About Air and Water

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Barnett Shale rights of way bill among 37 vetoed by Perry

By Dave Montgomery - Fort Worth Star-Telegram - June 19, 2009

AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry on Friday vetoed 37 bills passed by the 2009 Legislature, including a measure that would have allowed natural gas pipelines in the Barnett Shale to be routed along state rights of way.

Perry also struck down a major expansion of pre-kindergarten programs sponsored by state Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, along with bills sponsored by two other House members from Tarrant County. Sunday is the deadline for Perry to deal with legislation.

Perry signed the nearly $182 billion budget to run the state for the next two years. But he cut $288.9 million through line-item vetoes, mostly appropriations for bills that were either vetoed or failed to make it through the Legislature.

The budget includes $5 million that will allow the University of Texas at Arlington’s School of Nursing to establish a regional nursing education center. The program intends to double the number of undergraduate nursing students from 400 to 800 by 2012, according to a university news release. The appropriation was sponsored by state Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington.

"I am proud of the accomplishments lawmakers made this session and thankful for their solid leadership," Perry said. "However, there was some legislation that, in its final form, would have done more harm than good to our citizens."

Barnett Shale

In vetoing the Barnett Shale bill sponsored by state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, Perry said he agreed that the measure "would provide a benefit to communities and reduce the impact on private property owners." But, he said, the measure, Senate Bill 686, conflicted with a similar bill he signed into law that permits gas corporations to lay and maintain lines under public rights of way.

Davis’ bill was a top priority for Fort Worth during the legislative session and was aimed at easing disruptions in residential areas as a result of natural gas drilling.

On Friday night, Fort Worth City Councilman Jungus Jordan said city officials would review the bill Perry referred to — House Bill 2572 — to determine whether the city could use it to meet its goal of routing natural gas pipelines away from residential neighborhoods.

"We’re going to have to sort through it," said Jordan, saying the city’s fundamental objective is to accommodate "the need for pipelines without interfering with the quality of life in neighborhoods."

Perry said HB 2572 "accomplishes the same objectives statewide while ensuring that pipelines are installed using the highest safety standards."

Pre-kindergarten

Patrick’s bill would have created a grant program to enable eligible school districts to implement or continue full-day pre-kindergarten programs.

Perry said that a similar grant program exists and that the $25 million appropriated for Patrick’s bill could be used to dramatically increase the number of students served through the program.

Passage of the bill was a major legislative accomplishment for Patrick, a former teacher who served on the Arlington school board. She could not be reached to comment Friday night.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, applauded Perry’s veto, saying it would have created "an additional and unnecessary government" pre-kindergarten program.

Tarrant County reps

Reps. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, and Todd Smith, R-Euless, also lost bills to Perry’s veto pen.

Smith was the sponsor of House Bill 3148 that would have allowed certain defendants to petition a judge for an exemption from registering as a sex offender. The legislation would have applied only to age-based offenses involving consensual sex in which the defendant was no more than four years older than a victim who was at least 13 years old.

Smith, a lawyer, said the bill was designed to protect teens and young adults engaged in consensual sex from being branded as sex offenders. But Perry said the bill "fails to adequately protect young victims."

Veasey’s bill, House Bill 3481, would have permitted criminal records to be expunged in cases in which no charges resulted from an arrest or investigation. In vetoing the bill, Perry said it "precipitates an untenable injustice to victims and a hazard to public safety."

Veasey said the veto was unwarranted. "I’m shocked," he said. "I thought this was a good chance to give innocent people back their names."

Other legislation

Perry has used a lighter hand with his veto pen this year. Shortly after his first session as governor in 2001, he set the known record for vetoes by a Texas governor with 83. He vetoed 49 bills after the 2007 legislative session.

Gov. George W. Bush had far fewer vetoes during his tenure. His highest total for a legislative session was 38 in 1997.

Other vetoes Friday included:

A bill that would have made it easier for Child Protective Services to remove children from a home while investigating possible abuse. The governor agreed with critics that the measure would infringe on the rights of parents and guardians. At the same time, Perry ordered the Department of Family and Protective Services to develop statewide procedures for seeking court orders without compromising the rights of parents and families.

A proposal to require that drivers give bikes, motorcyclists and pedestrians at least a 3-foot space when passing,

A resolution that would have requested that Perry appoint a task force on horse and greyhound racing,

A measure that specifies what types of marketing and public opinion campaigns the Texas Department of Transportation can spend money on.

Perry signed legislation allowing public schools to buy electronic textbooks, saying it will "further propel Texas schools into the 21st century and ensure that our students have access to the most up-to-date information available in each subject."

And he said he would allow nine bills to become law without his signature, including a resolution that would have designated the Brady World Championship BBQ Goat Cook-off as the official state goat barbecue championship cook-off.

This report includes material from The Associated Press.

Read more in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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