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State Update
Oversight commission demands TxDOT reform

By David Tanner
staff writer

 

The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission released a report in June stating that TxDOT must return policymaking duties to the state Legislature.

The Texas Legislature created the 12-member Sunset Commission in 1977 to review more than 150 government agencies on a 12-year cycle. The commission’s mission is to eliminate waste and duplication.

Agencies under review are automatically abolished unless the Legislature passes a law for the agency to continue, according to the Commission’s mission statement.

TxDOT will be sunsetted – abolished – in 2009 unless the agency agrees to do the following:

  • Return power to set transportation policy to the Legislature within four years;
  • Achieve greater accountability and public involvement;
  • Appoint a legislative oversight committee;
  • Abolish the Texas Transportation Commission and allow the Legislature to appoint a single transportation commissioner;
  • Provide better access to independent transportation information and research;
  • Increase transparency of TxDOT’s planning and project development process; and,
  • Make the department’s contracting functions more accountable, particularly its development of comprehensive development agreements.

Commissioners were scheduled to have a public hearing July 15 in Austin, TX, to discuss their findings and receive TxDOT’s official response.

A Sunset spokesman told Land Line the Commission has abolished 52 agencies in its 31 years. In most cases, agencies opt for reform. Functions from abolished agencies are often transferred to other agencies.

TxDOT officials issued a brief reaction statement in early June regarding the commission’s findings.

 “The confidence of the Legislature and the public are very important to us. We still have work to do, but we are confident that our ongoing efforts to improve the transparency and accessibility of TxDOT are making a positive impact,” TxDOT Spokesman Chris Lippincott said. “We look forward to our continued work with the members and staff of the Sunset Commission.” LL

david_tanner@landlinemag.com