A couple of bills are rolling through the Oklahoma Legislature
that could significantly impact the Oklahoma trucking industry.
House Transportation Committee Chairman Larry Adair,
D-Stilwell, removed the title of his House Bill 2147 this week, and
got it through the full House on a reconsideration vote of 64-34.
It was earlier rejected on a 49-49 tie vote.
The bill, co-authored by Sen. Herb Rozell, D-Tahlequah, would
cause the $400,000 in annual funding for the Trucking Industry
Self-funded Research and Development program to be an appropriated
item, rather than a direct deposit into its revolving fund as it is
The second measure, Senate Bill 636 by Sens. Gene Stipe,
D-McAlester, Keith Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Jim Glover,
D-Elgin, would establish a Trucking Commission to further the cause
of Oklahoma becoming a trucking hub. Stipe is chairman of the
Senate Transportation Committee.
Adair said the TISRAD money is raised from registration fees
from trucks and trailers that has been collecting since 1987, when
the program went into effect.
"Opponents say I'm attempting to remove this money and take the
funding away. It's not true," he said.
Adair said it's time for some oversight on the program. Lt.
Gov. Jack Mildren, who is chairman of the TISRAD committee, agrees
that oversight is needed, but he's lukewarm to the idea of
lawmakers considering the appropriation every year.
Adair said the program needs to be audited annually. He said
sole-source research contracts should be forbidden, and that bids
should be solicited from companies or firms that want to be
involved in the research programs.
Language that would have required those things was contained in
the original TISRAD legislation, but was removed in the state
Senate, he said.
"I think what the lieutenant governor is asking is, that bids
be taken, and give different companies that want to be involved an
opportunity to bid," Adair said.
Mildren has requested audits from the program's inception in
1987 to present.
"If it had not been for that, there probably wouldn't have been
an audit up to this point," Adair said. "I feel very strongly that
we ought to have some accountability and oversight. That's not to
say I'm making any accusations." In the past four years, the
Safety, Education and Economic Development (SEED) Foundation of the
Associated Motor Carriers of Oklahoma has conducted TISRAD
research, subcontracting with the Western Highway Institute and
other agencies to perform the work.
"In my opinion, it should be competitively bid," Mildren said.
He said the committee has worked on a mutual set of goals
between the public and private sectors, and the TISRAD committee is
about ready to bid out research projects in three areas: a tax
research agenda, economic development, and other individual issues.
"We are going to insert the competitive bid process into this,
which never has been done before," Mildren said. "We have spent
$1.6 million in this program, but how many jobs have been created?
I was surprised that's never been done." Mildren said the committee
needs to come up with a mechanism for measuring income and
employment. The increases in licensing in the state are tracked
through base plating of trucks, he said, "but we've absolutely got
to quantify what this program does for income and employment." To
do research for research's sake is not productive, he said, "but to
create a safer and more efficient transportation system should be
one of our goals, and creation of jobs within the transportation
industry. I think we can come up with a measuring stick." Mildren
said he's all for increased supervision of the TISRAD program.
At the same time, "we will have to focus on going through the
budget process and maintaining the right to that money, to go on
with the research program," he said. …