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Abortion Debate Pushes Other Bills Into the Shadows

On the latest Agenda Texas, from KUT News and the Tribune: The abortion fight at the state Capitol this summer has overshadowed two other issues — transportation and criminal sentencing — lawmakers have also been asked to address.

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Based on stories coming out of the Texas Capitol, you might think the current 30-day special legislative session is about one thing and one thing only: abortion.

But there were actually two other subjects on the agenda for this session, including a bill to increase transportation funding. Bill Hammond, who heads the Texas Association of Business, said it’s a need made urgent by state population growth and the Texas Department of Transportation’s own budget woes.

“TxDOT was very clear that we needed an additional $4 billion per year — $1 billion for maintenance and $3 billion for new construction — just to maintain the current level of congestion," Hammond said.

That money is certainly needed in fast-growing regions of the state. 

“We’re in the midst of an unprecedented growth in our region," said Maureen McCoy, director of the Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. "And the transportation funding that should be accompanying that tremendous growth just has not happened."

McCoy said CAMPO has had to rely more on municipal and county governments to fund transportation needs.

“I’m not exactly sure, of those $4 billion, how much were targeted to this Central Texas region," she said. "But as I say in our existing long-range plan, we have about $23 billion of needs identified."

So any increase would be welcome. A bill being considered by state Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, would try to fill the funding hole by skimming about $1 billion off funds that usually fill up the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

"This would get you one-fourth of the way there," Nichols said. "So it’s not a total fix, but it is a step in the right direction.”

And when it’s little or nothing, transportation planners will gladly take little.

Listen to the audio above to hear the Tribune's managing editor, Brandi Grissom, discuss a bill that would change mandatory sentencing guidelines for juveniles convicted of capital murder.

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State government Transportation Texas Department Of Transportation Texas Legislature