With the March 4 Texas primary election upon us, most of our state legislature races will be decided this month, or by the end of runoffs following shortly thereafter. We do not expect to see significant changes in the makeup of the Legislature, but Governor Perry’s decision not to seek re-election has set some big wheels in motion for a number of statewide positions. The drumbeats of fervent conservatism have stirred a number of candidates to stake their ground against the far-right safety rails. Frankly, a number of their themes resonate within me, as well as many readers of this publication. However, our industry understands that public works infrastructure, while hugely expensive and sometimes inconvenient to endure, is absolutely essential to a vibrant, efficient and growing economy.
Two months into the New Year, the warming weather finds our industry gearing up into high production mode. Our members have a huge amount of construction backlog under contract across the state. Through much of 2012 and 2013, a number of these projects had been facing delayed starts for construction, but are now turning dirt. If our dry weather pattern continues, TxDOT will experience rapid earn-out of their (currently) significant bank balance. The department will quickly find itself short of funds and out of plans once again unless AGCTX and similarly focused groups are able to rally the support of our fellow Texans to pass November’s constitutional amendment to infuse approximately $1.2 billion in oil & gas severance fees into TxDOT’s Fund 6 operating account. Expectations are that this transfer would be almost immediate, providing much needed relief to our state’s battered energy sector roads.
We achieved a strong measure of success with our support of the Prop 6 water bill last November, and we intend to complete our 83rd Legislature mission to deliver a highway funding win in November 2014. Past president Bob Lanham, our Highway Funding Task Force chairman, continues to provide exemplary leadership for this critically important effort. The task force is working on educational materials and a messaging campaign to positively influence our elected officials and fellow voters in support of increased investment on on our rapidly aging and crumbling highway system. A major challenge for us is to carry the message that we have a $5 billion core funding gap and that the severance fee transfer will only provide about 20% of the funds required to make measureable gains in pavement conditions and congestion relief across the state.
AGC’s calendar is always particularly busy in March with our annual National Convention taking place. This year, we are on our 3rd year of rotation and will once again be at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas in conjunction with the massive CONEXPO/CONAGG construction equipment exposition. The convention’s working schedule allows time for all the committees and forums to complete and move the previous year’s work product up through the Occupational Divisions and hopefully gain approval of the Executive Board. These members, who primarily conduct business by means of online meetings and conference calls, finally have the opportunity to meet face-to-face. Along with the Convention’s regular business activities, AGCA provides an exceptional slate of professional development seminars tailored to benefit the needs and interests of our broad membership. There are countless opportunities for networking, as well as socializing at the many official and unofficial mixers.
Particular convention highlights are the Opening and Closing convention sessions. We always have keynote speakers of great notoriety – including such luminaries as Secretary James A. Baker III, CIA director Michael Hayden, columnist George Will, pilots Chelsea Sullenberger and Michael Durant (Blackhawk Down) have all spoken in recent years. This convention is no exception, with former Defense Secretary Robert Gates speaking on Monday March 3, and Capt. Richard Phillips, whose merchant vessel was hijacked by Somali pirates, speaking at the Willis Breakfast.
Our outstanding national staff will all be at the convention. They take directions from the National Officer corps and communicate regularly with their Division and Committee chairs who keep them on point with the realities of day to day construction issues. They always have their finger on the pulse of national politics, along with maintaining close liaisons with the many contracting and regulatory agencies which affect our businesses.
Like AGCA, our AGCTX Chapter also offers great opportunities to travel, learn, make new friends and rekindle old friendships. In June, we will take our annual Management Conference Trip. This year, past president Joe Forshage and his wife Shawn have selected the Sun River Resort near Bend, Oregon as our destination. We will host several of our key state legislators for briefings on their Interim Charges and get their thoughts on the next Regular Session issues beginning January 2015. There will be updates from National AGC and ARTBA staff, and we expect to have presidents of both associations with us as well.
Later on in July, our Administrative Conference will move from its traditional location on South Padre Island to San Antonio at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort. It is our expectation that a more central location will reduce travel time and allow more of our AGC firms’ staff members to learn from programs offered by AGCA and agencies such as TCEQ, DPS and TXDOT, while offering their families an opportunity to share in the food, fun and fellowship.
Seemingly endless opportunities to share knowledge, fellowship and good times are some of the best things AGC has going. When you get right down to it, aren’t those the most important things an Association can provide its membership? I hope you will set aside some time and make plans to attend one or more of these great events. I look forward to the opportunity to meet you, your families and employees who can attend.