H.B. 563 (Pickett/Nichols) – Transportation Reinvestment Zones: amends the law relating to transportation reinvestment zones (TRZs) to provide that: (1) a TRZ may be used to facilitate the improvement, development, or redevelopment of property or to enhance a local entity's ability to sponsor a transportation project funded by pass-through tolls; (2) an ordinance designating an area as a TRZ must, among other things, designate the base year for purposes of establishing the tax increment base of the city, which is the year of passage of the ordinance or some year in the future, and contain findings that promotion of the transportation project will cultivate the improvement, development, or redevelopment of the zone; (3) from taxes collected on property in a TRZ, the city shall pay into the tax increment account the tax increment produced by the city, less any amount allocated under previous agreements; (4) all, or the portion specified by the city, of the money deposited to a tax increment account must be used to fund the transportation project for which the TRZ was designated as well as aesthetic improvements within the zone, and any remaining money deposited to the tax increment account may be used for other purposes as designated by the city; (5) the governing body of a city may contract with a public or private entity to develop, redevelop, or improve a transportation project in a TRZ and may pledge and assign all or a specified amount of money in the tax increment account to that entity; (6) to accommodate changes in the scope of the project for which a TRZ was designated, the boundaries of a zone may be amended, with certain exceptions; (7) any surplus remaining in a tax increment account on termination of a zone may be used for other purposes as determined by the municipality; (8) county TRZ authority is expanded; (9) a city or may establish a TRZ for any transportation project; (10) if all or part of the transportation project is subject to oversight by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), at the option of the governing body of the city, the department shall delegate full responsibility for the development, design, letting of bids, and construction of the project to the city; (11) after assuming responsibility for a project under (10), a city shall enter into an agreement with TxDOT that prescribes the development process, the roles and responsibilities of the parties, and the timelines for any required reviews or approvals; and (12) TxDOT may not reduce funding to a county or city that designates and uses a TRZ, nor may the department reduce funding to one if its districts because the district contains a TRZ.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

H.B. 630 (Pickett/Nichols) – Transportation: provides a procedure whereby a political subdivision that participates financially in certain Texas Department of Transportation projects may assist with, and expedite, the environmental review process.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

H.B. 1116 (Harper-Brown/Shapiro) – Radar Interference Devices: this bill:  (1) prohibits a person, other than a law enforcement officer in the discharge of his official duties, from using, attempting to use, installing, operating, or attempting to operate a “radar interference device” in a motor vehicle operated by the person; (2) prohibits a person from purchasing, selling, or offering for sale a “radar interference device” to be used in a manner described in (1), above; and (3) makes a violation of the prohibitions described in (1) and (2), above, a Class C misdemeanor.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

H.B. 1353 (Elkins/Williams) – Speed Limits: this bill: (1) provides, with some exceptions, that a speed of 70 miles per hour is lawful on non-urban numbered highways, regardless of the type of vehicle or time of day; (2) provides, with some exceptions, that a speed limit of 60 miles per hour is lawful on unnumbered non-urban highways and other roads, regardless of the time of day; (3) requires all speed limits to be the same regardless of the time of day; (4) repeals lower speed limits for trucks; (5) prohibits a city from establishing a speed limit of more than 75 miles per hour on a highway in the city; and (6) authorizes the Texas Transportation Commission to enter an order establishing prima facie speed limits of not more than 75 miles per hour applicable to all highways, including a highway under the control of a city, though the order does not have the effect of increasing the speed limit on a highway.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

H.B. 1376 (Bohac/Ellis) – Junked Vehicles: provides that the definition of “junked vehicle” in state law includes vehicles that: (1) display an expired license plate or invalid inspection sticker; or (2) do not display any license plate or inspection sticker. (Effective September 1, 2011.)

S.B. 1386 (Lucio/Oliveira) – Motor Vehicles: this bill: (1) authorizes a city to enter into a contract with the county in which the city is located or the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to provide information to the county assessor-collector so that the assessor-collector can make a determination of whether to refuse to register a motor vehicle because of an outstanding warrant for failure to appear or pay a fine for violation of a traffic law; and (2) authorizes a city that has a contract described in (1), above, to impose an additional $20 fee on a person who has an outstanding warrant from the city for failure to appear or pay a fine on a complaint that involves the violation of a traffic law and to use the fee to reimburse the DMV, the county assessor-collector, or another county department for its expenses related to services under the contract. (Effective September 1, 2011.)

H.B. 1899 (Pickett/Rodriguez) – Cell Phone Bans: this bill: (1) exempts a city from the requirement to post a sign at a school crossing zone regarding the prohibited use of a wireless communication device if: (a) the city prohibits the use of a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle throughout its jurisdiction; (b) the city posts signs at each point at which a highway enters the city stating that an operator is prohibited from using a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle in the city and that the operator is subject to a fine for a violation; and (c) posts the same message as described in (b) on any dynamic message sign operated by the city on a highway in the city; and (2) provides that the affirmative defense that the car was stopped or was a hands-free device is not available to an operator for an offense committed in a school crossing zone in a city that posts signs in compliance with (1), above. (Effective September 1, 2011.)

H.B. 2596 (Garza/Wentworth) – Speed Limits: among other things, provides that:  (1) the city council in a city of less than 2,000 in population, for a highway or part of a highway in the city that is not an officially designated or marked highway or road of the state highway system, may declare a lower speed limit of not less than 20 miles per hour, if the council determines that the prima facie speed limit on the highway is unreasonable or unsafe; and (2) the authority described in (1), above, applies to a one-lane or two-lane, undivided highway or part of a highway. (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 3510 (Hamilton/Carona) – Vehicle Towing: this bill: (1) defines an “incident management tow” to include the removal of a vehicle, cargo, and debris from an accident or incident scene; (2) defines a “parking facility” to include certain lots or areas that charge a fee for parking; (3) allows the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation (Commission) to adopt different rules for permits or licenses for tow trucks, towing operators, towing companies, booting companies, and boot operators; (4) requires the Commission to adopt requirements for a consent tow, private property tow, and incident management tow; (5) prohibits a license or permit holder from charging a fee for a nonconsent tow, or a service related to a nonconsent tow, that is greater than that established in state law or authorized by a city; (6) provides that a boot operator may boot certain unauthorized vehicles if a parking facility owner requests the boot or has a standing agreement with the boot operator; (7) requires a vehicle storage facility accepting an unauthorized vehicle that has been towed (except for an incident management tow requested by a law enforcement agency), to report the tow and certain other information to the police or sheriff, as applicable, within two hours of receiving the vehicle; (8) authorizes a law enforcement agency to request a vehicle storage facility to provide a report, in a manner prescribed by the law enforcement agency, of incident management tows within the jurisdiction of the agency and requires that the report be provided not later than 48 hours after receipt of the request; (9) requires certain signage before the towing or booting of vehicles under certain circumstances; (10) provides, in regard to hearings involving a towed vehicle, that a court may award attorney’s fees to the prevailing party; (11) provides that a failure to comply with certain permitting, licensing, and fee requirements is enforceable by law enforcement; and (12) repeals certain provisions related to the fees for private property tows, the filing of reports/schedules, and attorney’s fees. (Effective September 1, 2011.)

S.B. 86 (Nelson/S. Miller) – Traffic Fines: authorizes a city, whether general law or home-rule, to enter into a contract with the county tax assessor-collector to provide information regarding the nonpayment of traffic fines or the failure to appear in municipal court for traffic offenses, thus authorizing the assessor-collector to refuse to register or re-register the vehicle of the person in question. (Effective immediately.)

S.B. 548 (Nichols/Darby) – Transportation:  includes substantially the same provisions as H.B. 630, above. (Effective immediately.)

S.B. 1420 (Hinojosa/Harper-Brown) – Department of Transportation: this is the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) sunset bill. Among many other things, it:

  1. continues TxDOT’s existence until September 1, 2015.
  2. mandates that TxDOT submit to the legislature a complete and detailed financial audit conducted by an independent certified public accountant.     
  3. provides that, if an annual performance evaluation indicates unsatisfactory performance by an employee employed in a position at or above the level of district engineer or division or office director, the Texas Transportation Commission (commission) shall consider whether the employee should be terminated.
  4. provides that the commission shall establish a compliance program, which must include a compliance office to oversee the program that is responsible for acting to prevent and detect serious breaches of departmental policy, fraud, waste, and abuse of office.
  5. requires TxDOT to develop a standard form for submitting a complaint and make the form available on its Internet Web site and to develop a method for analyzing the sources and types of complaints and violations and establish categories for the complaints and violations.
  6. requires that the chief financial officer certify each month that any state highway construction and maintenance contracts to be awarded by the department during that month will not create state liability that exceeds the department's most recent cash flow forecast.
  7. requires TxDOT to develop a statewide transportation plan covering a period of 24 years and that is updated every four years that contains all modes of transportation.
  8. provides that the plan must contain specific, long-term transportation goals for the state and measurable targets for each goal, identify priority corridors, projects, or areas of the state that are of particular concern in meeting the plan goals, and contain a participation plan specifying methods for obtaining formal input on the plan’s goals and priorities with input from, among others, political subdivisions.
  9. provides a procedure whereby a political subdivision that participates financially in certain TxDOT projects may assist with, and expedite, the environmental review process.
  10. requires TxDOT to establish a project information reporting system that makes available in a central location on the Internet easily accessible and searchable information regarding all of TxDOT’s transportation plans.
  11. requires TxDOT to develop a process to identify and distinguish between the transportation projects that are required to maintain the state infrastructure and the transportation projects that would improve the state infrastructure in a manner consistent with the statewide transportation plan.
  12. requires TxDOT to develop and implement a policy for public involvement that guides and encourages public involvement with TxDOT.
  13. requires TxDOT to develop a unified transportation program covering a period of 10 years and updated each year to guide the development of and authorize construction of transportation projects.
  14. provides that the commission shall develop criteria for major transportation projects, program priority categories, and funding allocation and distribution.
  15. provides that all or the portion specified by the city of the money deposited to a tax increment account established in a transportation reinvestment zone must be used to fund the transportation project for which the zone was designated, as well as aesthetic improvements within the zone, and provide that any remaining money deposited to the tax increment account may be used for other purposes as determined by the city.  
  16. provides that a city may issue bonds to pay all or part of the cost of the transportation project and may pledge and assign all or a specified amount of money in a transportation reinvestment zone’s tax increment account to secure repayment of those bonds.
  17. lists numerous projects that may be constructed using a comprehensive development agreement, and places various limitations on those agreements.
  18. allows TxDOT or a toll road authority may use the design-build method for the design, construction, expansion, extension, related capital maintenance, rehabilitation, alteration, or repair of a highway project.
  19. provides that any fines or fees received under the Texas Highway Beautification Act go to the state highway fund, as opposed to the state highway beautification account.
  20. creates additional administrative procedures, fees, and civil penalties relating to outdoor advertising that is subject to state law.
  21. provides that the combined license and permit fees may not exceed $10 for an off-premise sign erected and maintained by a nonprofit organization in a city or a city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction if the sign relates to or promotes only the city or a political subdivision whose jurisdiction is wholly or partly concurrent with the city.
  22. requires TxDOT, in cooperation with local governments, to actively manage a system of changeable message signs located on highways under the jurisdiction of TxDOT to mitigate traffic congestion by providing current information to the traveling public, including information about traffic incidents, weather conditions, road construction, and alternative routes when applicable.

(Except as otherwise provided in the bill, effective September 1, 2011.)

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