For the first time, State Rep. Barry “Boss” Doss (R-Leoma), who is the House sponsor of Governor Haslam’s
IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017” and is serving as Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, admitted to having a contract with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) since he was elected in 2012. The admission came during an interview with WSMV Monday, as he was attempting to refute conflict of interest charges related to his sponsorship of the IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017.”
The potential conflict of interest, as reported by The Tennessee Star, was raised on March 27 via a letter from the Tennessee Republican Assembly (TRA) to Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) that called for an ethics investigation. Rep. Doss, serving as Chairman of the Transportation Committee and House sponsor of Governor Haslam’s IMPROVE Act with his “capability to sway the committee” or “manipulation of the rules” with the outcome of the legislative process having the potential for “direct financial impact on his business” did not meet the “Guiding Principle” of avoiding even the appearance of conflicts, TRA said.
Thus far, Speaker Harwell has not responded to the request for an investigation and Doss had not commented.
That was until Monday, when Rep. Doss in an interview with WSMV Channel 4 said, “First of all, I think it was tacky that someone would use those tactics to try to fight against something that they don’t believe,” apparently referring to the letter signed by TRAs six state leaders.
“When asked if Doss viewed the TRA as a credible group, he replied, ‘I don’t think of them at all.’”
From the organization’s website, “The TRA was chartered under the National Federation of Republican Assemblies, which has a 70 year history of success as a true grassroots organization. The NFRA is our nation’s oldest and largest Republican volunteer organization. President Ronald Reagan said that the Republican Assembly is ‘The Conscience of the Republican Party.’ The NFRA is the national umbrella organization for all of the nationwide state Republican organizations.”
In the interview, Doss also said of his family’s company Doss Brothers Construction, “My family business has been in business for 36 years, and we’ve done two projects for TDOT in the history of our company. One project before I was elected, three years before I was elected, and then one after I was elected.”
Doss also told Channel 4, “I am not a road builder; I can’t compete with road builders.” And continued,
“I am a small rural general contractor who happens to do dirt work and paving. I have never paved a Tennessee road in my life. I’ve never paved a city road, and I’ve never paved a county road in my life. So there is no benefit to my company because of this bill.”
Doss did not address in the interview any details on the type of work his family business did for TDOT or the dollars TDOT paid to Doss Brothers Construction.
The interview also did not address the fact that Doss, a vocal proponent of a fuel tax increase, prior to this year had never served on the Transportation Committee or served as chairman of any committee. Yet, in this year when the most prominent legislative issue is additional road funding through a fuel tax increase, Doss was not only assigned to the first House committee to hear the
IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017,” but appointed chairman by Speaker Harwell.
Doss apparently didn’t feel the need to address his breaking of House rules, presiding as committee chairman over a bill he sponsored, or other tactics he employed along the way to ensure the
IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017” advanced through the Transportation Subcommittee and Committee .
Late Monday, the House accepted the Senate’s version of the
IMPROVE Act “Tax Cut Act of 2017,” and the bill to increase the gas tax by 6 cents per gallon (a 28 percent increase from the current 21 cents per gallon) and the diesel tax by 10 cents per gallon (a 55 percent increase from the current 18 cents per gallon) now goes to Gov. Haslam for his signature.