DALLAS – Governor Greg Abbott signed major transportation legislation, House Bill 20, into law on Tuesday, June 2, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. HB 20, introduced by State Representative Ron Simmons, Chairman for the House Transportation Subcommittee on Long-term Infrastructure Planning, enhances the accountability, objectivity, and transparency of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
"House Bill 20 is about oversight, transparency, and accountability," Simmons said. "As legislators, we have a fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of this great state to ensure tax payer dollars are spent appropriately."
HB 20 is a bipartisan bill requiring TxDOT to develop a performance-based planning and programming process that would allow the legislature to assess how well TxDOT is achieving stated goals. HB 20 also requires the Transportation Commission to establish a scoring system to prioritize projects seeking state funding. The bill establishes temporary House and Senate select committees to provide oversight as the provisions of the bill are implemented.
"I filed HB 20 to provide a framework to ensure transportation dollars are administered in an objective, transparent manner with accountability for every dollar spent," Simmons said earlier in the session while laying the bill out on the House floor. "Our intention is not to provide TxDOT with a $5 billion blank check."
Currently, deciding how and which transportation projects to build in Texas falls under the purview of the five members of the Texas Transportation Commission. These commission members, appointed by the Governor, work with input from 25 metropolitan planning organizations, such as Regional Mobility Authorities and Metropolitan Planning Organizations. Interested parties have raised concerns that the current structure has led to the undue influence of politicians more focused on special projects related to their regions rather than the needs of Texas as a whole. HB 20 addresses this by requiring the Transportation Commission to implement an objective and transparent system to score projects seeking state funding.
Earlier in the 84th Legislative Session, Governor Abbott named transportation funding one of his five emergency items in addition to early education, higher education research, border security, and ethics reforms. TxDOT has publicly articulated the need for an additional $5 billion per year for highway investments in order to maintain 2010 road condition and congestion levels since the 2013 Legislative Session. The 84th Legislature addressed the state's transportation funding shortfall with the passage of Senate Joint Resolution 5, which proposes a constitutional amendment dedicating a portion of general sales tax revenue to the State Highway Fund.
"I appreciate Governor Abbott’s leadership in making transportation funding a priority this session," Simmons said. "House Bill 20 ensures there is necessary oversight and transparency regarding the use of the new funds provided for transportation. This bill would not have been possible without the hard work of the House Transportation Committee, led by Representative Joe Pickett, and my colleagues in both the House and Senate."
HB 20 was voted out of the House on May 1, 2015 with almost unanimous support and passed the Senate on May 27, 2015. The House concurred with the Senate amendments on May 29, 2015. HB 20 was signed into law by Governor Abbott on June 2, 2015.
In addition to being the primary author of HB 20, Simmons is a member of the House Transportation Committee, and Chairman of the Transportation Subcommittee on Long-term Infrastructure Planning.
Chairman Simmons is available to comment on HB 20. If you would like to reach out to Chairman Simmons for an interview or op-ed, please contact his Chief of Staff, Ben Lancaster (contact information above).
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