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MDOT: Better way to end enforcement duplication

JACKSON — Gov. Haley Barbour is urging legislators to pass Senate Bill 2928, which would shift law enforcement housed in the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) to the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (DPS).

However, MDOT says it has a better idea.

In 2004, to eliminate duplication, the Legislature consolidated the personnel, revenue and enforcement function of the Public Service Commission (PSC) with MDOT Enforcement. The same year, Gov. Haley Barbour moved the federal grant funding for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Program, which was awarded to the PSC for many years, from MDOT to DPS creating a Commercial Vehicle Safety Unit at the Mississippi Highway Patrol (MHP) with a limited duplication of some duties as MDOT Enforcement. The MHP unit has approximately 40 personnel assigned.

MDOT executive director Larry L. “Butch” Brown said, “I am curious as to the governor’s desire to move officers from MDOT’s Office of Enforcement to the Department of Public Safety because officers in both agencies perform similar functions, and there is no reason for such duplication when he created the duplication. The governor can solve his manpower problem without need for legislation or increased expenditure by reassigning the MHP inspectors to patrol immediately.”

MDOT Enforcement operates 27 inspection stations at 14 locations and 70 portable units statewide. The agency’s primary responsibilities include commercial vehicle safety inspections, fuel tax compliance, dyed fuel inspections, proper vehicle registration, weight enforcement, contraband and drug interdiction, Homeland Security duties and Certificate of Convenience and Necessity determinations for transporters of household goods and passengers.

MDOT said it stands ready to assist DPS with freeing troopers from non-basic patrol work by continuing MDOT’s existing Commercial Vehicle Safety and Weight Enforcement program. DPS discontinuing its efforts would free those officers for patrol work, immediately, without the need of consolidation. MDOT Enforcement will be glad to investigate the time-consuming commercial vehicle accidents freeing MHP officers for more patrol time.

Enforcement director Willie Huff said, “We feel this is a win-win proposal for MHP, MDOT and the taxpayers.”

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