My AJC colleague Ariel Hart sends this report of the most important thing that happened at the state Capitol today:
The Senate Transportation Committee on Monday voted swiftly and unanimously to confirm Toby Carr as the state’s transportation planning director, the semi-final step in his appointment.
Gov. Nathan Deal nominated Carr, a political aide, to replace Todd Long, a career transportation planner and engineer.
The planning director has perhaps the strongest single hand in picking which projects get funded from large parts of the state’s $2 billion gas tax budget.
Carr is former director of the Georgia Republican Party, led Deal’s gubernatorial transition committee, and recently has been Deal’s transportation policy advisor. He’s been acting as planning director pending his confirmation.
But his background raised no questions for the committee members. After Carr delivered his opening remarks to them Monday and braced for questions, the senators, both Republicans and Democrats, voted to confirm him without asking a single one.
In interviews, some said they had worked with Carr when he was Deal’s liaison to the General Assembly, so they were not concerned about his education, experience or the approach he would take for the transportation planning position.
“We’ve had great experience with him already,” said Sen. Bill Jackson, R-Appling, a member of the committee. “You know you have faith somewhere. You have to have faith in the people that you’ve known. You could criticize or ostracize anybody. But this young man is a fine young man, demonstrated right in this building.”
Jackson had begun the meeting with a prayer that the committee “justify” “the appointment of a good man by a great governor.”
Committee Chairman Jeff Mullis said the senators didn’t need to ask Carr questions the public could hear, because they had each spoken to Carr privately beforehand.
“We had a copy of his resume,” Mullis said.
Carr has degrees in finance and agricultural engineering, which he earned with honors.
Long has degrees in civil engineering from Georgia Tech, for which he studied subjects including transportation planning, traffic flow, and geometric design for transportation.
“Toby’s going to be great,” Long told the committee.
Sen. Steve Thompson, D-Marietta, defended the unquestioning support of Carr. “I don’t know how good you have to be to size a project up,” he told a reporter after the meeting.
Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, who was not at the meeting, also supported Carr on Monday – after a press conference where Rogers denounced the metro Atlanta T-SPLOST list as too political. Rogers said Carr wouldn’t politicize road choices. “I think what Toby will do is pick the best people around him to pick the projects,” Rogers said. “Toby’s not going to sit up at night and pick projects.”
A 2009 law passed as SB 200 set up the planning director position so the governor would have a strong hand on the front end of choosing projects, in hopes of avoiding conflict with the DOT board at the back end.
The House Transportation Committee will consider Carr’s nomination after the primary elections, said Chairman Jay Roberts, R-Ocilla. Roberts said he did not anticipate roadblocks for Carr, but he would hold both a subcommittee hearing and committee hearing so representatives could have adequate opportunity to question Carr.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider