JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Department of Transportation would be examined by an outside inspector general controlled by the legislature under a bill heading to Gov. Bob Holden's desk.
Supporters of the legislation touted it as a way to increase the accountability of the agency responsible for building and maintaining Missouri's highways.
The department already has an internal inspector general who reports to the Missouri State Highways and Transportation Commission. That position would remain, even though the bill would specifically create a new government job to do much the same work.
The Senate approved the legislation 33-0 Friday shortly after the House approved it 117-3.
Sen. Jon Dolan, a sponsor of the legislation, said that Missourians need to have confidence in the state Department of Transportation before they will approve any additional funding to repair and expand the state's aging road system.
"This is the state taking its first steps toward accountability and restoring the trust in MoDOT with the people of Missouri," said Dolan, R-Lake Saint Louis.
Voters last August overwhelmingly defeated a tax proposal that would have raised about $500 million annually for transportation.
Rep. Larry Crawford, the House sponsor of the bill, said the new inspector general is intended to provide general scrutiny of the department.
"I've never intended this to take a look at micro details like contracts. We're not in that audit book," said Crawford, R-California, "but in the broader picture -- to get a better transportation picture for Missouri."
Crawford and Dolan both chair their respective chamber's transportation committees.
Some lawmakers said they thought the bill had little meaning, considering that someone already does the same work inside the department.
"All year long we've heard about transportation accountability, and all we've done is create two more levels of bureaucracy," said Rep. Wayne Henke, D-Troy. "It's going to cost the state more money."
But Dolan said the Legislature and Transportation Department would ensure there is no duplication between the internal inspector general and the one created by the bill.
The bill also would restrict the political activities of members of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission and would stagger the terms of the commissioners.
"It removes politics and bias from the committee structure," Dolan said.