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Texas Lawmakers Voting On New Road Funding

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jack Fink
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Texas Leaders Consider Freeing More Prisoners
AUSTIN (AP) - Texas lawmakers are discussing whether releasing nonviolent convicts is a money-saving way to help deal with a projected $15 billion state budget shortfall. Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire of Houston says the state does not have the resources to continue business as usual in Texas. Whitmire said Tuesday that "everything is on the table for discussion this year." The Austin American-Statesman reports lawmakers are considering whether nonviolent foreign citizens who are up for parole and old, ill convicts might be considered for early released. Police, prosecutors and crime victims groups are urging caution in paroling any more convicts. House Corrections Committee chairman Jerry Madden of Richardson says whatever lawmakers decide, it should not compromise public safety. A 2009 legislative study urged that additional medical paroles be considered. (© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

HURST (CBSDFW.COM) - The clock is ticking and Texas lawmakers are facing a deadline of midnight Tuesday night to approve new highway funding or face a third special session.

When it comes to their morning commute on State Highway 121-183 through Hurst, Angie Bynum and Mark LaChapelle have a lot in common.

“It’s around 8 a.m. – it’s like a parking lot. It doesn’t move,” said Bynum, a North Richland Hills resident.

LaChapelle, who lives in Fort Worth said even though he doesn’t commute to Plano everyday, “it’s a beating.”

“It’s going to be a great ride,” said LaChapelle once construction is completed.

Bynum said she is holding out hope the roadwork will soon wrap up.

In Austin, state lawmakers agree, Texas needs to spend more to expand and maintain highways.

The problem is, there are big differences on how to pay for them — and right now, time is running out on the second special session to bridge those differences, and pass a Constitutional amendment that would have the state spend an extra $840 million each year on roads and infrastructure.

The dispute centers on whether to use a portion of the rainy day fund to pay for it.

On Monday, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives failed to receive the 100 required votes or two-thirds majority, needed to approve the measure.

If lawmakers do pass legislation, voters would still have to give their ok in November, 2014.

Gov. Perry, who favors spending rainy day funds issued a statement saying,

“…Should the Legislature adjourn without addressing our growing transportation needs, they’ll be abdicating one of the most essential roles of state government, potentially sapping our economic momentum. Legislators have been in Austin for nearly seven months now, and to go home without dealing with one of the most pressing issues facing all Texans is simply unacceptable…”

House Speaker Joe Straus, Republican of San Antonio issued his own statement saying, “Diverting a capped amount of money from the Rainy Day fund to repair roads is much like using a Band-Aid to cover a pothole; in the end, you still have a pothole and you’ve spent a lot of money without solving the fundamental problem. Legislators know that Texas needs a much more comprehensive approach to funding our growing state’s growing transportation needs, and another 30-day special session will not change that…”

As in Austin, back at home in North Texas, both Bynum and LaChapelle are also split on using a portion of rainy day funds for spending more on transportation.

“We need it, I think it’s great,” according to Bynum. But LaChapelle on the other hand said he thinks rainy day funds need to be kept for specials; not spend it on roads.

For now there’s still no word on whether or not the Texas House will approve funding Tuesday, but the State Senate is expected to do so.

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