A Houston lawmaker filed a bill Tuesday that could derail the solution for one of the city’s ultimate dilemmas.
Texas State Senator John Whitmire (Democrat-District 15) wants voters to decide what happens to the Astrodome.
Senator Whitmire’s bill (SB 884) calls for Texas counties with at least 3.3 million residents to obtain voter approval to redevelop sports facilities older than 50 years if the project costs 10 million dollars or more.
All those conditions apply to Harris County’s latest plan for building a garage under the Astrodome and repurpose it to host different kinds of events.
Whitmire says two main reasons he wants a vote are that the plan requires taxpayers’ funding and Harris County residents already rejected a bond proposal to renovate the Dome.
“They expressed themselves in 2013. That vote, in my world, still governs until you go back out and resubmit it,” Whitmire said at a press conference.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett reacted to the news after the Commissioners Court meeting and said he feels frustrated about the bill, mostly because he wasn’t consulted.
Emmett says he believes in the project because big events, such as the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) and the Auto Show, want to use a repurposed Astrodome.
“Plus, it would be usable for festivals and gatherings, and all those people would pay rent and then that rent would help offset the cost to property taxpayers,” Emmett added.
If Whitmire’s bill becomes law, the vote would take place in November.
The Democratic Senator’s bill has bipartisan support, with powerful names in the Texas Legislature, such as Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Senators Paul Bettencourt and Sylvia Garcia, favoring it.