New Astrodome bill would require taxpayers to approve any renovations

AUSTIN, Texas – A new bill filed in the Texas Senate on Tuesday marked the start of a new battle over the Astrodome.

A bipartisan group of state senators co-authored the proposed legislation written by State Senator John Whitmire.

If it becomes law, the "Harris County Taxpayer Protection Act" would require Harris County to get taxpayer approval of any improvements to the Astrodome.

The bill could put on hold, or end, the Harris County Commission's $105 million plan to raise the stadium's ground level to install 1,400 parking spaces.

"We had a path forward to turn it back into a revenue-generating facility that could help everybody. This puts all that on hold, so if it puts the Dome on hold, then all the conversation on upgrading and maintaining NRG Stadium gets put on hold," said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.

But Whitmire says the county is ignoring the will of voters who in 2013 rejected a bond issue to spend $217 million on renovations to the Dome.

"I have to represent my constituents and as a Harris County taxpayer and say go back and get voter approval; honor the previous election before you engage in such an endeavor," Whitmire said.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick also weighed in, saying he supports Whitmire's bill.

The Astrodome has "been sitting there a long time. There's not been a private entity that has come forward with a viable plan and (I) always get a little nervous when I see government stepping in to spend taxpayer money where the private sector has said we don't see anything working," Patrick said.

Whitmire hopes the bill is passed and signed into law in time for the measure to go on the November ballot.

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