Bill introduced in Texas Senate on Astrodome's future

HOUSTON – Houstonians have done it, local leaders have done it, and now, state lawmakers are grappling over the future of the Astrodome.

On Monday, a Senate committee at the Texas Legislature voted on what should happen next in the Dome saga.

It's the latest chapter in the story of the Dome's future, and it just keeps going.

Monday's vote essentially puts it one step closer to potentially going back to the voters in Harris County.

"Senate Bill 884 simply requires Harris County to seek voter approval once again before spending money to renovate the dome," Sen. John Whitmire said.
Whitmire laid out SB 884 at a Senate committee hearing, and it could impact the future of the Astrodome.

Whitmire is against the recently proposed $105 million plan by the county to renovate the Dome -- raising the bottom floor and installing 1,400 parking spots underneath.

"I personally think in this instance the voters of Harris County have a right to have their voice heard before the county, in the face of the bond defeat, goes forward with this proposal," Whitmire said.

Whitmire said taxpayers spoke in 2013 -- voting down a proposal to renovate the Dome.

He and supporters of SB 884 believe money could be better spent on more pressing issues, like flooding and transportation.

Still, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett spoke out in opposition to the bill.

"Nowhere in Texas history can I find a case where the legislature told the county what to do with an existing building if we're not requesting a bond. And we're not requesting to borrow any money," Emmett said.

Emmett said it's in the county's best interest to turn the Dome into something more useful that can generate money -- rather than just let it sit.
But the debate about what exactly will happen appears far from over.

"It basically turns the Astrodome, which right now costs us $170,000 a year to maintain, it turns it into a revenue-generating asset that can then be turned over to the private sector," Emmett said.

"Put it to a vote to the public, and the kind of discussion we're having at this table, we ought to have it back and you submit it to a public vote like you did in 2013 and you lost," Whitmire said.

Following the vote, if ultimately approved by the Senate, the bill would then go on to the House.