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House reviews Texas Dept. of Transportation

House reviews Texas Dept. of Transportation
Friday, April 29, 2011 - 5:14pm

AUSTIN, Texas — The House renewed the Texas Department of Transportation on Friday, in what the bill's author said was an attempt to improve transparency and efficiency at one of state's largest agencies.

The legislation, known as a sunset bill, reviews the state agency every four years. The department was supposed to be reviewed two years ago, but lawmakers put it off until this year.

If it becomes law, the bill would allow the agency to appoint an inspector general and prohibits commissioners from accepting campaign contributions to run for public office. The proposed law would also create stronger rules against the agency attempting to lobby for legislation. The bill passed on a voice vote, and will move onto the senate once it passes an additional procedural vote.

Debate on Friday focused on who should lead the agency and potential new toll roads.

Democratic state Rep. Ruth McClendon, D-San Antonio, pushed to abolish the five-member appointed commission and replace it with a single elected commissioner. The measure failed to pass.

One amendment that passed would change how commissioners are appointed. Instead of all five being appointed by the governor, one would be recommended by the Speaker of the House, and one appointed by the lieutenant governor.

Most issues centered on where and how the agency's money would be spent. Several others gave local transportation authorities greater say in planning or guaranteed that money allocated for a local project remained in that community.

State Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, proposed allowing cities to enter into comprehensive development agreements to ease traffic jams in the Houston, Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Rio Grande Valley and South Padre Island areas. These agreements allow for public-private partnerships to build toll roads

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