SENATE OKS TXDOT SUNSET BILL
|McAllen Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa lays out the provisions in the TxDOT Sunset bill passed by the Senate on Monday.|
(AUSTIN) — The Texas Senate gave approval Monday to a bill that would continue the operation of the Texas Department of Transportation for the near future with some reforms aimed at greater transparency and increased public involvement. Each state agency must undergo a periodic review of functions and scope, called the Sunset process. The Sunset Committee, comprised of members of both the House and Senate, as well as public members, issues recommendations for agency reform to the full Legislature. The bill passed by the Senate on Monday follows many of the Sunset recommendations, but breaks with them in one significant area.
There was much debate during the interim over the issue of the executive structure at TxDOT. House Sunset members were joined by the public members in supporting a shift from the current 5 member Texas Transportation Commission to a single Transportation Commissioner. All five Senate members of the Sunset Commission voted to preserve the current five member governing structure, and the bill passed Monday reflects that. Under the Senate bills, the five TTC members would be appointed by the governor for six year terms, and the membership of the commission would have to reflect the regional and demographic makeup of the state, with at least one member being from a rural area.
The other reforms approved in the Senate bill would increase public oversight over the agency. TxDOT would have to publish a comprehensive development plan, one that sets out priorities and costs of transportation projects. "The general public can see what projects are priorities, how they are funded and what the timeline is," said bill sponsor Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa. The bill would also require TxDOT to develop a better system to register complaints from the public, opening a hotline and saving records of resolved complaints for two years after resolution. Ethics requirements and lobbying restrictions for TxDOT employees are strengthened under the measure. This bill now heads to the House for consideration.
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, April 19 at 11 a.m.