A bill to bring more state oversight to the Utah Transit Authority and increase the statutory responsibilities of its Board of Trustees was endorsed Monday by a House committee.
The measure, HB188, is one of two UTA oversight bills being debated this session, and it meshes with a new poll showing 64 percent of Utah residents either strongly or somewhat agree the state should have more representation on the UTA board.
Another 20 percent of Utah residents believed no changes should be made at UTA, according to the survey done by Dan Jones & Associates for the Deseret Morning News and KSL-TV.
The poll was conducted Feb. 19-21. A total of 412 people responded, and its margin of error was plus or minus 5 percent.
Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan, the sponsor of HB188, said his measure was designed to address several longtime concerns about the oversight and management of UTA, which is one of the state's largest government entities. The bill also addresses several issues raised in a recent audit criticizing the board oversight of UTA, high executive salaries and the accuracy of some information released by UTA, he said.
"It goes through and clarifies board appointment, reappointments, and addresses half a dozen things to ensure they are taken care of," Harper said.
Under the bill, the governor, House speaker and Senate president would each be required to appoint a person to the UTA board. In addition, the board would be required by law to ensure equitable transit service for all members of the public but also run a cost-effective system.
UTA officials said they had concerns with what they perceived as conflicting requirements listed under the legislation. Justin Jones, UTA manager of government relations, said it is difficult for a transit agency to serve all members of the public such as the disabled or low-income, yet still be cost-effective with all bus routes and services.
Jones said his agency is discussing concerns with Harper about his bill. In addition, the agency is also working with Sen. Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse, on a similar bill to change the governance of UTA.
"We support what the Legislature is doing on our behalf to make UTA better," Jones said about the two measures.
Under Killpack's bill, the House speaker, Senate president and governor, would also appoint three new people to the UTA board. In addition, the UTA board would be required to use its internal auditor.To read a copy of the bills, log on to: www.le.state.ut.us