Senate Transportation

Jan. 25, 2023


Sen M Johnson: Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re waiting on Senator Rice to get here. When we do that, we’ll be able to, have our quorum and conduct business. In the meantime, I thought we’d take this opportunity to recognize Director Lorie Tudor, ARDOT and let her introduce her staff and give us a quick update. And also, answer any questions that any members might have. Director Tudor, you’re recognized.


Tudor (ARDOT): Thank you Senator. So, I’m Lorie Tudor, the Director of Arkansas Depar… [Inaudible]. How’s this? Is it good?


Sen M Johnson: Little better, yeah.


Tudor (ARDOT): Okay. I got reprimanded at a meeting. I didn’t speak up loud enough, so, thank you. So, ARDOT is the State’s lead agency for transportation, with more than 37,000 employees across the state. We have 16,400 miles of state highways to maintain, 7,300 bridges. We have the 12th largest highway system in the nation. So for a small rural state with a small tax base, we have to be very careful with the money that we do have to take care of that big system. This system allows interstate and intrastate commerce, and carries nearly 35 billion vehicle miles of travel annually to support $120 billion Arkansas economy. So very important to our economy is our infrastructure. Our mission is to provide a safe and efficient transportation system to meet the needs of the citizens of this state, and to protect their investment in our infrastructure. It is very important to us that we do things wisely and we protect the investment that’s already there. I have several of our executive team here with me today; and I’d like to introduce them. We have our Deputy Director and Chief Engineer, Rex Vines. We have our Assistant Chief of Administration, Kevin Thornton. We have our Assistant Chief Engineer of Planning, Jared Wiley, and he’s a good one to know, because as Senator Hill can attest, when you need something, a project, he’s the one that can look and see where we’re at on doing that improvement. He has all that information right there in that little iPad, it’s amazing. We also have our Assistant Chief Engineer of Design here, Mike Fugett. I’ve brought to the table with me Jeff Holmes, he’s the Chief of our Arkansas Highway Police, which is a very important part of ARDOT, and I’d like for him to say a few words so you get to know him.


Sen M Johnson: Thank you, Director Tudor. Chief, you’re recognized.


Holmes (AHP): Thank you sir.  My name is Jeff Holmes, I’m a 30 year veteran of the Highway Police. Our primary mission is to protect our work zones, enforce size and weight laws and regulations on commercial vehicles, and to perform safety inspections on trucks. We have approximately 140 officers statewide, operate 8 weigh stations, and approximately 70 patrol units. And I look forward to working with each of you.


Sen M Johnson: Thank you, Chief. And I might say, Director Tudor, the efficiency blew me away. I’ll tell a quick story. My wife and I were headed to east Arkansas for an event that Director Tudor was also attending. And a truck about 2, 3 lengths in front of us, a big heavy pallet blew off of it and went flying through the air and came very close to, it could very well gone through someone’s windshield and been a terrible thing. Well, my wife wrote down the truck’s license number and I handed her my phone and she texted it to Director Tudor. And by the time we got to our destination she says “Highway Police have already caught the guy”. [laughter] That was kind of a johnny-on-the-spot thing, but, again, can’t always do that. But thank you for all you do and we’re grateful for all that. We’ll go back to recognizing the Director.


Tudor (ARDOT): I’ll do one more. Senator Rice is here, so I’ll finish up real quick.


Sen M Johnson:: We won’t cut you off. We’ll let you finish.


Tudor (ARDOT): You won’t cut me off? Okay. Gill Rodgers, he’s a very important introduction. Gill, are you here?


Sen M Johnson:: Gill is right – yeah.


Tudor (ARDOT): There’s Gill. He’s our governmental relations officer, and his job is to provide quick access to any information you might need. He’s kind of a clearing house. One person to call, and then he calls us or whoever he needs to call. That way, hopefully, we take care of your needs efficiently and in a timely manner. His business card should be there in front of you, so, get that number in your phone. And, be sure you have him in your phone so you can contact him whenever you have a need. Course you can contact me any time, Chief Holmes, any of us. But he kinda lurks around the Capitol so you might be able to pull him to the side and say whatever you need to. And finally I’d just like to say we were very, very pleased to see when this Committee was set up . The members of the Committee, the Chair, the Co-Chair because we feel like all of you here are a great support and encouragement to the department. We’ve loved work – we’ve worked well with you in the past. And we look forward to working with you in the future, and being productive, and doing what we need for the citizens of this state.


Sen M Johnson: Great. Senator Chesterfield, you’re recognized.


Sen Chesterfield: Thank you, Mister Chair. It’s late in the afternoon. Miss Tudor, thank you for always taking my call, but I’m wondering if you would be so kind as to provide us with a list of those individuals and their numbers so that we would know. Because you’ve said them rather quickly, and I really need his number.


Tudor (ARDOT): His number? Okay.


Sen Chesterfield: Thank you so much.


Tudor (ARDOT): We will –We have a little laminated card that we’ve prepared for the new legislators; but we’ll provide those for you guys as well so you can have all the latest information.


Sen M Johnson: Thank you so much, Director Tudor and Chief, and all the staff and Gill especially. We lean on you and we appreciate ya and he’s always available when we need him. We don’t have any absolute true legislative freshman on this Committee. Our new members are former House members, and I’m sure know a lot about how ARDOT operates. But we thank you for all you do and we’ll keep that communication two-way, and thank you so much. And I don’t think we’re gonna have but one bill today unless Senator Wallace shows up, but Vice-Chaiman Boyd you’re recognized to present Senate Bill 47.


Sen Boyd: Thank you. Mister Chair, Committee members, Senate Bill 47 is very simple. It repeals 27-51-1306. So a constituent brought this issue to my attention and so I started researching it. And this statute was written in the 1930’s and last modified in 1957, so then I started asking some questions. Vehicles have modernized, we have emergency brakes; things are just different today then they were when it was last updated and certainly when they were in 1930’s. And so this bill was filed I think the first day of session or pretty close to it. It’s been out there; no one has contacted me with any concerns. The people I’ve talked to have been supportive or not offered me any concern, so, unless someone has questions that’s really all I have to say about it. Yes? 


Sen M Johnson: Senator Chesterfield, you’re recognized for questions.


Sen Chesterfield: Thank you Mister Chair, and thank you for clarifying some of your thoughts on this process. The thing that troubles me is so many people leave cars running with children in them. And that scares the bejesus out of me. And I’m afraid that if we say you can just leave the car running that gives them an excuse for not being more diligent about making sure that those children are okay. Is there something– I tried reading the bill, I did; I didn’t see anything in there that says “except when a child is left in the car”.


Sen Boyd: Senator, I think that’s a great question. But, I think that’s addressed other places in the code about leaving children unattended in general. I just don’t think that this code was intended to address the issue of unattended children. So I appreciate the concern. I just think that that’s elsewhere in the code not in an unattended vehicle. I don’t think – this doesn’t say anything about kids – It doesn’t say –-


Sen Chesterfield: I know. I guess that’s what was concerning me.


Sen M Johnson: Alright, well, we’ll take a look at that Senator, make sure it’s covered elsewhere.


Sen Chesterfield: I’d really like to see it, because I don’t want folks leaving cars unattended, going to-and-fro, and then all of a sudden we have a kid in the car. And we said it’s okay to leave my car running. So State said it was okay I don’t know why you’re complaining about it. I’d just like to know that we have taken, we are sure that that’s addressed somewhere else in the code, and that would just erase all of my concern about what you have. Thank you.


Sen M Johnson: Senator Boyd, as I read this, first of all I like the fact that it just strikes the whole section. Because the section, at least in my opinion, is very obsolete; and you mentioned the 1930’s. My car doesn’t have an engine, it has an electric motor. It doesn’t have ignition; it doesn’t have a key. So, technically I can’t comply with this because of the fact that it’s just different technology. And when I walk away from my car it automatically locks, so, perhaps we may need a modernized consideration of this. And I certainly concur with Senator Chesterfield’s concern about endangering children, but that’s probably not something that we deal with in this particular transportation part of the code. It might need to be looked at in another way. I will ask the Committee staff to see where that is elsewhere, Senator, and we’ll report back to ya. Yeah. But I think this is an example of one of those things that’s in the code that dealt with the time when trains were steam locomotives, and some of the cars still had a crank in the front of ‘em to start ‘em. So we need to bring this modernization bit on it. It is a very good bill in my opinion. Any other questions from the Committee members? Senator Hill.


Sen Hill: Senator Boyd, I like your bill. I like what it’s doing. ‘Cause I’ll use yesterday for example. I hit the auto start on my truck, and I sat in my seat, it was warm. So I appreciate that very much.


Sen Boyd: Thank you.


Sen M Johnson: Any other questions? You mention, Senator Hill brings up a good point. Sometimes it’s a safety concern that you have the remote start. I’m glad that my wife can open or lock her door from her key rather than having to get up to the car. Or sometimes you can just unlock the driver’s side and not the passenger’s side for your safety. Technology tends to serve us in other ways, but if we revisit this we’ll do it with modern technology in mind and not this. Any other questions for Senator Boyd? Senator, you are welcome to close for your Bill. I’m sorry, anybody in the audience like to speak for or against the bill? We don’t have anybody signed up, do we? Okay, we have a motion do pass, and a second. All in favor say aye. Opposed? Senator, you passed your Bill!


Sen Boyd: Thank you


Sen M Johnson: I don’t believe we are gonna hear House Bill 296 today, it’s gonna be deferred. And House Bill 1101, I don’t think – Senator Wallace was the Senate co-sponsor. I don’t think we’re gonna get to that one today either. We will defer both of those. Any other business to come before the Committee? I see no reason not to accept your motion Senator Chesterfield. We are Adjourned.