 06, 2007
Transportation roundup

Along with criminal justice issues, there's still a lot of unsettled business regarding transportation bills, in particular the toll road moratorium, where HB1892 is headed for a veto and a likely override. Burka thinks that if this does happen, we're in for another Endless Legislative Summer of special sessions until the stuff in HB1892 that Perry can't abide - which is apparently giving metropolitan toll road authorities like HCTRA "primacy" over TxDOT - is undone. I don't know if this is true, but given the opportunities for other forms of mischief during a special session - say, voter ID bills, where a two-thirds rule may not be in effect - I'd rather see the Lege back down and send Perry the stand-alone TTC moratorium bill instead. Talk about picking between bad choices. The Observer and Eye on Williamson have more on that.

Speaking of the veto/override showdown, the Quorum Report (via Sal) notes that a well-timed illness on Friday by Governor Perry's clerk has extended the time frame for Perry to make his decision, which in turn makes it that much harder for an override to occur. Ben Wear has more:

The distance from the governor's office to the Texas House chambers is about 100 feet. A key toll road bill has taken more than two days to make that trip -- so far -- and isn't there yet. The delay on HB 1892, which got final passage Wednesday afternoon in the House, means that if Gov. Rick Perry officially receives it Monday, he'll have until sometime May 18 to decide what to do.

That would still give the Legislature a full 10 days in the session to override what many assume will be a Perry veto of the legislation, which in a variety of ways wrenches away tools the Texas Department of Transportation has used to create toll roads.

Ten days, so no harm, no foul, right? Not necessarily. As one legislative staff member put it late this afternoon, 48 hours is a long time at the Legislature late in the session. And an ill-timed illness (or well timed, depending on one's perspective) by Greg Davidson, Perry's executive clerk, just bought the governor another two days.

Davidson, it turns out, is the only Perry staff member authorized to accept and time-stamp legislation passed and ready for gubernatorial action. According to the office of state Rep. Wayne Smith, R-Baytown, sponsor of HB 1892, the Legislative Council tried to reach Davidson Friday at 2:48 p.m. with a phone call. When the message wasn't returned, an e-mail was sent to Davidson at 3:30 p.m., followed by another phone call at 4:15 p.m., and then a personal visit at 4:40 p.m. That's when the council staff found out Davidson had gone home sick earlier in the afternoon.

Was Davidson really ill? "Yes, absolutely," said Perry spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger. She couldn't say, or find out this evening, when Davidson went home, or if any other legislation was accepted today before he left.

Supposedly, Governor-for-a-Day Gallegos was going to try to rectify this and get the bill time-stamped yesterday. I've not seen any updates anywhere to indicate whether this was successful or not. As always, stay tuned.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 06, 2007 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles