Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Transportation Reform Bill introduced

The Transportation adopted a subcommittee report on Department of Transportation reform. I commend the chairman; Sen. Larry Grooms, and all of the subcommittee members for all of their hard work. They have produced an impressive bill with sweeping reforms. Most of the bill gives me the impression that the department will be run more like a business and therefore more efficient. President McKinley said we need more business in government and less government in business. In the real world, businesses operate on a “perform or else” standard. Small businesses are so efficient because they can make necessary changes very quickly. One reason government, especially the current DOT, is so inefficient is that change is very slow. I really like the mixture of the board selecting the projects and the Secretary of Transportation carrying out the administration, separating the tasks.

It seems that the most contention will surround a few key changes:

12 member Board - This board is responsible for choosing projects and setting priorities. This board will be very diverse and represent the whole state. Seven members will be elected by the entire General Assembly from 7 engineering district across the state. Currently, the commissioners are selected from our 6 congressional districts. My view is that the engineering districts look more practical when considering markets. For example, Anderson is in the 3rd congressional district. SC3 is a long narrow district stretching from Pickens to Aiken. Pickens County, McCormick County and Aiken County are 3 distinct business markets. The new district puts Pickens, Oconee, Anderson, Greenville & Spartanburg in the same district, which all have overlapping business clusters. There is much more in common so transportation needs are similar. Another attractive improvement is the election is by the entire General Assembly. If one member tries to bring too much attention to his or her home county, the support among the legislature would dwindle.

The other 5 members are appointed by the Governor. There must be some from rural counties and some from urban.

-Sec. of Transportation – This position is solely for the administration of the projects. The Secretary will have no influence on choosing projects (the politics), yet will be responsible for the administration of them. This position is appointed by the Governor on an “at will” basis. This means that this individual is hired and fired at the pleasure of the Governor. Again, efficiency is possible here because swift changes are possible.

Now, this is just a draft with many proposed changes to come. Any input would be great so I can support the best package for our desperate need for reform in the DOT.