House committee chair targets state transportation commission

By Madeline Shannon, Missouri News Network
Posted 2/22/24

JEFFERSON CITY — A bill that would change the makeup of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission was debated Thursday in a continuation of committee chair Don Mayhew’s efforts …

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House committee chair targets state transportation commission


JEFFERSON CITY — A bill that would change the makeup of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission was debated Thursday in a continuation of committee chair Don Mayhew’s efforts to institute different standards for how commission members are chosen.

House Bill 2568 is one of several introduced this year that would change how the state’s transportation system is governed. Other legislation heard in the House Transportation Accountability Committee would have changed the selection process for the transportation department’s governing body or done away with the commission altogether.

“This bill is simply about giving the legislature an opportunity to restructure the highway commission,” said Rep. Mayhew, R-Crocker. “This puts a little more structure into that selection process. There’s a lot of words in here for a fairly simple process, but that’s the way it’s gotta go.”

Mayhew’s bill stipulates that there can’t be more than one member on the commission from the same district at the same time.

The governor has to make appointments to the commission with the Senate’s approval, and the commission has to be made up of half Democrats, half Republicans, according to the bill.

The current commission consists of three Republicans, two Democrats and one independent, according to the commission’s website.

One provision of the bill that generated some contention in the committee Thursday would have the House of Representatives form a list of 10 candidates to fill an open seat on the commission, which would be approved by the House and the Senate. This process would be only followed if the governor didn’t appoint a new commissioner to an open seat within 30 days.

Democratic pushback on the bill in Thursday’s committee hearing revealed concerns about Mayhew’s legislation not allocating enough time for the governor to appoint a new member of the commission, at which point it would be taken out of the governor’s hands and taken up by the legislature.

“I believe that process for the governor’s office takes more than 30 days because you’ve not only got to be vetted, but you’ve gotta be investigated,” said Rep. Joe Adams, D-University City. “That process takes some time before it is known who he or she is appointing.”

That 30-day time period was, in Mayhew’s words, “more or less arbitrarily” chosen, in an effort to make appointments quickly. He said he is open to extending that time period to give the governor more time for background checks and to put forward a candidate for an open seat on the commission.

Concerns about having one commission member from each congressional district, rather than selecting members based on other qualifications, were a point of contention for one member on the committee.

“They should be doing things based on what’s best for the state of Missouri and not trying to do favors for where they’re from. That’s the point,” said Rep. Michael Burton, D-Lakeshire. “I think these positions should be based on merit, not necessarily what district they’re from.”

Efforts to change the way the state’s transportation department is governed stem from a 2021 lawsuit from the Missouri Department of Transportation over raises paid to department employees. Another lawsuit in 2020 and an unpopular increase in the state’s gasoline tax all fed into the Republican-led legislature’s displeasure with the activities of MoDOT’s governing commission.

The committee also discussed House Joint Resolution 127, which would amend the state’s constitution to require the state road fund to be appropriated by the General Assembly. The resolution also requires the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, or STIP, be used to establish project and program funding priorities for the transportation department.