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Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, has vetoed a series of bills passed by the Texas Legislature, clearing the way for the Texas Department of Transportation to begin construction on the four-football-fields-wide new Trans-Texas Corridor along Interstate 35 (TTC-35) from the Mexican border at Laredo north to the Oklahoma border south of Oklahoma City.
On Friday, June 15, Perry vetoed an eminent-domain reform bill passed by the Legislature. Provisions in the bill would have made prohibitively expensive the acquisition of the thousands of acres of private land needed to construct the Trans-Texas corridor.
In vetoing the bill, Perry’s office issued a press release claiming House Bill No. 2006 “would vastly expand the cost to Texas taxpayers of public projects to the point where they grossly outweigh the bill’s benefits.”
Steven Anderson, director of the Institute for Justice’s Castle Coalition, objected.
“With this veto, Governor Perry has left every home, farm, ranch and small-business owner vulnerable to the abuse of eminent domain,” Anderson said in a press release.
Anderson’s organization is a national grass-roots advocacy group that works to block private-to-private transfers of property using eminent domain.
A month earlier, on May 18, Perry vetoed House Bill No. 1892, a measure that would have imposed a two-year moratorium on beginning construction on the Trans-Texas Corridor parallel to Interstate 35.
In that veto message, Perry claimed the bill “jeopardizes billions of dollars of infrastructure investment and invites a potentially significant reduction in federal transportation funding.”
As WND previously reported, these measures were approved overwhelmingly by the Texas Legislature, with HB 1892 passing the Texas House by a 137-2 margin. HB 2006 passed with 125 of the 150 votes in the House and unanimously in the Senate.
When HB 2006 cleared the Texas Legislature, the Federal Highway Administration Chief Counsel James D. Ray wrote a letter to the Texas Department of Transportation, or TxDOT, threatening to hold federal highway funds from the state if Perry signed the bill into law.
On learning that Perry had vetoed the eminent-domain legislation, Corridor Watch, a public advocacy group that opposes the TTC project, responded immediately.
Corridor Watch posted on its website: “It sure didn’t take TxDOT long to shake off the legislative session and resume their headlong rush to use every available loophole, exception and remaining authority to build toll roads and grant toll road concessions just as fast as possible.”
Corridor Watch also noted that in the 49 bills Perry vetoed June 15 were measures that would have required TxDOT to consider using existing highway routes for future TTC routes and a bill that called on the Texas attorney general to study the impact of international agreements on Texas.
To ward off the possibility the Texas Legislature would fight back, Perry threatened to call a “Special Session” to resolve transportation issues should members vote to override his veto on HB 1892, the moratorium issue.
The 80th Texas Legislature wrapped up its 140-day session May 29, immediately after Memorial Day.
Now, sponsors would have to reintroduce these bills in the next legislative session and start all over again. The Texas Legislature only meets every other year, unless the governor calls a special session for a specific agenda.
According to Bloomberg.com, the last time the Texas Legislature overrode a governor’s veto was more than a quarter of a century ago, in 1979.
As WND has previously reported, the $180 billion needed to build the 4,000-mile TTC network planned for construction over the next 50 years will be financed by Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A., a foreign investment consortium based in Spain. Cintra will own the leasing and operating rights on TTC highways for 50 years after their completion is complete.
WND has also reported Perry has received substantial campaign contributions from Cintra and Zachry Construction Company, the San Antonio-based construction firm selected by TxDOT to build out the TTC.
Even though TTC superhighways will be built by a private investment consortium from Spain, Texas conveniently can make use of the recent Supreme Court case Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005).
In this case, the Supreme Court decided that eminent domain could be used to seize private property from U.S. citizens even though the purpose of the land seizure was to benefit a private corporation. The Supreme Court case said nothing that would imply the private corporation involved would have to be a U.S. firm.
In a question-answer format on the TTC website, a “myth vs. reality” answer explains how TxDOT plans to use what is known in Texas as “quick-take” eminent domain authority.
The site explains that a Texas state law (passed as HB 3588) allows a quick-take seizure of private property “if TxDOT and the property owner cannot reach an agreement” on just compensation for the land involved.
Under this law, TxDOT can seize a property on the 91st day after the landowner is served with an official notice of quick-take, regardless how vociferously the landowner protests.
WND has reported TxDOT is moving moving to apply its four-football-fields-wide NAFTA superhighway plan of building new train-truck-car-pipeline corridors to the states of Oklahoma and Colorado in a design that stretches from the Mexican border at Laredo, Texas, to Denver, Colo.
WND has also documented that NASCO (North America’s SuperCorridor Coalition, Inc.), a Dallas-based trade association supporting the development of Interstate Highways 35, 29 and 94 as international trade corridors, has the state of Oklahoma, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and TxDOT as members.
The Federal Highway Administration has designated the Ports-to-Plains Corridor as a “High Priority Corridor” on the National Highway System.
WND repeatedly has reported the Federal Highway Administration is promoting public-private partnership projects to bring private capital to expanding superhighway projects, consistent with extending the TTC network north into Oklahoma and Colorado.
The Federal Highway Administration has constructed a section of its government website dedicated to explaining to the states and the highway construction industry how laws and investment banking structures with foreign capital investors can be designed to work along the public-private partnership model.
WND has documented that a major purpose of the TTC projects is to connect U.S. roads with Mexican ports on the Pacific, such as Lazaro Cardenas.
Mexican ports are being increasingly used as an alternative to West Coast ports such as Los Angeles and Long Beach as a cheaper, non-union alternative for the import of millions of containers from China.
WND has reported the Department of Transportation plans to start a Mexican truck demonstration project as early as Aug. 15, despite continuing objections from Congress.