COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law the roads bill that South Carolina lawmakers passed at the last minute, but she says a big part of that bill—DOT reform—is not real reform. “A lot of elected officials went home and said, ‘We got you roads. Rah rah!’ You know, ‘Re-elect us. We did a great thing.’ And the truth of the matter is I think we stepped back a decade,” she says.
Until now, the governor appointed the SCDOT secretary, with advice and consent of the Senate. The governor appointed only one of the eight DOT commissioners. State lawmakers appointed the other seven, with one from each of the state’s Congressional districts. Critics say that led to commissioners looking out for only their areas of the state instead of voting on which road projects were most needed.
Under the new law, the governor will appoint all eight DOT commissioners. Those commissioners will then choose a DOT secretary instead of the governor choosing one. Lawmakers from each of the state’s Congressional districts will have to approve the governor’s nominees, with seven of the eight still coming from each district, while the eighth will still be at-large. If lawmakers don’t approve a nominee within 45 days, he’s automatically rejected. Nominees will also have to get approval from the Joint Transportation Review Committee, and then get approval from the state Senate.
Gov. Haley says, “I can’t appoint a secretary. I can’t appoint a commissioner unless the delegation says it’s okay for me to appoint, so they get to decide and keep rejecting anyone I send their way. I don’t have the authority to remove anyone if I see something’s happening. The political horse-trading hasn’t stopped. They didn’t take out any of that.”
She says she’ll work with lawmakers to change the law next year, including real DOT reform and a stable revenue stream to fund the state’s road and bridge needs.