State Rep. Norma Chavez has created a new Web site,
"We hope to expand the Web site so that visitors can register to vote, get
information on how to register your car, or get information on grants
available at UTEP," said Chavez, D-El Paso.
State Rep. Norma Chavez has created a new Web site,
"We hope to expand the Web site so that visitors can register to vote, get
information on how to register your car, or get information on grants
available at UTEP," said Chavez, D-El Paso.
Environment Texas today released its evaluation of how state lawmakers did on environmental issues during the 2009 legislative session.
They reviewed how legislators voted on several environmental measures, including loans and rebates for solar power installations, energy efficiency regulations for buildings and allowing university students to fund green projects at their schools.
Here's how the six El Paso legislators scored:
State Rep. Norma Chavez - 75%
State Rep. Marisa Marquez - 75%
State Rep. Joe Moody - 100%
State Rep. Joe Pickett - 88%
State Rep. Chente Quintanilla - 88%
State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh - 100%
Averaged together, the El Paso lawmakers got an 87.67% score, or a pretty high B on a grade scale.
You can download the entire scorecard here: Download ET_StateScorecard-2009
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, in an impromptu press conference with Sens. Steve Ogden and John Carona, said legislators have abandoned efforts to approve the third item on the special session agenda Gov. Rick Perry gave them.
The measure would have extended the deadline for the Texas Department of Transportation or local mobility authorities to sign contracts with private companies for the development of toll road projects.
"We didn't see the urgency," Dewhurst said, adding that failure to approve the measure would not stop or delay any current transportation projects.
Lawmakers were leery of the contracts measure, worried that it would allow private companies to make huge profits off of public roads and own them for many decades.
Since the contracts measure is dead, the only items left to consider during the special session are the one that keeps state agencies like TxDOT from shutting down and the one that authorizes $2 billion in bonds for transportation projects.
The so-called sunset safety net bill that will keep the agencies running is already on its way to Perry's desk after passing in both chambers.
The bill with the bond money in it has passed the House and is pending approval in the Senate later today.
After that, the special session should be over, in Perry's words, "Badda bing, badda boom."
State Rep. Norma Chavez and state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh were in Washington, D.C., this week to support President Barack Obama's plans to reform health care, including the public health insurance option.
Chavez went to D.C. with a delegation that included state Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, Joe Arabie of the Texas AFL-CIO and Sergio Esquivel of ACORN, among others.
The group planned to meet today with Texas Reps. Henry Cuellar, Silvestre Reyes, Lloyd Doggett, Chet Edwards, Charlie Gonzalez and Ruben Hinojosa.
“Health care affects us all and is at the very core of our well being," Chavez said in a prepared statement. "In the last nine years, the cost of health insurance has risen 120% while wages in Texas have only increased 29%. Texas leads the country in the number of uninsured and this is not acceptable."
Shapleigh said he attended a border health conference Thursday with Reyes.
"The border will be the region in America that is most benefited from health care reform," he said.
Shapleigh said he didn't see Chavez while they were in D.C.
El Paso state Rep. Norma Chavez will head to Washington next week to lobby for President Barack Obama's plans to reform health care, including the public health insurance option.
Chavez, who worked on the Obama presidential campaign last year, was one of more than 600 state legislators who signed a letter this week supporting Obama's health care plan.
Next week, Chavez announced in a press release, she will go to Capitol Hill with state Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, Bexar County Commissioner Chico Rodriguez and LULAC Council President Henry Rodriguez.
Texans for Fiscal Responsibility today released their report card for the members of the 81st Legislature. All six El Paso lawmakers got Fs. And I'm pretty sure that F doesn't stand for 'fantastic.'
Scanning through the list, it appears that all the Democrats got Fs.
Here's the group's press release, with a list of the lawmakers' grades:
More Fiscally Conservative Legislature, But Still Failing
Index shows Republican ratings improve, committee chairs decline
AUSTIN, Texas – Texans for Fiscal Responsibility released its final ratings today for members of the 81st Texas Legislature.
TFR President Michael Quinn Sullivan says that while the partisan gap narrowed, the ratings of the House and Senate members show a more fiscally conservative direction.
“Unfortunately, the session itself was highlighted by missed opportunities; too much was simply not done that should have been,” noted Sullivan. “Not only did the legislature fail to provide much-needed property tax relief, it only provided tweaks to the property tax appraisal system and the state's business tax instead of the fundamental reforms that were needed.”
The Fiscal Responsibility Index is a measure of how lawmakers perform on size and role of government issues. It uses exemplar votes on core budget and free enterprise issues. The ratings can be found online at www.EmpowerTexans.com/index. TFR works with more than 50,000 activists around the Lone Star State, promoting sound fiscal policy, government transparency and free markets.
Sullivan said the legislators’ scores did improve on
average. Lawmakers scored an average 52.13 percent in voting with
Texas' taxpayers this session, besting the 46.13 scored by lawmakers on
the 2007 Index.
"But just like in school, that is still a failing mark impacting Texas' families," he said. “We clearly need more conscientious fiscal conservatives serving in the Texas Legislature.”
While there are fewer House Republicans than in previous years, they appear to be more practically grounded in sound fiscal policy. The House GOP average rating jumped from 75.01 in 2007 to 81.72 in 2009. House Democrats saw a slight dip, from 31.74 in 2007 to 30.92 in 2009. (The legislators endorsed in 2008 by the Empower Texans PAC rated an 87.78.)
The Senate's average rating rose from 38.86 in 2007 to 47.69 in 2009. Republicans in the upper chamber had an average 59.09 in 2009, compared to 48.46 in 2007. Meanwhile, the Democrats rated 29.65 in 2009, compared to 21.49 in 2007.
The highest-rated member of the Texas Senate was Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), with a 93% rating. The top rating in the House, a 100%, was shared by four members: Charles "Doc" Anderson (R-Waco), Wayne Christian (R-Center), Jodie Laubenberg (R-Rockwall) and Ken Paxton (R-McKinney).
In all, there were 49 House members and four senators rating a "B" (80%) or better.
“Most of the success conservatives had this session was in what was stopped, rather than advanced,” Sullivan added. “We stopped the imposition of new gas taxes and transportation fees, permanent expansion of unemployment insurance, and transformation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program into a middle-class entitlement.”
Sullivan said the reason bad legislation moved quickly through the process, while positive legislation died in committee, was a direct reflection of the House leadership.
“The committee chairs appointed by Speaker Joe Straus had an average score of 53.88, below the House average of 56.49. In 2007, the House committee chairs had a 66.21 while the body overall had a 53.4. This Session's committee chairs pushed through legislation that had to be stopped by the body, because the body tended to be more fiscally responsible than those chairs. It’s our hope that next session, Mr. Straus will pick better chairmen who take a more taxpayer-friendly approach to governing Texas.”
The complete Index ratings and methodology is available at www.EmpowerTexans.com/index.
81st Session (2009)
Overall Legislature: 52.13%
On the Fiscal Responsibility Index
House Members: 56.49% (By rating)
Republicans: 81.72% (Name or Rating)
Democrats: 30.92% (Name or Rating)
Senate Members: 47.69% (By rating)
Republicans: 59.09% (Name or Rating)
Democrats: 29.65% (Name or Rating)
Kip Averitt (R-22), 35.71% (F)
John Carona (R-16), 40.00% (F)
Wendy Davis (D-10), 25.00% (F)
Bob Deuell (R-2), 43.75% (F)
Bob Duncan (R-28), 38.46% (F)
Rodney Ellis (D-13), 23.08% (F)
Kevin Eltife (R-1), 37.50% (F)
Craig Estes (R-30), 66.67% (F)
Troy Fraser (R-24), 86.67% (B+)
Mario Gallegos (D-6), 35.71% (F)
Chris Harris (R-9), 44.44% (F)
Glenn Hegar (R-18), 78.57% (C+)
Juan Hinojosa (D-20), 33.33% (F)
Joan Huffman (R-17), 78.57% (C+)
Mike Jackson (R-11), 85.71% (B+)
Eddie Lucio (D-27), 25.00% (F)
Jane Nelson (R-12), 93.33% (A)
Robert Nichols (R-3), 66.67% (F)
Steve Ogden (R-5), 53.85% (F)
Dan Patrick (R-7), 81.25% (B+)
Kel Seliger (R-31), 42.86% (F)
Florence Shapiro (R-8), 53.85% (F)
Eliot Shapleigh (D-29), 31.25% (F)
Carlos Uresti (D-19), 40.00% (F)
Leticia Van de Putte (D-26), 33.33% (F)
Kirk Watson (D-14), 25.00% (F)
Jeff Wentworth (R-25), 31.25% (F)
Royce West (D-23), 28.57% (F)
John Whitmire (D-15), 28.57% (F)
Tommy Williams (R-4), 57.14% (F)
Judith Zaffirini (D-21), 33.33% (F)
Alma Allen (D-131), 23.81% (F)
Roberto Alonzo (D-104), 20.00% (F)
Carol Alvarado (D-145), 30.00% (F)
Rafael Anchia (D-103), 26.09% (F)
Charles "Doc" Anderson (R-56), 100.00% (A+)
Jimmie Don Aycock (R-54), 95.24% (A+)
Leo Berman (R-6), 85.71% (B+)
Dwayne Bohac (R-138), 65.22% (F)
Valinda Bolton (D-47), 23.53% (F)
Dennis Bonnen (R-25), 76.19% (C+)
Dan Branch (R-108), 80.95% (B)
Betty Brown (R-4), 84.00% (B)
Fred Brown (R-14), 90.00% (A)
Lon Burnam (D-90), 22.73% (F)
Angie Chen Button (R-112), 85.71% (B+)
Bill Callegari (R-132), 90.00% (A)
Joaquin Castro (D-125), 30.00% (F)
Norma Chavez (D-76), 27.27% (F)
Warren Chisum (R-88), 90.91% (A)
Wayne Christian (R-9), 100.00% (A+)
Ellen Cohen (D-134), 36.84% (F)
Garnet Coleman (D-147), 25.00% (F)
Byron Cook (R-8), 80.00% (B)
Frank Corte (R-122), 85.00% (B+)
Joe Crabb (R-127), 86.96% (B+)
Tom Craddick (R-82), 90.48% (A)
Brandon Creighton (R-16), 86.96% (B+)
Myra Crownover (R-54), 90.00% (A)
Drew Darby (R-72), 72.73% (C)
Yvonne Davis (D-110), 25.00% (F)
John Davis (R-129), 81.82% (B)
Joe Deshotel (D-22), 28.57% (F)
Joe Driver (R-113), 77.78% (C+)
Dawnna Dukes (D-46), 23.81% (F)
Jim Dunnam (D-57), 33.33% (F)
Harold Dutton (D-142), 22.22% (F)
Al Edwards (D-146), 42.86% (F)
Craig Eiland (D-23), 36.36% (F)
Rob Eissler (R-15), 77.27% (C+)
Gary Elkins (R-135), 80.95% (B)
Kirk England (D-106), 27.78% (F)
David Farabee (D-69), 36.84% (F)
Jose Farias (D-118), 23.81% (F)
Jessica Farrar (D-148), 20.00% (F)
Allen Fletcher (R-130), 82.61% (B)
Kino Flores (D-36), 28.57% (F)
Dan Flynn (R-2), 91.67% (A)
Stephen Frost (D-1), 50.00% (F)
Pete Gallego (D-74), 28.57% (F)
Dan Gattis (R-20), 81.82% (B)
Charlie Geren (R-99), 61.90% (F)
Helen Giddings (D-109), 26.32% (F)
Veronica Gonzales (D-41), 22.73% (F)
Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles (D-35), 28.57% (F)
Ryan Guillen (D-31), 40.91% (F)
Roland Gutierrez (D-119), 33.33% (F)
Mike Hamilton (R-19), 75.00% (C+)
Kelly Hancock (R-91), 89.47% (B+)
Rick Hardcastle (R-68), 80.95% (B)
Patricia Harless (R-126), 80.95% (B)
Linda Harper-Brown (R-105), 91.30% (A)
Will Hartnett (R-114), 66.67% (F)
Joe Heflin (D-85), 33.33% (F)
Ana Hernandez (D-143), 20.00% (F)
Abel Herrero (D-34), 23.81% (F)
Harvey Hilderbran (R-53), 75.00% (C+)
Scott Hochberg (D-137), 26.32% (F)
Terri Hodge (D-100), 28.57% (F)
Mark Homer (D-3), 42.86% (F)
Chuck Hopson (D-11), 45.45% (F)
Donna Howard (D-48), 25.00% (F)
Charlie Howard (R-26), 95.45% (A+)
Bryan Hughes (R-5), 90.91% (A)
Todd Hunter (R-32), 71.43% (C)
Carl Isett (R-84), 95.45% (A+)
Jim Jackson (R-115), 69.57% (F)
Delwin Jones (R-83), 71.43% (C)
Jim Keffer (R-60), 76.19% (C+)
Carol Kent (D-102), 28.57% (F)
Susan King (R-71), 55.00% (F)
Tracy King (D-80), 42.11% (F)
Phil King (R-61), 90.91% (A)
Tim Kleinschmidt (R-17), 91.67% (A)
Lois Kolkhorst (R-13), 85.71% (B+)
Edmund Kuempel (R-44), 75.00% (C+)
Jodie Laubenberg (R-89), 100.00% (A+)
Ken Legler (R-144), 95.83% (A+)
David Leibowitz (D-117), 27.27% (F)
Tryon Lewis (R-81), 85.71% (B+)
Eddie Lucio III (D-38), 28.57% (F)
Jerry Madden (R-67), 80.95% (B)
Diana Maldonado (D-52), 28.57% (F)
Barbara Mallory Caraway (D-110), 35.29% (F)
Marisa Marquez (D-77), 22.73% (F)
Armando Martinez (D-39), 28.57% (F)
Trey Martinez Fischer (D-116), 28.57% (F)
Brian McCall (R-66), 57.89% (F)
Ruth McClendon (D-120), 27.27% (F)
Jim McReynolds (D-12), 38.10% (F)
Jose Menendez (D-124), 30.00% (F)
Tommy Merritt (R-7), 63.16% (F)
Robert Miklos (D-101), 23.81% (F)
Doug Miller (R-73), 86.36% (B+)
Sid Miller (R-59), 90.00% (A)
Joe Moody (D-78), 33.33% (F)
Geannie Morrison (R-30), 85.00% (B+)
Elliott Naishtat (D-49), 20.00% (F)
Rene Oliveira (D-37), 35.00% (F)
Dora Olivo (D-27), 28.57% (F)
Robb Orr (R-58), 76.19% (C+)
Solomon Ortiz (D-33), 28.57% (F)
John Otto (R-18), 70.00% (C)
Tan Parker (R-63), 95.83% (A+)
Diane Patrick (R-94), 71.43% (C)
Ken Paxton (R-70), 100.00% (A+)
Aaron Pena (D-40), 42.86% (F)
Larry Phillips (R-62), 95.00% (A+)
Joe Pickett (D-79), 40.91% (F)
Paula Hightower Pierson (D-93), 29.41% (F)
Jim Pitts (R-10), 53.85% (F)
Chente Quintanillia (D-75), 33.33% (F)
Richard Raymond (D-42), 35.00% (F)
Debbie Riddle (R-150), 85.71% (B+)
Tara Rios Ybarra (D-43), 38.10% (F)
Allan Ritter (D-21), 42.86% (F)
Eddie Rodriguez (D-51), 22.73% (F)
Patrick Rose (D-45), 42.86% (F)
Ralph Sheffield (R-55), 86.36% (B+)
Mark Shelton (R-97), 85.00% (B+)
Todd Smith (R-92), 66.67% (F)
Wayne Smith (R-128), 81.82% (B)
John Smithee (R-86), 86.36% (B+)
Burt Solomons (R-65), 75.00% (C+)
Mark Strama (D-50), 31.58% (F)
David Swinford (R-87), 76.19% (C+)
Larry Taylor (R-24), 89.47% (B+)
Kristi Thibault (D-133), 35.00% (F)
Senfronia Thompson (D-141), 31.58% (F)
Vicki Truitt (R-98), 71.43% (C)
Chris Turner (D-96), 28.57% (F)
Sylvester Turner (D-139), 33.33% (F)
Allen Vaught (D-107), 37.50% (F)
Marc Veasey (D-95), 30.00% (F)
Mike Villarreal (D-123), 11.11% (F)
Hubert Vo (D-149), 31.82% (F)
Armando Walle (D-140), 27.27% (F)
Randy Weber (R-29), 95.83% (A+)
Beverly Woolley (R-136), 78.26% (C+)
John Zerwas (R-28), 80.95% (B)
UPDATED AGAIN: In a 4:15 p.m. press conference, state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, recommitted to killing the TxDOT sunset bill with a multi-hour talkathon.
"For 250 pounds, I have a lot of energy, and I feel really passionate about this," Carona said.
He disputed the assertion of Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, that killing the TxDOT bill would mean no new road construction projects for two years.
Carona said the $2 billion in highway construction bonds might be attached to another bill, and even if it weren't, that money wasn't even set to be distributed until late next year. At most, he said, it would be a delay of several months.
Another problem Carona brought up during his visit with reporters was that state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, was not a membe of the team negotiating the final bill. He had suggested Shapleigh, who had worked on the bill and is a member of the Senate's transportation committee, for the committee, but Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst appointed state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojsa, D-McAllen, instead.
Shapleigh, he said, was committed to the local-option transportation tax and would have stood strong with Carona to allow communities to raise funds for their projects.
"You can't build roads without money, and it's that simple," Carona said.
In the end, Carona said, it comes down to House members not having the political courage to vote for new taxes and fees even though they know the money is needed.
"At some point soon, we're going to be embarassed by the fact that we've run out of money to build roads," Carona said.
UPDATED: Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, said his colleague's plan to talk to death the Texas Department of Transportation sunset bill that he authored and has worked on for months is "a sad turn of events."
Hegar said he did not act deceitfully in gathering signatures and negotiating a deal on the TxDOT bill with the House members who told him repeatedly that the local-option taxes and fees would face certain death in the lower chamber.
"You're playing Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun, and you're not going to win," he said of trying to bring the TxDOT bill to the House with the local option in it.
Hegar said he was disappointed that all the other measures in the bill, including a portion that would allow the release of $2 billion in transportation construction bonds for new roads, would die.
"This bill does not need to be hijacked for someone's personal efforts," Hegar said.
A couple notes about the next couple days and possibilities ahead. Hegar or Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst could simply decide not to bring up the bill and save Carona the trouble of talking for hours on end. If they do decide to bring up the bill, the timing of when they decide to bring it up will determine how long Carona has to jabber.
State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, said he plans to make good on his threat yesterday to kill the massive bill to overhaul the Texas Department of Transportation.
Carona is upset because a measure was struck from the bill that would allow voters to decide whether to raise local taxes and fees for transportation projects.
Here's Carona's release, which outlines his five-point plan to talk the bill to death.
He's got to keep it going til midnight tomorrow.
Why I Will Filibuster the TxDOT Sunset Bill, by Senator John Carona
There is an old Italian saying: Dai
nemici mi guardo io, dagli amici mi guardi Iddio.
It means "I can protect myself from my enemies; may God protect me from my friends!"
It's no secret by now that the conference committee report contents were not what I was led to believe, and that the report was signed and filed before I was ever shown the decisions. What we have is a deal negotiated in bad faith. I can handle the personal and professional insult involved; after all, there is another Italian saying:
Quando finisce la partita, i pedoni, le
torri, i cavalli, i vescovi, i due re e le due regine tutti vanno nello stesso
When the chess game is over, the pawns, rooks, knights, bishops, kings, and queens all go back into the same box. We will recover and work together again, and the Senate will survive.
Unfortunately, the practical effects of HB 300 for Texas transportation are negative and still must be addressed. For example, in the absence of the Local Option Transportation Act, other provisions included in either the House or Senate bill but discarded by conferees such as Local Participation take on new importance and should have been adopted. Had I known LOTA would be stripped, I would have pressed that point.
If HB 300 dies, the only real loss is the enabling legislation to issue Proposition 12 bonds. Frankly, given the debt service entailed over time, there is a good argument to putting off this debt until we can pass legislation reducing or eliminating transportation diversions, legislation I filed, but mysteriously came to a stop in the House.
It further appears that the Senate conferees ended up giving away the store. The fatal flaw in HB 300 is buried in the process for determining whether the state or the MPO picks the projects. HB 300 has the Transportation Commission developing criteria for selection and placement of projects in the Transportation Plan, which is good. However, for the major funding categories the Commission must then use the MPO's priorities unless they conflict with federal law or rule. Finally, the department "shall use the planning organizations' project lists to create the statewide transportation program and budget." Through these steps, found on page 38 of the side by side, the conferees complete the transfer of decision making authority from the state level to the MPO, which in my view is the wrong direction.
Accordingly, here is how I will proceed today.
First, I will read the bill to the body. HB 300 on conference committee report is 344 pages long, which is even bigger than the infamous HB 3588 by 10%. Given that the House bill came to the Senate with over 100 amendments stapled to the back and not rolled in, there has never been a compiled version that makes sense, entire sections of law are repealed by handwritten notes in the margins, and we have barely had the bill long enough to absorb so much as the table of contents, you can expect this effort to take a while.
In that process, we will explore a few of the very curious provisions of this bill. For example, why would there be a provision inserted after Senator Hinojosa was appointed to the committee that addresses a TCEQ permit currently in litigation and if passed, I am told would put a constituent of Senator Lucio's out of business?
Why if LOTA was so impossible, would there be a provision appearing for the first time in the conference committee report that enables the El Paso County Commissioners, without a vote of the citizens, to increase vehicle registration fees by an additional $50?
If rail transit in North Texas is too much for the House to vote on, why would the conference committee report include a first-ever provision directing the route of a rail line serving Irving?
Second, I will describe for my colleagues in detail the development and content of the Rail North Texas proposal, so they can fully understand and appreciate the resolve of local leaders, businesses, and taxpayers in North Texas to have this opportunity.
Third, I will address the knee-jerk, self-professed tax watchdogs whose outcry on the local option transportation act betrays either ignorance of the session or a callous use of LOTA as a straw man to garner headlines and addresses for their mailing lists. I will do that by reminding my colleagues of the content, analysis, and fiscal impact of legislation I proposed that would end diversions and index the motor fuels tax.
Fourth, I will share with each Senator the projects in their districts that are unfunded, and that this legislation will do little to address.
Fifth, I will return to the reason LOTA is so important, the state of transportation funding today. There are many resources that detail the funding crisis, such as the 2030 Report and the Governor's Business Council report, and I look forward to disseminating that information.
Of course, Texas is not alone in these needs, and there are voluminous reports from at least two national select committees that shed light on our failing infrastructure finance systems.
I hope at that point I have not run out of time in the session because I have some other items to discuss, but I am inspired by the memory of Bill Meier, who from the desk right behind where I sit today, talked for 43 hours. Let's see how I do.
Legislators on a House-Senate conference committee trying to hash out a compromise on a bill that would reform the Texas Department of Transportation seem not to have made much progress over night on the biggest unsettled issue.
State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, chairman of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, wants to give local communities the option to vote on a slate of taxes and fees to raise money for local transportation projects.
State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, says the House won't go for that, and leaving it in could kill the 1,500-page bill.
While most of the other issues in the bill appear to have been worked out, this one seems to still be a snag, judging by this press statement that Carona sent out this morning:
"We will have no money to build new roads in less than four years. In spite of public testimony throughout the interim calling for increased funding, efforts to use traditional statewide methods (indexing/raising the gas tax, vehicle registration fees) have been stalled to a full stop. Diversion has gotten worse, not better (for example, gas taxes will now be subsidizing volunteer fire departments). We passed local mobility funding via the sales tax out of the Senate last session only to have it stopped short of a vote in the House. Yesterday, in the culmination of two years of intense negotiations, legislators of both political parties joined hundreds of citizens and community leaders on the Capitol steps to call for local option transportation funding. The answer to traffic congestion and pollution in our major metro areas comes now as a stranger to the door of the House. Within the House are 77 solid votes or more, and there is only one true way to prove it. Open the doors of the House to this legislation, and LET THE PEOPLE VOTE."
State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, gave some transportation lobbyists what-for today after he said he found out they were collecting signatures on a petition he considered misleading.
"I swore a lot, and I apologize to my mother, but I do not apologize to them. They deserved it," said Pickett, chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
Pickett and members of the House-Senate conference committee are working against the clock to agree on a final version of the 1,500-page bill that would reform the Texas Department of Transportation.
Two major sticking points remain in the negotiations.
The Senate wants a measure that would allow local communities to vote on a smorgasbord of taxes and fees to raise money for local transportation projects. The House has said no to that.
The House wants a measure that would phase out red-light cameras. The Senate doesn't like that.
Pickett said some lobbyists were asking House members to sign a petition they said he supported to give consideration to the local tax and fee option. He said the tactic was misleading.
"I got mad," he said. "This is a big deal."
He said leaving in the local tax and fee option could result in the whole bill dying in the House. There are too many important reforms in the measure to let the whole thing fail, Pickett said.
State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, chairman of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, said he was "confused" over Pickett's conduct today.
He said the Senate has compromised, lowering the fees communities could charge to raise transportation dollars. They have also agreed, he said, to keep the phase-out provision for red light cameras, although future legislation could change that.
"It just defies logic that the House would not be given the opportunity to vote on this bill," Carona said.
The House and Senate members must agree on a final version of the bill soon, or it could die.
The bill must be printed and distributed by midnight Saturday and must be voted on by midnight Sunday.
Carona said if Pickett would support the compromises the Senate has agreed to, the rest of the House would follow his lead since he is the chairman of the Transportation Committee.
"It all has come down to Joe Pickett," Carona said. "Joe is a capable leader, and I need him to step forth now when it really counts."
Gov. Rick Perry this morning signed HB4114, a bill eight years in the making that will allow a Tejano monument on the South grounds of the Texas Capitol.
"It's been a long time coming. What? Five hundred years?" he said in a short speech before signing the bill.
In 2001, the Legislature passed a resolution to establish the monument, and in 2007, lawmakers approved $1.086 million to complete the project. The non-profit Tejano Monument Corp., also raised about $600,000 in private donations.
Construction of the monument will begin after the State Preservation Board approves a site for it on the Capitol grounds.
State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, one of the bill's sponsors, said the historic Capitol grounds are the appropriate place to honor the historic role of Tejanos.
"It's not just Tejanos, it's American history," he said.