More False DOT “Reform”

S.759 is another attempt at Department of Transportation (DOT) “reform” that would only entrench existing legislative control over DOT. The bill increases the size of the DOT Commission (the entity which sets DOT policy) to 11 members with 1 of those members being appointed by the Governor and the remaining 10 being elected by legislative delegations of Regional Councils of Governments. Under current law the commission is comprised of 8 members, 1 appointed by the Governor and 7 elected by the legislative delegations of federal congressional districts. So under S.759 legislators would still elect all but one of the DOT commissioners, only the districts from which the commissioners are elected would change.

To make this change even more pointless, S.759 retains the screening process for DOT commission candidates carried out by the Joint Transportation Review Committee (JTRC). As SCPC has explained before the JTRC which must approve candidates for the DOT commission is effectively controlled by the current House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem who combined appoint 6 out of its 10 members.

These parts of the bill essentially retain the status quo as it relates to transportation authorities. Other parts of the bill however, actually make the system even worse. If S.759 were to become law DOT Commissioners would be able to serve 2 consecutive terms rather than 1; this would make initial appointment to the board more valuable and would likely generate more political maneuvering in the qualification and election process. The bill would also make the qualification process less transparent by deleting a state law which requires the JTRC to release a verbatim copy of the testimony and documents submitted at DOT commission candidate hearings.

The DOT needs reform, but that reform must establish clear lines of accountability by vesting control of the agency in the executive branch where it belongs. This bill would not achieve that goal, it simply rearranges the look of existing legislative power, and promotes more horse trading and secrecy in the selection of DOT policy makers.

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