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A committee in the Michigan Senate has fallen prey to the demands of the state association of county road boards, gutting bills that would have allowed a relatively direct process for dissolving these antiquated panels.
The full Senate must resist this folly, and their colleagues in the House, which originally approved bills that the Senate committee set aside, should also resist.
Let’s be clear: county road commissioners, through their statewide advocacy association, are fighting to keep their jobs. It doesn’t matter to them that the system is outdated and inefficient. Nor does it matter that the current system can be disrupted by individuals who operate with little to no accountability.
Simply put, the status quo serves their needs and they effectively arm twisted six senators to get their way.
The original House package would have allowed county boards of commissioners to dissolve appointed road commissions and take oversight of those responsibilities. That’s important, because, as seen in Ingham County, appointed commissioners can mismanage the organization thoroughly and the current system leaves little recourse for elected officials or citizens to reign them in. Counties with elected road commissioners would have been required to get voter approval to transfer road oversight to their elected county commissioners.
The Senate substitutes weaken the House package to the point of futility.
Both counties with appointed and elected road boards would be required to hold elections to eliminate them, and those elections could only be held after multiple public hearings. In addition, the substitutes require local county boards to perform audits and cost analyses, write risk management plans and adopt a plan for providing local funds to meet future obligations of the road boards.
There’s nothing wrong with audits and analyses, but the clear intent