A bill to overhaul the operation and oversight of the state's Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) is making its rounds at the state capitol.

District 23 State Senator Page Cortez (R-Lafayette), the chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works, is frustrated that after decades of talking about the state’s crumbling infrastructure the state appears to be stuck in reverse when it comes to actually addressing the problem.

In hopes of fixing the backlog of projects, copious construction timeframes and oversight miscues, he filed Senate Bill 498 to reorganize and revitalize the governance of the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD).

“It is clear that what we have now is not working. It is not working for people. It is not working for business. It is not working for the taxpayer,” Sen. Cortez said. “Over the decades since the approval of a new state constitution we have made a concerted effort to revitalize how we operate other state agencies such as coastal protection, economic development and workforce development while DOTD has been allowed to just plod along. This is not to disparage the hard-working men and women in the department, but the way we do business at DOTD is not achieving excellence and is not designed to do so.”

Under the proposed operational overhaul, the DOTD secretary would be replaced by an executive director appointed by an oversight board with representation from across the state and including experts in engineering and financial services. The idea is to establish a system that encourages continuity in the state’s transportation policies and collaboration on a regional and local basis.

“This is more than a proposed change in an organizational chart,” Sen. Cortez said. “This is about providing a framework to promote efficiencies in DOTD operations, to eliminate any waste and to hold the department accountable to taxpayers, to assure them that the money we set aside for our roads, bridges, ports and airports is used wisely.”

Senate Bill 498 proposes a number of changes in the governance and operations of DOTD

  • Beginning in 2020, the governor would no longer appoint a secretary of DOTD. Instead an oversight board with members from every region of the state will be created to provide daily oversight of the department’s internal policies and expenses.
  • The board will appoint an executive director to take the place of the current department secretary. The executive director will serve at the pleasure of the board and is subject to approval of the legislature. Members of the board will be subject to Senate confirmation.
  • Nine board members, eight from each of the DOTD districts and one at large, will be appointed by the governor from a list submitted by local elected officials in each region. The Chairs of the Senate and House transportation committees will be ad hoc members. At least one board member shall be a CPA, banker or have experience in financial services. One member shall be a civil engineer.
  • The existing 9 DOTD districts will be consolidated into 8 districts. Each will have a regional director who is recommended by the Executive Director and confirmed by the Senate. The regional director, currently referred to as the District Administrator or District Engineer, will be unclassified and serve at the pleasure of the board.

“After having traveled the state and speaking to countless local elected officials and citizens from every corner of this great state, the constant message is a unified frustration with the way we do things,” Sen. Cortez said. “I have filed this bill on behalf of all of those frustrated citizens with the hopes of making a generational change!”

Senate Bill 498 can be reviewed by going to the Louisiana legislative website at www.legis.la.gov under bill information or by clicking on the following link https://www.legis.la.gov/legis/BillInfo.aspx?i=234557 .