AUSTIN - On May 18 Gov. Rick Perry vetoed HB 1892, legislation that would have preserved local control over toll road projects in the North Texas and Houston regions and placed a two-year moratorium on the governor’s massive new toll road plan.

Perry wants a bill that will centralize control through the Texas Department of Transportation. TxDOT would execute his Trans Texas Corridor plan, a statewide matrix of toll road projects to be built and run by Zachry, a San Antonio-based firm, and Cintra, a Spanish company.

In his explanation of the veto, Perry said HB 1892 “jeopardizes billions of dollars of infrastructure investment and invites a potentially significant reduction in federal transportation funding.

“Projects important to fast-growth communities would be placed on hold without alternative financing mechanisms to get them constructed. Even more egregiously, the bill serves to break up the state highway system by permitting local control over state assets,”

Perry said.

Perry’s hopes are now pinned to SB 792, a bill similar to HB 1892 but amended to address highway infrastructure issues in a manner more acceptable to him. The House passed SB 792 with amendments. The Senate did not concur with the House amendments, so the bill will be considered by a conference committee.

The governor has threatened to call a special session if the final version of the bill doesn’t suit him.

Little time left to

deal with bills

Countdown to the May 28 end of the 80th regular session of the Texas Legislature is in single digits.

Various deadlines governing the fate of bills come almost daily.

There is competition to get bills placed on House and Senate floor calendars before it’s too late.

Keffer files to

run for speaker

Beyond the bubbling vat of bills is a race for speakership of the House. Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, on May 15 announced his intention to challenge standing Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, for that high office. Keffer suggested three terms are enough for anyone to be speaker. Craddick is completing his third term.

But Craddick, 63, made it plain he wants a fourth term, putting to rest any speculation that he feels like he has had enough time on the rollercoaster. His wife approves. “I have talked to Nadine and I fully intend to run for speaker. The paperwork was already filed last February,” Craddick said.

The announcement by Keffer means a long campaign to wage until the 2009 session. And, it is likely Keffer won’t be the only House member challenging Craddick. Names that come easily to mind are Reps. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, and Brian McCall, R-Plano.

Pitts and McCall already attempted to unseat Craddick at the beginning of the present session. They could try again.

Jessica’s Law heads

to governor

The House and Senate agreed to compromise language on HB 8, “Jessica’s Law” legislation enacting new charges and tougher penalties for sexually violent acts against children younger than 14.

The bill, by Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Houston, will make sexually violent offenders subject to penalties ranging from a 25-year minimum sentence on a first offense to the death penalty for repeat offenses.

Certain offenders also would be denied parole and subjected to GPS monitoring should they ever be released from prison, the author said.

And, HB 8 directs the Texas attorney general’s office to support local prosecutors in pedophile cases.

Gov. Perry is expected to sign the bill, which is written to take effect Sept. 1.

In a related matter, Perry already has signed another piece of legislation that requires the Department of Public Safety to collect detailed information on sexual assaults that occur in Texas.

HB 76 by Rep. Eliott Naishtat, D-Austin, and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, addresses a lack in statewide statistics on sexual assault.

Under their bill, what will be collected is information about the offender, the offender’s relationship to the victim, any weapons used and any injuries sustained by the victim.