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SC House passes DOT Reform Measure

The SC House has recently passed a reform bill on SCDOT by a 104-3 margin. The bill moves to the Senate where the bill could possibly stall.

The push to reform SCDOT is a result of an agency audit that showed mismanagement of over $50 million in funds and also testimony that two DOT employees were ordered to hide cash balances. As a result of the audit and inquiry; last December, then SCDOT Executive Elizabeth Mabry resigned.

Although the bill passed the House nearly unanimously, there were some reservations. Most of the reservations came from how the members of the Highway commission would be seated. Under the bill, there would be seven commissioners - one for each highway engineering district. The commissioner candidates would have to go through a screening panel and then elected by a joint session of the legislature.

Currently, there are six commissioners - determined by US Congressional Districts - elected by lawmakers within their districts, and there is not a screening panel.

Proposals to have the seven members elected by lawmakers within their district, and one to totally abolish the DOT commissioners were shelved.

Some legislators are worried that urban areas will have more of a say than rural districts in a joint session approval.

The bill now moves to the state Senate where the body has worked on their own version of a DOT reform bill for the past three weeks.

The Reform Bill Main Points:
  • Gives the Governor the power to appoint a Secretary of Transportation which would be seated in his cabinet.
  • The Secretary would have the power to propose DOT strategies and priorities. The Commission would approve these, but will not have the power to change them.
  • The commission would increase from six to seven members. The members would come from each of the DOT's Engineering Districts.
  • The commissioner must live in the district and have transportation related experience.

Story Link:
House passes DOT reform bill ---Myrtle Beach Sun News

Commentary:
The reform bill has some I-73 supporters nervous, as they worry that the new panel or Secretary will move I-73 off the top of the priority list. Also, the bill will put the DOT under more control of the Governor. However, the DOT will still have a great deal of autonomy as the Governor will have no input on the commissioners. The independence of SCDOT was one thing former Executive Directory Mabry fought for strongly.


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