King Gives His View on Session

June 10, 2007

Wise County Messenger

By Brian Knox

State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, talked to the Decatur Rotary Club and guests Thursday about the good, the bad and the ugly of the recently completed 80th Texas legislative session.

The good, in King’s opinion, included passing legislation dealing with eminent domain issues, the state budget, the “death” of the Trans-Texas Corridor and funding for clean technology for producing electricity.

Eminent domain

King served on a committee dealing with eminent domain issues and said he heard “horror stories from across the state that would make your blood boil.”

“There were entities across the state taking excessive advantage of people,” King said. “The (Dallas) Cowboys stadium in my mind is one of them.”

Locally, he said most of the eminent domain issues deal with pipeline companies. He said the legislation will require a property owner’s bill of rights be issued to landowners in eminent domain cases.

King said that the governor is being urged to veto the bill.

State budget

King said he was proud of the state’s $150 billion budget passed by legislators which will work out to a 3.5 percent increase each year during the two-year budget period. The budget includes $7 billion in a “rainy day fund” and a $600 million tax cut through the elimination of the telecommunications infrastructure fee on phone bills.

“That is really a great budget and no new taxes,” King said. “Existing revenue will cover that.”

Toll road development

King said that Senate Bill 792 “effectively kills the Trans-Texas Corridor.” The bill will put a two-year moratorium on comprehensive development agreements.

“It prohibits any future toll roads from being owned by foreign private firms,” King said, referring to the public outcry against the use of a Spanish-American firm in the developing of the TTC.

The bill will also provide “greater public access to information” regarding toll roads.

When asked by Decatur Mayor Joe Lambert how the state could address the need to ease traffic congestion, King said he likes a plan to expand U.S. 281, a road that runs nearly parallel to Interstate 35 about 50 miles west.

Clean energy

King explained that the reason electricity prices are so high in Texas is because most of the electricity is produced from the burning of natural gas. With gas prices high, that creates high prices for electricity.

He said a $30 million incentive fund for research and development of clean technology for producing electricity has been created to help ease that burden.

The use of nuclear power, for example, would not cost a penny to generate electricity, he said.

“These (nuclear power plants) are safe. They are building them all over the world except in America because frankly we wimped out to all the environmental folks over the past 30 years. It’s the cleanest and cheapest form of electricity out there,” he said.

The bad included some items King wants to see the governor veto such as a tax reform bill. It also included other legislative items he wanted to see made into law which didn’t pass, such as requiring voters to show photo identification and homeland security legislation.

Photo identification to vote

In response to evidence of voter fraud, King said he worked to get a bill passed which would have required voters to show a photo identification.

King said he checked with the state’s most populous counties and found that thousands of people had been removed from the voter rolls because they were not U.S. citizens. Many of those people were discovered when they were called to jury duty.

“If that many were found by accident, then you’ve got to assume there are tens of thousands of more that are on there who are not U.S. citizens but are registered to vote,” he said.

That led to some “ugly” moments of the session. “We were called bigots, that (we) were doing this to suppress minorities or others from being able to vote. That wasn’t the case at all. We were trying to protect the integrity of the voting system. You can’t rent a movie without showing a photo ID. It’s ridiculous to think that you should be able to exercise our highest right in the land without going in there and showing a photo ID.”

The bill passed the house but not the senate.

King said he filed a bill which would have required the secretary of state to verify U.S. citizenship when a person registers to vote.

Homeland security

King said the state legislature’s hands were tied in many ways when it came to border security.

“We looked hard trying to find things we could do, but it’s a federal issue,” he said.

“For the life of me, I don’t understand why we don’t have tens of thousands of troops at the border.”

Legislators were unsuccessful, King said, in passing a border crime initiative bill which would have prohibited some cities from providing “safe harbor” for non-U.S. citizens. Some cities now do not let officers arrest anyone on an illegal immigration offense, he said.

Tax reform

King said he hopes the governor will veto a bill which revises the franchise tax.

“I think it still puts too much pressure on small businesses and provides too many loopholes for the larger entities which we are trying to close,” he said.