Texas House OKs bill that sets term limits for port leaders

April 12, 2013 4:25:02 PM PDT
Stories about problems at the Port of Houston are nothing new, but on Friday, the Texas House of Representatives made its first move to improve the politics of the port.

We are entering the final stages of a major port reform effort that started with a 13 Undercover investigation more than two years ago. The bill passed the House unanimously on Friday.

It keeps appointments to the port commission in the hands of local officials but mandates that they be done is a timely fashion. It puts in a 12-year term limit, and it greatly improves ethics reporting and guidelines for commissioners.

"How this bill got here is that there was great discussion on the ethical behavior of commissioners at the Port of Houston, which is a billion-dollar business," State Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) said.

And one of the major sticking points is what to do with those commissioners that have already been there more than 12 years. That applies to four of the seven current commissioners.

The original bill would have removed all the current commissioners immediately. But on Thursday, the Harris County delegation backed an amendment that would extend Chairman Janiece Longoria's term six more years and allow the rest of the current commissioners to serve out their terms.

"The Harris County Commissioners Court is in support of the amendment, the city of Houston is in support of the amendment, and very, very seldom in this body do you see the greater Harris County legislative delegation on the same page in a cause," State Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) said.

The amendedment allowing current commissioner to stay passed easily. The bill now moves over to the Texas Senate, where it will be sponsored by Houston State Sen. John Whitmire.

Whitmire's office tells us he plans to put back the language that would kick out the longest-serving port commissioners. But he does support giving the chairmen six more years.

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