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Texas Special Session Begins

By Ben Phillpott, KUT News

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/kera/local-kera-846897.mp3

Austin, TX –

The Texas Legislature is off and running in a special session to tie up a couple of loose ends. Just hours after the session began - the Senate passed one of the three bills on the agenda. The bill which would reauthorize the Texas Department of Transportation and a handful of other state agencies now heads to the House. But as KUT's Ben Philpott reports - another bill has already hit a rocky road.

The bill in question would reauthorize agreements to let private companies build roads. Roads that would most likely include at least some toll lanes not exactly a popular idea at the capitol right now. Waco Democrat Jim Dunnam expressed that negative sentiment at today's House Transportation Committee Hearing.

Dunnam: "Why in the state of Texas did we call the Legislature back for the sole purpose of enabling private toll roads. What do I tell my constituents when they say -- why is that so important?"

There are a few road projects that need the agreement reauthorization to move forward. Including the expansion of I-35 North from Dallas to Denton to include managed lanes and possible tolls. Nobody's saying there aren't congestion problems in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. But after only a few hours into the special session - the House and Senate bills needed to extend those private agreements were already stalled in committee.

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst: "There are some members who questions whether or not we need to right now extend the CDA's. There are some members in the House and on the Senate side that want to come back in in the 2011 session and address ALL these issues."

Lawmakers still have plenty of time in this 30 day session to sort all this out. But most are working as if the Legislature will head home this weekend whether or not the private agreements bill comes up for a vote.