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Senate approves ALDOT oversight bill

Then-Majority Leader Greg Reed presides over the Alabama Senate in 2018.

The Alabama Senate has approved a bill that would provide additional oversight for the Alabama Department of Transportation as part of a set of bills accompanying the governor’s gas tax increase legislation.

The bill — approved by a 30 to 0 vote on Friday — would require ALDOT to use objective criteria to prioritize road projects and to ensure that those criteria are made available to the public. It is one of a number of infrastructure bills making its way through the Legislature this week.

It also would require that the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, ALDOT’s long-range plan of road and bridge projects, be made available on ALDOT’s website.

The Senate approved the bill on day three of a special session called by Gov. Kay Ivey to address infrastructure funding. The House approved a bill Friday that would up Alabama’s gas tax by 10 cents per gallon over three years.

The Senate is expected to take up that legislation this week.

Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, sponsored the oversight bill passed by the Senate Friday. He’s also sponsoring Ivey’s gas tax increase measure in the Legislature’s upper chamber.

“Governor Ivey has put forward her Rebuild Alabama plan to modernize our state’s infrastructure system – I support Governor Ivey’s proposal, but the Legislature is determined to increase oversight and accountability for ALDOT,” Chambliss said. “Each member of the Senate represents nearly 150,000 Alabamians, and we are going to make sure that ALDOT is open and transparent with the Legislature and the public about where each taxpayer dollar is going.”

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The bill reorganizes the Alabama Joint Transportation Committee, the committee that has responsibility for reviewing long-term plans and budgets for ALDOT. It specifies that the committee will meet four times per year at the Statehouse and that members will be removed if they miss two meetings in a year.

“If we are going to ask taxpayers to send more money to Montgomery, we owe it to them to ensure that their money is spent wisely and used appropriately. This bill guarantees that money marked for infrastructure will be used for infrastructure, and that the Legislature will have full oversight on how the Department of Transportation uses that money,” Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said.

Marsh said he would not support any type of revenue measure without oversight and accountability.

“I want to thank Senator Chambliss for all of his hard work on this piece of legislation. I want to thank the Senate body for their support of this bill,” Marsh said. “We had an excellent discussion on the floor and came away with a piece of Legislation that received overwhelming support. I look forward to working with members of the House as this bill continues to move through the legislative process.”

The bill drew bipartisan support.

“I support the Joint Transportation Committee bill that will give oversight to all of the road projects,” said Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro. “I applaud Senator Chambliss for bringing this proposal; and, hopefully, we can get it passed into law so that it will give the Legislature a lot more hands-on access to develop plans for where the money is being spent.”

The House will now take up the bill.

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Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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