FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 3, 2001
AUSTIN, TX--Today the Texas Senate passed an historic bill, Senate Bill 249, by State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, that will increase the Texas Transportation Commission from three to five members.
"During our Senate Border Affairs interim hearings, we heard testimony from many individuals that strongly demonstrated the need for a five-member commission to address the severe under-representation of many areas of the state on transportation needs," explained Sen. Lucio. "Additional demands for increased representation are being placed on the commissioners due to the state's population increase of three million people."
"Requiring additional members to the Transportation Commission helps to ensure that areas of the state which lacked representation will now have their needs better represented. It is a victory for all who depend on highways in South Texas," added Dean of the Senate Carlos Truan, D-Corpus Christi.
Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, said, "Texas needs a larger commission. We are in a new era of transportation and we need a more diverse board."
Sen. Lucio also said it is necessary to increase the membership of a commission entrusted with handling a $10 billion budget bi-annually. Another concern addressed by the legislation is the inability of two members of the commission to both testify at a single legislative committee hearing without violating the public notice rules because together they constitute a quorum.
"As the transportation needs of our state grow, an expanded Transportation Commission will allow it to look more like the citizens of our state. Senate Bill 249 is a step in the right direction for Texas," stated state Sen. Mario Gallegos Jr., D-Houston.
An amendment added to the bill requires the Commission to have two rural members.
Additionally, the legislation allows the governor to periodically designate one member of the commission as the Commissioner of Transportation, who shall serve as presiding officer. The governor must make the additional appointments promptly after the bill becomes effective September 1, 2001.
"This legislation also concurs with State Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander's findings that show that the commission needs to be expanded," stated Sen. Lucio.
The changes in this law would not affect the current members of the commission, who would be able to continue serving their terms.
"With the tremendous demands that NAFTA is placing on all our roads, we can no longer continue to assess the needs of every region of Texas with three Transportation Commissioners," added Sen. Lucio.
The bill will now go to the House for consideration.
Note: Staff member assigned to this bill is Mr. Daniel Esparza, legislative and Subcommittee on Border Affairs director.