The Arkansas Trucking Association wants to propose a constitutional amendment to expand the state Highway Commission and require its members to be elected.
According to Associated Press reports, the association is planning to seek legislative sponsors for the proposal for the session that begins in January. They are focusing on referring the measure to the November 2002 ballot, ATA President Lane Kidd told reporters last week.
Currently, the commission is made up of five members appointed by the governor to 10-year terms, who decide highway projects by districts.
The commission director is an employee of the commission and independent of the governor. The General Assembly approves appropriations bills, but otherwise has no formal role in highway projects.
The Associated Press reported that the trucking proposal would have two members from each of the four congressional districts, with a director who could be hired and fired by the governor.
Arkansas’ trucking industry has frequently fought the Highway Commission over tax and weight-load issues, and Kidd complains the commission has no accountability to the public.
Outgoing Highway Commission chairman Herby Branscum Jr. told a Russellville civic club last week that he expected the trucking industry to propose abolishing the current commission.
Branscum said such a change would be destructive and that Arkansas has a road system that is "second to none in the nation."
Kidd said Branscum "must be looking at the wrong end of the list." He cited a study by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte that said the state's highway agency ranked in the nation's bottom five in over-all performance.
Kidd said the amendment would provide that candidates run as Democrats and Republicans, with the first elections taking place in 2004, reported AP.
Half the original commissioners would serve six-year terms and the others four-year terms to provide for staggered terms. After that, everyone would draw four-year terms.
The new commissioners would be limited to one term with their pay being established by the Legislature. No two commissioners could live in the same town.