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Statement by Melissa Cubria, Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG), on the move by Representative Larry Phillips (R-Sherman), Chairman of the House Transportation committee, and other members of the Texas House of Representatives to cut off debate on controversial legislation:
“Chairman Phillips and other lawmakers have asked to limit floor amendments to HB 12, the controversial sanctuary city legislation that passed the Texas House of Representatives today, despite having added more amendments to the TxDOT Sunset bill than any other member in the Legislature. Chairman Phillips has made a mockery of the Sunset process and has abused his power to sneak through controversial and radical policy. He amended the bill so many times that some additions were hastily hand-written on the floor of the House. Today, as House members were attempting to debate and amend HB 12, Chairman Phillips was trying to silence them.
“Chairman Phillips helped add amendments to the TxDOT Sunset bill that would expand TxDOT, increase debt, grow the state’s transportation budget, and advance approximately 20 controversial private toll road projects across the state. His request to limit amendments on any bill is hypocritical and should not be taken seriously by any member of the House or Senate.
“Many of the amendments Chairman Phillips attached to the TxDOT Sunset bill were hardly germane and will be viewed as scandalous in hindsight. Not a single amendment offered by Chairman Phillips includes any meaningful safeguards to protect the taxpayers of Texas from the serious downsides of past privatized road deals. Furthermore, none of the private toll road amendments offered by Chairman Phillips protect against private toll road companies seizing ordinary Texans’ land for economic development purposes nor does the eminent domain "reform" bill both chambers passed.
“Chairman Phillips portrayed his TxDOT amendments up as uncontroversial local options for districts and counties facing transportation shortfalls and stagnant revenues, yet they are precisely the mechanisms that have stirred great controversy and outrage as a means to create the private toll road deals that were subject to an earlier moratorium. All Texans will end up paying for the taxpayer-backed schemes that would be authorized by these amendments.
“Chairman Phillips has misrepresented these private toll road deals to citizens from the beginning and as a result of his amendments, the taxpayers of Texas will be saddled with billions of dollars of debt, which they will pay off through rising tolls for half a century and which is not collected for public use or future reinvestment into the state’s infrastructure needs.
“Lawmakers must strip out the floor amendments added to the TxDOT Sunset bill by Chairman Phillips and other members of the House. Lawmakers must also end the unprecedented practices displayed during the debate over sanctuary city legislation and other controversial bills, which limit debate, decrease transparency and disregard rules established to protect the public and ensure that the legislative process is as open and transparent as possible.
“If lawmakers continue this assault on the democratic process, there will be severe public backlash.”
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