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Legislative Update
State legislative update

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Oregon governor vetoes speed limit bill
On Sept. 3, Gov. John Kitzhaber vetoed SB 558 that would have authorized the state DOT to raise speed limits on rural interstates as high as 75 for cars and 70 for trucks. In his official veto message, Kitzhaber said, "There is no question that increased speeds will compromise the safety of our rural interstate highway system, and the evidence is clear that highway fatalities will increase as speed increases." Land Line repeatedly asked Gov. Kitzhaber's press office what "evidence" the governor was referring to, but no information was ever provided.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Randy Miller, tells Land Line there is little likelihood that the governor's veto can be overridden. Miller did say that he intended to introduce another bill to allow higher speed limits during the next legislative session, scheduled for January 2001.

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South Carolina will consider split speed limits
Rep. Becky Rogers Martin, chair of a transportation subcommittee of the House Education and Public Works Committee, is considering introducing a bill to reduce truck speed limits. Rep. Martin tells Land Line she is concerned about speeds and congestion on I-85 in her district. "We need to do something to slow it down," she said. "We've had some bad accidents where the truck couldn't stop in time and I'm very concerned about that." Martin indicated she is collecting data relating to lower truck speeds and will also investigate the need for more officers for speed enforcement for all vehicles.

According to 1998 statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 474 of South Carolina's 1,002 total highway deaths were speed related. There were 74 speed-related deaths on interstate highways in the state. These statistics apply to all vehicles, not just trucks.

The legislative session does not begin until Jan. 11, 2000, but safety-conscious truckers should nip this one in the bud. Contact lawmakers at their district offices now and urge them to oppose split speed limits.

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Ohio uniform speed bill stalled
Due to opposition by state police, there has been no progress on uniform speed limit bills before the legislature. Bill sponsors have reportedly requested a meeting with state police officials to discuss the issue.

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65 mph for trucks in Michigan?
Before the summer legislative recess, a tentative agreement to test a 65 mph truck speed on rural interstates was hammered out between legislators supporting uniform speed limits and MDOT officials. Michigan truckers should contact their lawmakers now and urge them to support this proposal.

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Wisconsin quota bill clears Assembly
AB119 will prohibit the state from "directly or indirectly" requiring an officer to issue a specific number of traffic citations or warnings in a specific period if it becomes law. The WI Assembly passed the bill by a vote of 96 to 2 on Sept. 23. AB119 has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Insurance, Tourism, Transportation, and Corrections.

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Oregon AAA fighting new fuel tax
The Oregon chapter of the American Automobile Association says it has more than enough voter-signed petitions to force a special election to challenge new fuel taxes. Signed by Gov. Kitzhaber on Sept.1, the new law increases the state's gasoline tax by five cents per gallon and ends the weight-mile tax for trucks, implementing a tax on diesel fuel of 29 cents per gallon instead. AAA contends that the new law unfairly burdens motorists while giving truckers a break. The state's Republican central committee has voted to support AAA's initiative, even though Republicans in the legislature were instrumental in the bill's passage. If AAA's petitions are validated, the special election will take place in May.

It is estimated that eliminating the weight-mile tax would save the state $50 million in administrative costs per year. Republican Party chairman Perry Atkinson reportedly favors separating the weight-mile tax issue from the issue of the gasoline tax increase. Whether or not that will be the case is not yet known.

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Florida legislators may consider split speed limits 
Sources in the Sunshine State indicate that legislators will take a look at lowering truck speed limits when the legislature convenes in March 2000.

In 1998, the total number of speed-related deaths was 612 (for all vehicle types) on Florida highways. That's 156 less than in 1997, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Crashes on interstate highways accounted for 85 of those deaths.

Even though the legislative session is not scheduled to begin for several months, now is the time to head this one off at the pass. Proponents of differential speed limits will not wait until March to begin lobbying, and in order to have the maximum impact, Florida truckers shouldn't either. Contact lawmakers at their district offices and urge them to support uniform speed limits for all vehicles.

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Ohio quota bill in committee
Rep. Ron Young's HB 394 will prohibit requiring law enforcement officers to issue a minimum number of traffic tickets on a periodic basis if it becomes law. The bill was assigned to the Committee on Criminal Justice in June. There has been no further action. 

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