South Carolina senators say the bill to fix state roads is dead for the year because of a change the House made to the plan, but the House says the change is needed and the bill is still alive. The change was to the way DOT commissioners are appointed.
Under the Senate plan, the governor would nominate DOT commissioners and the Senate would give its advice and consent. The House changed that so that House members would also have to approve DOT commission nominees.
“We want to remove politics as much as we can from the road-building process and what the House did was insert politics right back in the middle of it,” says Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. He says the House plan would force DOT commission nominees to be political. “Having them to go around to individual House members and cut deals: ’In order to get your vote, let’s see what road we need to get paved.’ That’s what we’re trying to eliminate, and they put that squarely back into the process knowing that that would kill the bill.”
But Rep. Gary Simrill, who’s been leading the House’s efforts on a roads bill, says the House is not trying to kill the bill. He says, “What the governor and the Senate are saying, ‘It’s okay for 46 people to look over that list and approve it, but not for the other 124 members of the General Assembly.'”
He says House members should be involved in the process to bring more accountability to the DOT commission, since House members are elected every two years while senators are elected every four years. If there’s a problem with a DOT commissioner, House members would be more responsive to their constituents’ calls for a change.
And he says the bill is not dead because the House and Senate can still work out their differences in a conference committee, just like they do with other bills on which they disagree.