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Abortion Bill Hogs Spotlight from Other Session Priorities

Based on stories coming out of the Texas Capitol, you might think the current 30-day special legislative session is about one thing, and one thing only: abortion.

But there are actually two other subjects on the agenda for this session:

  • Transportation Funding
  • Juvenile Justice

First up, let's examine a bill that would increase transportation funding. Bill Hammond heads the Texas Association of Business. He said it’s a need made urgent by state population growth and budget woes at the Texas Department of Transportation.

“TxDOT was very clear that we needed an additional $4 billion dollars per year, $1 billion dollars for maintenance and $3 billion for new construction, just to maintain the current level of congestion," said Hammond.

Much of the demand for new construction is in the fast-growing portions of the state, says Maureen McCoy, Director of the Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

“We’re in the midst of an unprecedented growth in our region. And the transportation funding that should be accompanying that tremendous growth just has not happened," McCoy said.

McCoy said CAMPO has had to rely more and more on municipal and county governments to fund transportation needs.

“I’m exactly sure of those $4 billion how much were targeted to this central Texas region. But as I say in our existing long range plan we have about $23 billion of needs identified."

So any increase would be welcome. A bill being considered by State Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) would try to fill the funding hole by skimming about one billion dollars off of funds that usually fill up the state’s rainy day fund.

"This would get you [a quarter] of the way there. So it’s not a total fix, but it is a step in the right direction.”

And in a choice between little or nothing, transportation planners will gladly take little.

To hear Texas Tribune Managing Editor Brandi Grissom talk about a bill that would change the mandatory sentencing for juveniles convicted of capital murder, click on the audio link above.

Ben Philpott is the Managing Editor for KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @BenPhilpottKUT.
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