Contract for Study of Agency Approved

Roads consultant to aid lawmakers



The Legislative Council on Friday approved a contract for up to about $723,000 between the Bureau of Legislative Research and a Virginia-based consultant to assist a council subcommittee in its study of the state Department of Transportation.

The bureau's contract is with McLean, Va.-based Guidehouse LLP — formerly known as PricewaterhouseCoopers — and runs through Dec. 31, 2020. The maximum amount that the bureau will pay to Guide-house is $722,463.19 under the contract.

 “I am personally satisfied with who we have as a consultant,” Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, who is a co-chairman of the Legislative Council's Highway Commission Review and Advisory Subcommittee, said after the council's meeting. The consultant's experience includes reviewing transportation agencies in Colorado, Massachusetts and Texas, according to the firm.

The bureau wants Guidehouse to provide detailed information about the state of the processes and functioning of the Department of Transportation. For example, Guidehouse would study the department's procedures and how it handles procurement, projects, expenses and appeals.

The consultant also will recommend potential legislative changes to the subcommittee and other lawmakers, according to the contract.

The contract includes an option for renewal for six more months, if both sides agree that an extension would benefit the subcommittee or the General Assembly. Prior approval of the subcommittee is required if the consultant needs to hire a subcontractor.

Three weeks ago, the subcommittee directed Bureau of Legislative Research officials to negotiate a contract with Guidehouse LLP. The firm was the only company to submit a proposal to the bureau by the June 14 deadline for such proposals to be submitted.

The consultant has experience studying Arkansas government.

The consultant was hired by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission last year to help Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson develop his plan to reorganize state government. The reorganization that became effective July 1 consolidated 42 agencies into 15.

In addition, the conservative nonprofit Arkansas Policy Foundation hired the firm in 2016 to conduct an efficiency review of the state Department of Finance and Administration.

Act 298 of 2019 requires the Legislative Council to hire a consultant to study the Department of Transportation. The council assigned the study to the highway subcommittee.

The law requires the council to recommend legislation based on the findings. The council is required to file a final report by Dec. 1, 2020, with the governor and House and Senate leaders ahead of the 2021 regular legislative session.

In this year's regular session, the Legislature and governor enacted Act 416 that will raise more money for state and local roads through a wholesale sales tax on fuel, higher license fees for hybrid and electric vehicles, and fund transfers.

The new tax and fee increases go into effect Oct. 1. State officials project the law will raise about $95 million a year more for the Department of Transportation and about $13 million more a year each for cities and counties.

The Legislature also referred to voters in the 2020 general election a proposal to permanently extend the half-percent sales tax for highways. That tax was initially approved by voters in November 2012 for a 10-year period. State officials project the proposal will raise about $205 million a year for the Department of Transportation and about $44 million a year each for the cities and counties.