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"Hold Harmless" Approved by House Transportation Committee
by Jim Guidry
Tuesday, May 24, 2011

House Bill 578, the "Hold Harmless" funding bill has been approved by the Texas House Transportation Committee and now will be considered by the full House of Representatives.

The legislation, which is being sponsored by Representative Ryan Guillen at the request of the Texas Transit Association, was written to protect Texas cities from the loss of funding due to changes in population. Flyer

“The Census numbers recently released pushed some rapidly growing regional areas out of the small urban funding categories, while Hurricane Ike reduced the population of Galveston to the extent that it pushed Galveston back into the rural transit category,” said a TTA newsletter. “These kinds of changes threatened to shuffle and disrupt our TTA member agencies' formula funding.”

Guillen’s bill maintains the current funding formula "to avoid severe disruption of transit agencies still recovering from natural disasters and the ongoing fiscal crisis".

Resolutions in support of the legislation have been adopted by the City of Galveston, City of Dickinson, City of Texas City, Galveston County Transit District, Montgomery County, The Woodlands Township, and other potentially impacted jurisdictions.

“We support that because the 2010 Census, and the changes brought about by that census, The Woodlands, as well as other areas, is going to be put into new metropolitan districts,” said Miles McKinney, legislative affairs and transportation manager for the Woodlands Township. “What that does then is change the formula for the funding that you get on transportation.”

"If it didn't pass we would probably have a reduction in our transit support," said David Smith, fleet facilities director for the City of Galveston. "It would hurt the citizens, especially the low income citizens who rely on transit."

Dickinson City Administrator Julie Johnston agrees that failure of the bill would have a major impact on Galveston County transit.

"The biggest concern that we have and the reason why we participated in getting the legislation drafted is that, with the new Census numbers, there is a good chance that Dickinson will be re-categorized out of the Texas City Urbanized Area and into the Houston Urbanized Area," Johnston said.  "If that happens, all of the transit dollars that are currently going to the Gulf Coast Center for Connect Transit, which is the mass transit provider for Brazoria and Galveston County, will be given to Houston METRO."

The legislation has been approved by the Texas Senate and is now pending in the House.

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