House Transportation Committee

Jan. 12, 2023

Rep Holcomb: Public Transportation meeting is now called the order. Just for your information, I’ll always gavel in before we start the meeting. I appreciate you all being here today. I’m Mike Holcomb. I’m serving my sixth term. This is my third term to be the Chairman of Transportation. Ricky, want to say anything?


Rep McClure: Yeah. Well, good morning. I’m Rick McClure. I serve most of Hot Spring County and a portion of Saline County, and this is my first term in here.


Rep Holcomb: Okay. We’re going to start down the line. Wade, we’re going to start with you, and we will just go down the line, everyone, we get down to that end, we’ll start Representative Ennett, we’ll get here, start with you, we’ll come back across. Everyone just tell your district, a little something about yourself, be brief, and we’ll move on. Okay, go ahead.


Rep Andrews: There we go. Representative Wade Andrews. I’m from Camden, represent District 98, covers most of Ouachita County, the very southern portion of Nevada County, and north half of Columbia County, and the northeast corner of Lafayette County. I’m glad to be here. I’m looking forward to a good session.


Rep Steimel: District 2, parts of Sharp, Folk, and Randolph County. I have a background in insurance and real estate investing, and I look forward to working with everyone in this capacity to help Transportation out.


Rep Holcomb: Hold on just a second. Punch a button again. Wait a minute. All right. Now we’ve got you.


Rep Hodges: My name is Representative DeAnna Hodges. I am from Springdale. I represent District 9. This is my first term. I have three grown children. I’ve been married 30 years. I sell real estate, and I’m very proud to be here. And I look forward to working with you all.


Rep T Shepherd: Mr. Chair, I’m Representative Shepherd. I represented District 79, south of 630, Alexander, Mapleville area. My background, I’m a Correctional Auditor for the American Correctional Association. I travel and audit jails, prisons, and correctional authorities, parole authorities. And I’m also a former board member with the Little Rock School District, and in my day-to-day practice, I work at Arkansas Juvenile Assessment Treatment Center. Thank you.


Rep Puryear: Representative Chad Puryear, District 25, rural district east side of Washington, Crawford, and a little bit of Franklin County. This is my first term. I look forward to working with everybody.


Rep Holcomb: Chad, pronounce your last name again.


Rep Puryear: Puryear.


Rep Holcomb: Okay. I want to be sure I got that right. Thank you.


Rep Carr: Joey Carr, District 34, which is the eastern half of Mississippi County, so that’s from Tomato Landing down to Frenchman’s Bayou, or the Blytheville, Osceola area. I’ve been an educator for 30 years. I’m married. I have four children, and I just look forward to serving and working with you guys. Thank you.


Rep Ennett: Good morning. I am Representative Denise Ennett. I represent District 80, which is downtown Little Rock and parts of Pulaski County. This is my second term, and this is my second time here on this great committee, and I look forward to everything that we’re going to discuss this session. Thank you.


Rep Holcomb: Wait a minute, Harlan. Punch it again. There you are.


Rep Breaux: Okay. I’m Harlan Breaux, District 6. I live in Holiday Island. I’ve been married for 52 years. My bride and I, well, those are good years. Not only that, but I have District 6, my third term being on this committee, and I’m enjoying it. And we’re going to get some things done. Thank you.


Rep Holcomb: Punch it again.


Rep Tosh: My name’s Dwight Tosh, State Representative for District 38. I cover the southern part of Craighead County, parts of Poinsett, and also parts of Jackson County. This is my second term. My fifth term in the House, this will be my second time on Transportation. My background is I spent 37 years with Arkansas State Police where I retired from that agency as Troop Commander. And Mr. Chairman, I appreciate you and appreciate this committee.


Rep Holcomb: Thank you.


Rep Whitaker: I’m Representative David Whitaker. I represent House District 22 which is west Fayetteville and the City of Farmington. Pertinent to this committee, I also represent exit 60 through 67 on Interstate 49, and that’s a full-time job by itself. I’m former Assistant City Attorney of the City of Fayetteville, and like the chairman, beginning my sixth term too, and I’m just thrilled to be here.


Rep Springer: Good morning. Thank you, Mr. Chair. My name is Joy Springer, and I am serving a half, two-and-a-half. I had to serve a half-plus starting the second term. I’m here in Little Rock, and I represent starting downtown Little Rock around Chester Street, going west all the way west past Baptist Hospital around Canis Road. So my district is that particular area. My background is, I started out in business in about, I guess, 30 years ago. I was asked to come work for Attorney John Walker. So I turned an educator into an educator because I did educational monitoring for him. So I enjoy that. However, this is my second time around on the Transportation Committee, and I’ve enjoyed it as well. So I’m looking forward to working with each and every one of you here on the Education Committee. However, my heart is in education. Thank you.


Rep McElroy: I’m Mark McElroy. I’m State Representative for District Number 62 which is part of Desha County, part of Arkansas County, part of Monroe County, part of Saint Francis County, all of the Lee County, all the Phillips County, and part of Bolivar, Mississippi. And I learned that, I want to share a good lesson to you, just before redistricting, do not make the Governor mad. Thank you.


Rep M Berry: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mark Berry. I’m retired, second term, District 26. Thank you.


Rep Achor: District 71, which is primarily the City of Maumelle with a few surrounding communities. My professional background, me and my wife are both pharmacists, and we have to date 13 independently-owned family pharmacies that span pretty much you drive from Little Rock to Memphis and take an exit, we can sell your drugs. Have a good day.


Rep Hawk: Thank you, Mr. Chair. R. J. Hawk from District 81. I come from the greatest county in Arkansas that being Celine County. Represents Bryant, Benton, Shannon Hills, and Alexander, and I guess I’ll be a former radio personality here in a couple of weeks and full-time real estate agent right now. So there’s that.


Rep M Brown: Thank you, Mr. Chair. My name is Matt Brown. I’m District 55 which is in the City of Conway, and my day job I’m an attorney in private practice, and I’m just proud to be here.


Rep Holcomb: Okay. Thank you. I forgot to say what district. I’m in District 93. That’s Jefferson, Lincoln, Cleveland, and Drew Counties. I’m a retired Jefferson County Judge. I’m actually a retired educator and was elected county judge. Glad you’re here today with us. Let me introduce our staff, first of all. We have as our Committee Analyst, Miss Jessica Whitaker with us, Ashley Miller, Ashley wave. Okay. And Diane Torres-Porter is our Committee Attorney. She’s not here. I don’t know who else we have. I don’t have anyone on the list.


BLR Staff: Mary is helping Ashley.


Rep Holcomb: Okay, Mary. Glad to be here. All right. So we’re going to ask various agencies that are here with us. Let me just say something about the Committee, about how we operate. When you press your button, you’ll be recognized. If you have questions, when anyone’s presenting, you have questions, your name will come up in order. And I’ll take you in order. When you ask a question, ask your question. And then if you have a follow-up, ask me for a follow-up. And then we usually allow follow-ups. And then if we have other questions, we’ll move on to them, take their questions, then if we have time, we’ll come back to you, so. But we try not to be repetitive. If the questions get repetitive, we kind of start repeating ourselves, I’ll move the Committee on. And so always your mic will need to be red before you speak to it. Now, I’ll punch you in here sometimes as you noticed a while ago. We’ll have a malfunction, occasionally, and I’ll punch it again. But that’s the way it works. So we’re going to recognize some of the various agencies that are with us today and let them introduce ourselves. These are the people we’ll be dealing with. And by the way, we will meet next Tuesday. We have five or six bills already we’ll be dealing with. And I want to say, David Whitaker, you’ve been on the Committee with me every time, haven’t you, I think, since we came in together. So, glad to have you back. Glad to have all of you here. So I’d like for you, if you would, we have three subcommittees that we will be appointing. That will be Rail, Water and Aeronautics, and Highways. And so if you would just put a little– if you would do that for me, just write a little short bio of yourself, just something on a notepad, what particular area you’d like to be in. Can’t put everyone on the same committee, but I need to assign committees for that. So if you would do that, sometime in the next– if you can get it to me next week, that’ll be fine. No rush on it. All right. We’re going to hear from the Department of Transportation. So Miss Lori, would you come up and introduce yourself? Bring who you want with you and just give us a brief statement about what you do. And I know you’re doing a lot and there’s a lot of asked of you. So if you would introduce yourself and your guests, and y’all just say what you’d like to say, and we’ll move on.


Tudor (Transportation): Well, good morning. I’m Lori Tudor, the Director of the Arkansas Department of Transportation. And I brought up to the table with me our Arkansas Highway Police Chief Jeff Holmes. The mission of the Arkansas Department of Transportation is just to provide a safe and efficient highway system to the citizens of the state, and so all of the things that go into that and we just want to be responsive and help each and every one of you as you try to meet your constituents’ needs. And also, I’d like to introduce a few folks that we’ve brought with us that you’ll see around the Capitol and will be with me from time to time. I’ve got our Deputy Director and Chief Engineer Rex Vines.


Rep Holcomb: Rex.


Tudor (Transportation): I have our Assistant Chief of Administration, Kevin Thornton, and then I have our Assistant Chief Engineer of Planning, Jared Wiley, and then last but not least, I have Gil Rogers, who’s our Governmental Relations Officer. He’ll be around throughout the session. If you need anything, you need to get a hold of anybody, need to set up a meeting, have any questions, he’s here for you. He’s your resource to have a connection with ARDOT. I’d like to see if Chief Homes has a few–


Rep Holcomb: Excuse me, Lori, just a minute. Gil, go ahead and give everyone your phone number if you would. If you have questions for ARDOT, he’s our contact man. So Gil, give us your– everyone take his phone number down because you’re going to need it.


Rogers ARDOT: 501, I hope I remember it, 920-xxxx.


Rep Holcomb: He’s right here in the Capitol, has an office in the Capitol. So contact him if you got questions, you need anything, communication with Highway Department. I’m sorry. Go ahead.


Holmes (Highway Police): I’m Jeff Holmes. I’m the Chief of the Highway Police. I’m a 30-year veteran of the Highway Police. Our mission is primarily to protect the infrastructure, size and weight regulations, permit loads, and enforce truck safety regulations. We have approximately 140 officers statewide and 70 patrol units and operate 8 weigh stations. And I look forward to working with the Committee. Thank you.


Rep Holcomb: All right. Thank you. Anyone have any questions? We’re kind of short on time today. We may have them back to give a good presentation. Thank you for coming up. Appreciate it. All right. Next, we’ll move on to the Arkansas State Police.


Lang (State Police): Good morning. I’m Captain Brad Lang with the Arkansas State Police. I’ve been there for about 17 years. The State Police has several different divisions such as Highway Patrol, which we have about 350 troopers out patrolling interstates, US highways, and we also assist the local agencies as well for calls for service or whatever they might need. We also have a Criminal Investigation Division. There’s about 80 of them spread out across the state, and they also assist those smaller agencies that may not have the tools or resources needed to investigate some of those major crimes. And we also have a Regulatory Services Division, which is the Fire Marshal’s Office. They also regulate all the concealed carry permits, used motor vehicle dealer licensing, things such as that. And we have our Crimes Against Children Division that works closely with DHS, and they investigate a lot of the allegations against children. So you’ll probably see me up here quite a bit. We have troopers here at the Capitol during the session that are in the House and Senate and make sure each and every one of you are protected each and every day you’re here. So I will see them, so you’ll see me popping in here and there, just checking on them making sure everybody’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing. So I look forward to working with each of you. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us.


Rep Holcomb: Anyone have a quick question, anything? All right. Appreciate you.


Lang (State Police): Thanks, sir.


Rep Holcomb: Okay, next we’ll go to the Department of Finance Administration. Someone here. Wayne?


Hamrick (DFA): Good morning, Mr. Chair. I’m Wayne Hamrick. I’m the Administrator for the Office of Motor Vehicle and Driver Services, separate office than the administration over Revenue Offices. We are the office that provides all the systematic support, materials, inventory that the 134 revenue offices work from. So internally, we’re responsible for all of your titles, the registration, examination of all the applications that are received from state revenue offices, and from all the dealerships on purchases. In addition, we do administer the International Registration Plan for the 18-wheelers and the trucking. We work closely with the Trucking Association, with the Automobile Dealers Association, and then also we have Driver Services Unit where we are responsible for the driver’s licenses, real IDs, DWIs, boating under the influence as well. So we’re responsible for that. And with me today is the Assistant Administrator of Motor Vehicle, Christy Earnhart, and the Assistant Administrator for Driver Services, Marla McHughes.


Rep Holcomb: Thank you, Wayne. Any questions? Thank you all for being here, and I know we’re not going to see you as much this year as we have in the past, I think, but we’ll probably see you some. So thank you very much.


Hamrick (DFA): Yes sir. Thank you, Mr. Chair. I will add that out of the administration for DSMV, this is your senior leadership. This is what you get.


Rep Holcomb: All right. Thank you.


Hamrick (DFA): Thank you.


Rep Holcomb: Okay. Anyone here from Aeronautics? Don’t see anyone here from Aeronautics. We deal with that also. How about Motor Vehicle Commission? Anyone here? Okay. Come on up.


Stroop (Motor Vehicle Comm): Good morning, Mr. Chairman.


Rep Holcomb: Good morning.


Stroop (Motor Vehicle Comm): I’m Sandy Stroop, and I’m the Director of the Arkansas Motor Vehicle Commission. We’re located just down the road on Capitol a little bit in what is referred to as the old Dillard’s office building. And we take care of licensing all manufacturers of new automobiles and trucks, RVs, and power sports, and then the licensing of the dealers themselves. As far as any questions or concerns, I’ll be glad to visit with anybody if they’ve got any questions, and we can be located down there or just give us a call.


Rep Holcomb: All right. Thank you, Mr. Stroop. Appreciate your time.


Stroop (Motor Vehicle Comm): Thank you.


Rep Holcomb: Anyone here from Towing and Recovery? They’re not here, but we deal with Towing and Recovery a lot. So we’ll probably have some bills as a matter of fact this year dealing with him. Waterways Commission. Anyone here from Waterways Commission? Okay. How about the Attorney General have a liaison here today? Anyone from the Governor’s Office that wants to speak? Okay. How about Shannon, Shannon from Trucking Association?

Newton (Trucking Assn): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the invitation. I’m Shannon Newton. I’m the president of the Arkansas Trucking Association. And I want to say a special thank you to all the returning members who chose to be on Transportation. I know a lot of the others may not have had a choice. So I appreciate and look forward to getting to work with the new members. Biggest issues for us deal with highway safety. The highways of Arkansas is the workplace for our industry. And so most of the issues that we’re interested in come before this committee deal with roadway safety or protecting the infrastructure which we heavily invest in. And I look forward to working with all of you that I haven’t and those of you that I have again.


Rep Holcomb: Any questions? Anyone? Shannon, thank you.


Newton (Trucking Assn): Thank you.


Rep Holcomb: Did I miss anyone? Anyone here for another agency that wants to speak? Mark, you got anything you want to? Okay.


Whitmore (Counties): Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee. I’m Mark Whitmore. I’m with the Association of Arkansas Counties. We represent, for this committee, I think mostly germane, the county judges and the sheriffs. Now Scott Bradley is the director of the Sheriff’s Association. He could be here as well. I want to go ahead and give you my phone number, 501-940-xxxx. Y’all will contact us throughout the year, not just during the session. You’ll have issues that come up with your constituents that deal with counties. And we represent all the different county officials that implement the laws that you might have contact with. But as far as this committee, I think it would be primarily the judges and the sheriffs. And if you have any questions, feel free to give us a call.


Rep Holcomb: Any questions? All right, thank you, Mark.


Whitmore (Counties): Thank you, Mister Chairman.


Rep Holcomb: Anyone else?


Gilbert (Transit Assn): Thank you. My name is Ann Gilbert. I’m director of the Arkansas Transit Association, and we represent the 16 public transit systems in the state and all of the developmental disabilities schools and senior centers that transport their clients. So happy to be here. Thank you.


Rep Holcomb: Any questions of Miss Gilbert? Okay. Thank you for coming down. I appreciate it. I miss anyone else? Come on.


Givens (Gov Office): Thank you. My name is Joseph Givens. I am going to be the infrastructure and transportation liaison for the office of the governor under Sarah Huckabee Sanders. So I’m looking forward to working with each and every one of you, especially you, Mr. Chairman. And if anyone has any questions for me and wants to speak with me, I’ll be here after the meeting convenes.


Rep Holcomb: I’m sure we’ll have plenty of questions for you before it’s all over with [laughter]. Thank you for coming down.


Givens (Gov Office): Thank you, Mister Chairman.


Rep Holcomb: You’re a brave man. I also want to– Michael Lindsay, would you raise your hand? Michael is from Walmart. And you might say, well, why are we introducing the Walmart transportation. Well, we have, I think it was session before last, we had some autonomous bills we had to run. Autonomous vehicles. And so we had to make some adjustments for that. So sometimes you’ll see businesses included. Come on.


Miller (Railroad Assn): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My name’s James Miller, and I represent the Arkansas Railroad Association. So anything that deals with trains, 99% of the time, I’m probably the guy.


Rep Holcomb: We usually see James every year for some issues, so, James, appreciate you coming down. Any questions? Okay. All right.


Miller (Railroad Assn): All right.


Rep Holcomb: Thank you for coming down. I appreciate it. I miss anyone? All right, let me go through the– thank you all. Thank you all for being here. If you’ve got somewhere you need to go, you can go ahead. I’m just going to go through the rules with committee, but I appreciate all of you coming and taking your time to share with us. Thank you again. I want committee members to know that during the session, the committee will always meet in Mac B. We’ll meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 o’clock.


Rep Holcomb: Now, if it’s a light schedule, I might not call a meeting. But it may move it on, because if there’s one bill, and it’s not pressing, well, we may skip, but other than that, our scheduled meetings are Tuesday and Thursday at 10 o’clock. A quorum must be present. That’s 11 members constitutes a quorum. It’s important that we be on time, that we start our meetings on time. And as you’ll see, I try to keep the meeting moving. We will try to keep it moving because we all have busy schedules.


Rep Holcomb: If you have a bill that you’re going to run, and you know you’re going to be late, say you’re in another committee meeting, just let me know that you’re going to be here or I can move it so I can move it down on the agenda. And sometimes your bill may be a simple bill that’s not hard to run. You can get someone else to run that for you. We allow that also. Just make sure they don’t mess it up for you if you have someone to do that.


Rep Holcomb: The agendas are prepared in accordance with the House rules, and the agendas are prepared two days in advance. The sponsor notification will be sent to you who have bills on the agenda two days before the committee meeting. So the sponsor notices will be sent by email. After a bill or resolution has appeared on the committee agenda and has been called up for consideration and the sponsor is not present, the item will be placed at the bottom of the active agenda. If a bill or resolution has been called up for consideration three times, it will automatically be dropped to the deferred list unless the sponsor notifies the staff. And we request that we move the bill from the deferred list to the active agenda by 2:30 PM two days prior to the scheduled meeting.


Rep Holcomb: Amendments should always be in writing. Please let staff know before the meeting if you have an amendment and if you have a special order of business. Say you’ve got a bill that you know is going to take a long time, going to be a lot of discussion, you have testimony coming to people traveling a long way, we’ll set aside a special order of business for that. This is the call of the chairman. It’s done when the sponsor of the bill requests special meeting date or time for the committee to hear the bill. And so it’s usually when there’s a controversial bill that we do this. So do you have any questions? Anyone have any questions before?


Rep Holcomb: Let’s all try to work together. One thing we don’t allow, we don’t allow you to get argumentative in this committee. If you have questions, fine, ask the questions. We’ll move on if it gets repetitive, but we don’t argue. We will ask the question and try to be respectful of everyone running their bills. Any questions from anyone? Representative Whitaker, you’re recognized.


Rep Whitaker: Well, Mr. Chair, thank you for recognition. It’s not a question so much as just pointing out a parliamentary quirk that we probably never thought we’d deal with in Public Transportation, but if you’ll notice the signboard next to me, the speaker is a member of this standing committee, which I believe changes the threshold for do pass from 11 to 10. Am I correct?


Rep Holcomb: That’s correct.


Rep Whitaker: Thank you.


Rep Holcomb: Are we right on that?


BLR Staff: Yeah.


Rep Holcomb: Okay, I’m sure he’s right. I was shocked when I looked and saw the speaker was on the committee. So that is true. All right. Pardon me? Well, the speaker is on the committee. It only takes 10 votes instead of 11. So to get something out of committee. So be a little easier to get your bill out of here, in other words. So any other questions? Any comment? Hey, if you would, just like I said, just a little short bio, kind of what your background is. Nothing really long, so it’ll help me in the committee selection for the subcommittees.


Rep Holcomb: Any questions? Any comments? Thank you for picking this committee. To me, Transportation is one of the most important committees there is. I can tell you, I’m a highwayman all the way, being a former county judge and being on this committee for this will be my sixth term. I realized how important that economic development– infrastructure is a direct impact on economic development. If you don’t believe that, go back when they built the highway from Alma to Fayetteville over 20 years ago, there was nothing there. And it was just like a vacuum that sucked out everything out of the Delta. So we have I-49 now. We know how important that is. A lot of times when I’m going to a meeting or something home, my district is really large geographically because of the population in that area. A lot of times I’ll take the long route to get there because it’s a good highway. And we want good highways in Arkansas. We don’t want people taking a long route and going around Arkansas.


Rep Holcomb: One of my passions is, and I hope you will help me push it as much as possible, we have I-69, future I-69, across the southern part of Arkansas. It’s so important to the whole state. If we got I-69, we’ve got all our right of ways. Kentucky’s already started there. They’ve already started their bridge across the river. Our big holdup is with Mississippi getting the bridge across the river at the Mississippi. But if we could do that, all the truck traffic that you see on I-30 and I-40, we would take half of that or more away from that. And it would just be a shot in the arm for the Delta. So any chance you get to help me promote I-69, it would make Arkansas a greater state. Any comment from anyone else before we leave? Thank you for being here. We stand adjourned.