Former state Rep. Robert S. Moore Jr. of Arkansas City (right) is introduced by Gov. Mike Beebe as the newest member of the Arkansas Highway Commission on Thursday during a news conference at the state Capitol. (Arkansas News Bureau/John Lyon)
LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Mike Beebe on Thursday named former state Rep. Robert S. Moore Jr. to the Arkansas Highway Commission.
Moore, of Arkansas City, served three terms in the state House, including two years as House speaker, a role he relinquished when the 89th General Assembly convened Monday.
He replaces Madison Murphy of El Dorado on the commission. His appointment expires Jan. 14, 2023.
Beebe called Moore a “champion of highways.”
“We saw that when he was speaker of the House and when he was in the House. He led efforts legislatively to give voters the opportunity to make the choices that they made, and he’s always been an infrastructure transportation person,” the governor said.
Moore was the most vocal supporter of dual measures approved by the Legislature in 2011 to refer a combined $2.8 billion highway plan to voters. He proposed a 5-cent diesel tax increase, with the support of truckers, to finance a bond issue and about $1 billion in highway improvements. Rep. Jonathan Barnett, R-Springdale, proposed a one-half cent sales tax increase to finance bonds for a $1.8 billion program to build a four-lane highway system linking every corner of the state.
Moore’s proposal was subject to a special election, which the governor never called last year after the Arkansas Truckers Association withdrew its support. Voters approved Barnett’s proposed constitutional amendment in the November general election.
Moore, 68, an Army veteran of Vietnam, graduated from Ouachita Baptist University. He later earned a law degree and worked for former Attorney General Jim Guy Tucker.
In 1977, then Gov. David Pryor appointed Moore as chairman of the Arkansas Transportation Commission. He would also serve on the staff of former Gov. Bill Clinton and 20 years as director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.
Moore was elected to the state House in 2006.
On Thursday, he thanked Beebe for the highway appointment and pledged to “look for innovative new ways to meet the challenges on our deficiency in highway funding so that we will have the funds available in the future to ensure that we can retain the roads that we have and build the roads that we need.”
Moore said that having grown up in Arkansas City, he is well aware of the importance of good roads to rural Arkansas. But he said he also has lived in Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas and is aware of the need to relieve traffic congestion in growing areas.
“Everybody should have reasonable access to having good, safe roads to travel on,” he said.
State highway officials have said the state will have about $4 billion available to cover nearly $20 billion in highway needs over the next decade.