INTERIM REPORT STRAGGLERS

House Committee on Elections

The House Committee on Elections recently released its interim report, in which it considered four interim charges.  The report’s city-related recommendations are as follows:

  • Require election officers to transmit ballots to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before every federal, state, and local election - including primaries, runoffs, and special and general elections.
  • Provide for e-mail delivery of blank ballots to all military and overseas voters upon request.
  • Allow the federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) to be accepted for federal, state, and local elections in Texas. While Texas has its own write-in absentee ballot, allowing voters to use the FWAB for all elections would simplify, standardize, and streamline the voting process for Texans abroad.
  • Follow the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act’s lead and expand its protections to cover all military and overseas voters. In particular, Texas military members stationed outside of their county of residence, who remain in the United States, still often face challenges in obtaining, casting, and returning a ballot in time to be counted.
  • The committee found that there is a need for statutory changes to the Election Code to expand the number of counties eligible for the countywide polling place program, and to allow counties that have a mixed system of electronic voting machines (e.g., DRE and Optical Scan) to participate.
  • The committee recommended adoption of legislation requiring voters to show photo identification in order to cast a ballot at the polls. The committee recommended that free identification cards be issued by either the Department of Public Safety or the local voter registrar’s office if the voter is registered in this state, does not already have a driver’s license, and is receiving the identification card with the express intent to vote. The committee also found it important that such legislation provide for the education of voters on any changes enacted and that the Secretary of State and counties coordinate their efforts to inform the state’s electorate.

The full text of the report is available online at
http://www.house.state.tx.us/_media/pdf/committees/reports/81interim/House-Committee-on-Elections-Interim-Report-2010.pdf

Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security

The Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security recently released its interim report, in which it considered several interim charges.  The report’s city-related recommendations are as follows:

  • The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has been given the task of delivering a modern transportation system that will meet the demands of a rapidly growing population. The agency must work with many other entities to be able to accomplish this and has worked hard to team with its transportation partners. However, TxDOT faces a lack of public confidence. The recommendations of the Sunset Commission and the TxDOT Restructuring Council suggest that significant changes need to be made at the agency in order for TxDOT to be successful. The changes made in the upcoming months, and even years, need to be closely monitored.
  • Due to the current economic climate in the State of Texas, the committee will make no recommendations at this time that would impose mandates on local jurisdictions. The legislature should continue to work with the Texas Division of Emergency Management and local jurisdictions to ensure that the needs of the state are addressed and that our citizens are provided with appropriate resources and aid.
  • The Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security recommends that the TxDOT and Regional Mobility Authorities (RMAs) have limited, project-specific, public-private partnership authority for specific transportation projects. That authority should be granted to TxDOT and RMAs through individual pieces of legislation that identify specific projects. The project-specific bills should be authored by legislators whose districts are in close proximity to the recommended projects and, ideally, these bills should have the support of the local legislative delegation.
  • Additional funding tools for the enhancement of transportation infrastructure in Texas should continue to be explored, including both Transportation Reinvestment Zones and Transportation Finance Zones. Flexibility in financing road projects and mechanisms that leverage local support will continue to be vital in road planning and construction.
  • During this session, the legislature must fund – at a minimum – the debt service for at least $1 billion of the remaining $3 billion in unissued Proposition 12 bonds in order to complete already-started construction projects. Ideally, the legislature should fund the debt service on all $3 billion of unissued Proposition 12 bonds.

    Ultimately, Texas transportation challenges cannot be solved by borrowing money. The legislature should develop a sound, dedicated revenue stream for mobility projects. This new revenue stream should incorporate both a local component and a state component. The state component should sit atop the existing highway funding framework to ensure there are no diversions, while the local component should resemble a school bond issue in which citizens authorize a local funding stream for a specific set of transportation projects.

  • The Texas Department of Transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, metropolitan transit authorities, and private entities should all pursue alternative congestion relief strategies. However, some challenges still remain. The legislature should continue to monitor the implementation of alternative congestion relief strategies, and further explore means to mitigate congestion on the 100 most congested roadways in Texas.

The full text of the report is available online at
http://www.senate.state.tx.us/75r/Senate/commit/c640/c640.InterimReport81.pdf.


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