After a successful Cyclists in Suits Bike Lobby Day on Monday, March 25, BikeTexas legislative staff members look to take the next steps on the two primary bills on the BikeTexas agenda, Complete Streets (HB 1102 / SB 565) and Safe Passing (HB 2225 / SB 1515). Each bill has been referred to the appropriate committee: House Transportation Committee and the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committees. We await committee hearing dates on each bill.
The Safe Passing Bill was filed on March 8, 2013. Senator Rodney Ellis filed the Senate version of the bill. The House bill is authored by Ruth Jones McClendon (D-San Antonio); Armando Martinez (D-Weslaco); Linda Harper-Brown (R-Irving); and Jim Keffer (R-Eastland).
We last pursued a Safe Passing Bill in the 2009 session, but that bill was vetoed by the governor despite strong bipartisan support. The 2013 bill uses much of the same language as the 2009 bill and the thirteen local ordinances in cities across Texas, but we have taken measures to address the Governor’s concern about “creating a new class of road users.” BikeTexas believes changing the language from “Vulnerable Road Users” to unprotected road users (uncapitalized and without quotes) will help the Governor view the bill as an appropriate and necessary addition to the traffic safety culture in Texas.
BikeTexas staff has developed information sheets focused on the economic value and safety impact of the Complete Streets law. Staff has visited with all offices of legislative members on the transportation committees. Support is promising but not complete at this point. If your representative or senator is on the transportation committee, please be watching for an Action Alert in your inbox soon. We will need your help to get Complete Streets over this hurdle and on to the next step in the process.
Working on legislation is always an uphill battle and 2013 is no different. BikeTexas staff faces real challenges, some familiar and some new. In spite of this, there are a number of possible avenues to success. Here are some of the things in favor of bicyclists and pedestrians in the legislature:
- With time and experience, BikeTexas is presenting bills in ways to help Texas legislators feel comfortable with a “yes” vote. We have better developed the economic argument for Complete Streets. We have linked bicyclists and pedestrian safety to overall roadway safety for Safe Passing.
- We constantly receive compliments and thanks from the offices for making our information sheets about the issues easy to understand. These handouts have the key points that the legislator needs to know in a concise format. Cyclists in Suits participants combined these materials with positive attitudes and enthusiasm to execute a truly stellar one-day canvass of all 181 legislative offices.
- After many sessions, many legislators and staff know us and what we’re about. We have worked hard to respect the environment in which they must perform, and we strive to make them feel comfortable with trusting us about bike/ped issues.
However, the challenges are not small:
- We must continually mold our message to educate officials. The legislators and staff have many issues calling for their attention, so we have to make them see the importance of our issues in short periods of time.
- The legislature is shifting. Many new members are not immediately receptive to our message and we must build a relationship with them just as we’ve done with other legislators. This relationship building is crucial, but takes time.
- From a practical standpoint, we need to know that “yes” votes are lined up before asking the our legislative allies to use valuable political capital to get a committee hearing for bills like Complete Streets and Safe Passing.
The bill authors have requested committee hearings on Complete Streets and Safe Passing. BikeTexas is optimistic about the prospects these bills. Thank you for supporting BikeTexas as we strive to make Texas a great place to walk and bike.