ROADS/BRIDGES: South Carolina Senate passes roads bill with new DOT reform

June 1, 2016

The Senate voted 31-10 to approve the proposal after hours of talks between Senate Republicans and Democrats to break a stalemate with two days left in the year's legislative session

The South Carolina State Senate passed a road-funding bill last night that included changes designed to share power over the state's highway agency between the governor and lawmakers.

The S.C. House amended the Senate's road-funding bill last week to add governance reforms but the Senate had not taken up the bill until Tuesday night, despite roads being lawmakers' declared signature issue.

The changes approved by the Senate Tuesday would allow the governor to nominate all highway commissioners, most of whom would then have to be approved by the legislative delegation in the congressional district from which the commissioner would be nominated.  After that, the commissioner would go before a joint screening committee and then be subject to consent by the full Senate. One of the eight commissioners would remain at large, as is the case now, and would not go before any legislative delegation.

The bill also would require all State Transportation Infrastructure Bank projects be submitted to the state Department of Transportation Commission for approval and that the threshold for such projects be lowered from $100 million to $25 million.

The vote came after Democrats and Republicans squared off over the issue of governance reforms at DOT, with a bill to forgive debt owed by South Carolina State University caught in the middle.

The funding part of the roads bill would provide $216 million in recurring funds to enable borrowing $2.3 billion through bonds over 10 years. Officials believe that money in turn would enable DOT to free up other money, ultimately providing $4.3 billion for interstate, road and bridge repairs and improvements.