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Jewett, Texas – Two bills requiring additional security and precluding state funds for private high-speed rail are heading to the desk of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who is expected to sign the bills in keeping with his fiscal conservatism and to set a higher standard for HSR safety and security. Authored by Senator Brian Birdwell and House companion bill authored by Representative Leighton Schubert, SB 975 (HB 2169) sailed through the Senate and House as it relates to requiring high-speed rail providers to have increased security above and beyond what the current promoter of the Dallas Houston HSR has in its plans. SB 977 (HB2172), Senator Charles Schwertner (et al) and Representative Trent Ashby (et al) faced only slight opposition from Dallas and Houston area Democrats but ultimately made its way to passage when the vastly conservative Legislature supported precluding state funds from being spent on private high-speed rail projects.
It is important to note that both SB 975 and SB 977 were opposed by Texas Central company officials in public hearings in the Senate Transportation Committee. Their position on SB 977 was especially ironic since company officials have been publicly stating for the last several years that no state funds would be needed for their private project. However, once company officials and their twenty-plus lobbyists realized the majority of legislators supported these common-sense bills, company officials changed their position(s) during subsequent committee hearings. Texas Central’s official position was neutral on HB 2172, yet still opposed the companion to SB 975 (HB 2169). And on the day before the floor vote in the House for both bills, in keeping with the status quo of saying one thing then changing it later, the company disseminated information capitulating their opposition to avoid the perception of a devastating loss under the dome.
Kyle Workman, President of Texans Against High-Speed Rail: “We are a humble group of landowners who are standing up to protect our land, our neighbors and our state. We are thankful that the entire Texas Legislature shares our concern about the negative effects the Dallas Houston HSR could have on our state. These bills don’t discriminate and don’t hinder their opportunity to move this project along as a free-market, private venture. And while we highly doubt they can construct this project without proof of eminent domain or state funds, should they proceed, tax dollars, landowners and communities will be much better protected from this Japanese-funded boondoggle.”
Representative Leighton Schubert, HB 2169 author: “We live in a time when we must be practical and realistic about threats to our society, particularly threats to public transportation. This is a common-sense measure that requires that any future high-speed rail operation, if built, ensures the safety of passengers and employees, as well as the communities in and around the rail routes.”
Senator Brian Birdwell, SB 975 author: “While I maintain my steadfast opposition to the Dallas-to-Houston high-speed rail project―both for the landowners who will be harmed by it in the short term and for the Texas taxpayers who will likely be asked to subsidize it in the long term―I am proud of the legislature for passing my SB 975 to ensure the public safety and security of all those on and around any future high-speed rail line in Texas.”
Senator Charles Schwertner, SB 977 author: “Despite their insistence that this high-speed rail will be built entirely with private funding, Texas Central nonetheless fought efforts to hold them to that promise at every turn. By prohibiting the state from spending public funds on a private high-speed rail project, SB 977 will finally require Texas Central to put their money where their mouth is and guarantee that state taxpayers are never asked to subsidize, bail out, or otherwise financially support this ill-conceived high-speed rail project.”
Representative Trent Ashby, HB 2172 author: “While I hope this boondoggle never materializes, I felt it was important to go ahead and codify that no state dollars will be appropriated for the construction and operation of this proposed high-speed rail project. The passage of Senate Bill 977 will bind this private company to their claim that they do not need state funding for this project.”