DOT reorganization bill could come to vote soon

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Rep. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said this week that a bill to re-organize the state Department of Transportation could come up for a vote in the Senate within the next couple of weeks.

So far, the bill has passed the House of Representatives. Ward said the bill has received good feedback so far in the Senate.

The bill, sponsored by Ward, would change the way the the state transportation director is named.

Currently, the governor appoints the director. Ward’s bill calls for a commission that would name a director.

The bill also calls for changes in the way

road construction projects are prioritized in the state.

Describing the bill’s good chances at approval this Legislative session, Ward said similar versions of previous bills have never passed a single chamber of the House of Representatives.

In other Legislative news:

* The Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives is expected to vote on a bill to re-write the state’s open meetings and public access law. The bill, co-sponsored by Ward, would clarify the definition of a meeting, as well as what constitutes a governing body or committee.

Ward said the bill is opposed by the Association of County Commissions of Alabama.

Buddy Sharpless, executive director of the ACCA, said he supports the state’s current open meetings law, called the Sunshine Law.

&uot;We are perfectly happy with the Sunshine Law now. It’s been interpreted by the courts,&uot; Sharpless said. &uot;We know how to operate under it.&uot;

Sharpless said the ACCA opposes the proposed bill to completely re-write the Sunshine Law, partly because of the litigation he foresees.

&uot;The proposal just goes too far and would subject our people to costly court battles,&uot; he said.

As an example, Sharpless said elected officials could be deemed in violation of the proposed law if a group attended a convention or were eating in the same vicinity at a restaurant.

&uot;The bill, we feel, has a host of provisions that, if enacted … we would be in court forever trying to figure out what the bill means,&uot; Sharpless said.

However, Shelby County Commission Chairperson Lindsay Allison said she has no problem with holding meetings under public scrutiny.

While Allison said there are some instances when confidentiality supersedes the public’s right to disclosure, she welcomes increased scrutiny.

&uot;I don’t ever have a problem with conducting government in a very public manner,&uot; she said.