Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Are the parks bills on the move or not?

There is little doubt that HB 6, with its 126 co-authors, will pass with flying colors. Its companion, SB 252, has 23 authors in the Senate, though it still hasn't received a public hearing.

HB 6 was voted out of committee March 14 in one of those 5 minute meetings during reading and referral of bills, making an observer such as myself think that it was on its way to the floor. However, it's still in Calendars, and there's no indication that it'll be send to the floor any time soon.

I say this not for the simple reason that it's still in Calendars but because of the controversy caused by HB 7 and HB 12. HB 7 would transfer 21 park sites to the Texas Historical Commission, and HB 12 is an omnibus parks bill, combining HB 6 and HB 7.

HB 6 would take 74% of the largest generator of GR, the sporting goods tax, and place it in the State Parks Account, and the rest would be split between smaller parks accounts. State lawmakers have wanted to fix state parks for several years now, and they believe that they've found a good solution.

The problem (HB 7) is that once other state agencies heard the commotion over how much money the sporting goods tax was bringing in, they wanted a slice of the pie. The Historical Commission has asked to operate 21 (actually, now they've recognized 25 sites they say are prime for switching over) sites, complete with their prospective new funding. The General Land Office has also piled on, asking for sporting goods tax money for beach, ahem coastal erosion, projects via HB 2487.

Rep. Hilderbran authored HB 6 since it went through his committee -- Culture, Recreation, and Tourism committee -- and once said that he'd drop his support for 6 in exchange for HB 12, but now the debate's changing since the wide support for the Historical Commission switch is starting to dwindle. Until then, the parks bills may not move.



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