A bill that would have originally changed the makeup of the board over the Utah Department of Transportation has been amended to make changes for the board over the Utah Transit Authority, too.
HB371, sponsored by Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan, as is now amended, keeps the size of the board over UDOT, the Utah Transportation Commission, at seven members but strikes out a part of the law that prohibits more than four members from belonging to the same political party. Instead, the bill says that "members of the commission shall be selected on a nonpartisan basis" but does not provide a limit to the number of members of any party.
The bill, if passed, also would change the geographical representation of the commission, beginning on July 1, to four commissioners from each of the four UDOT regions, and three at-large commissioners with at least one of the at-large commissioners from a rural county. Commissioners now represent geographical parts of the state, but the geography segmentation is different than the regions that UDOT uses.
The bill also makes the commission accountable to the Legislature by requiring an annual report to a legislative committee. In the report, the commission would have to present to legislators a prioritized list of transportation projects, funding available for the projects, and unfunded highway construction and maintenance needs. The committee then would have to make a recommendation to the Legislature about the amount of additional funding to allocate to transportation and the source of revenue for the additional funding.
Sen. Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse, added amendments to HB371 that he believes will eliminate conflicts of interest for board of trustee members of UTA. Currently, five of the 17 UTA trustees are also elected officials in Salt Lake, Davis or Utah counties. Killpack's amendments prohibit the board from having more than one elected official per county.
UTA is neutral about the bill, only requesting that current trustees be allowed to serve through the end of their current term, said Bruce Jones, UTA's attorney.
The length of a trustee's service is extended under the bill from three two-year terms to three four-year terms. "The UTA board is an extremely complex and time-consuming position," Jones said. "By the time a trustee's first term is over, she is just starting to grasp the world of public transit and how financing works."
Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, told the Senate on Tuesday that extending the terms was necessary.
"I sat on the UTA board for two terms," she said. "It's very complex."
Late Tuesday afternoon, the Senate approved the amendments to HB371. It now heads back to the House for a vote over the amendments.