Legislative update

by Ruth Jones
Senior Editor 


South Carolina
Rep. Becky Rogers Martin is asking Gov. Hodges, state agencies, and interested public groups to support a program of highway safety awareness and education in 2000. Martin, who several months ago was considering a bill to lower truck speed limits in the state, has put that idea on the back burner for now. Instead she intends to concentrate her efforts in the direction of increasing speed enforcement efforts, educating the public on safely interacting with big rigs on the highways, and greater awareness of all safety issues. Martin told Land Line she hopes that a year-long, high-profile safety campaign will result in fewer crashes and fatalities.

For all you motorcycle enthusiasts, Rep. Joe E. Brown has filed legislation (HB 4322) to stop discrimination against bikers. Brown wants to amend the public accommodations law that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, and national origin to include "motorcycle ownership or operation, or the wearing of clothing associated with motorcycle ownership or operation, except if such clothing is obscene." Brown, a retired public school administrator, has also introduced a bill (HB 4285) to protect bikers from discrimination in the workplace.

Word is that when the legislature convenes for a budget session on Feb. 14, they will likely vote to raise the tax on gasoline and diesel fuel. Initial reports out of Casper indicate that the current 14 cents per gallon tax will increase by 8 cents per gallon. This increase, coupled with changes in the state's sales tax structure, is expected to cover projected budget shortfalls.

Rep. Carol Allen has introduced a bill (HB 2071) to mandate cleaner burning diesel fuel. Allen wants to require the sale of CARB diesel in the state by mid-2002. She reportedly has the backing of a number of business groups and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. Trucking interests in the state are opposed to the legislation, fearing significantly higher fuel costs.

Legislation pre-filed (lawmakers go back to work on March 7) by Rep. Gaston Cantens calls for eliminating language in state law that makes the state's seat belt law secondary to other traffic violations. If HB 561 passes, law enforcement officers will be able to stop drivers who are not wearing seat belts even if no other traffic laws have been broken.

While there have been indications that a bill to lower truck speed limits may surface during this session, at press time no such bill had yet been introduced.

New Jersey
A3540 (companion to SB 2179) is on the governor's desk. The bill calls for a "Truck Law Enforcement Study Commission." This commission would "study and make recommendations concerning the cooperation of local police in the enforcement of the state's trucking laws and implementing regulations."

The bill also calls for fines of $400 for the first offense ($700 for the second offense, $1,000 for the third offense) for violations of the current truck ban on non-National Network highways.

Fines could apply to drivers as well as owners or lessees of trucks violating the ban. Language in the bill gives enforcement officers the discretion to cite the driver "if the officer believes the circumstances of the incident warrant it," although it is noted that the owners or lessees are usually responsible for the violation. The bill also increases fines for presenting false dispatch papers (bills that don't match the cargo) to an enforcement officer from the current $100 to $300. SB 2179 has been assigned to the Senate Transportation Committee.

SB 2178, will authorize the state's Commissioner of Transportation to expand the current ban on large trucks (defined as those vehicles subject to the Surface Transportation Act of 1982) if it becomes law. Under this legislation, 96-inch wide trucks will be restricted to National Network routes (the current ban applies to 102-inch wide trucks). The bill provides exceptions for trucks making pickups and delivering or traveling to and from trucking company terminals if this bill becomes law. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Transportation Committee.

SB 2154 will grant authority to some municipal police to do emissions inspections as well as size and weight inspections. Only enforcement officers in cities with populations of more than 150,000 will be authorized to do these inspections if this bill passes. Fines will go to the state's Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Fund.

Assemblyman John Longville has proposed legislation (AB1352) to create a California Trucking Advisory Board for the purpose of educating motorists on topics relating to highway safety and sharing the road with trucks. Under the provisions of the bill, the nine-member board would be made up of three members elected by (California-based) trucking companies with less than 25 (owned or leased) trucks, three members elected by trucking companies with more than 25 but less than 100 trucks, and three members elected by companies with more that 100 trucks. All members must own a trucking company in the category they represent. The activities of the board would be funded by a $5 per truck levy for the number of trucks owned or leased by each company. The bill has been assigned to the Committee on Transportation.

Rep. Jamie Hagood introduced a bill last April (HB0265) requiring truck tractors and semi-trailers to operate in rightmost lanes on interstate or multi-lane divided highway. A violation is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a $50 fine. A similar bill (SB0345) was introduced in the senate by Sen. Tim Burchett last spring. Hagood's bill was placed in a study with Department of Safety; Burchett's piece was assigned to the Transportation Committee. Both lawmakers say they fully intend to pursue the lane restriction law this session.

For more information, you can contact Legislative Information Services at 615-741-1552. If you would like to call your TN state rep and are not sure who he/she is, call your local county election board.

In legislation already passed, the California state lawmakers have designated nine additional "Safety Enhancement - Double Fine" zones. All drivers who commit traffic violations in these zones will face higher base fines. Additional penalties for violations of other statutes are not affected. All Safety Enhancement - Double Fine zones must be marked by warning signs according to state law.

The new zones are:

(1) On Route 37, between the intersection with Route 121 and the intersection with Route 29.
(2) On Route 4, between the intersection with the Cummings Skyway and the intersection with Route 80.
(3) On Route 74, between the intersection with Route 5 and the intersection with the Riverside-Orange County line.
(4) On Route 46, between the intersection with Route 101 and the junction with Route 41.
(5) On the Golden Gate Bridge.
(6) On Route 12, between the intersection with Walters Road in the City of Suisun and the intersection with Lower Sacramento Road in the city of Lodi.
(7) On Route 138, between the intersection with Avenue T and Pearblossom Highway and the intersection with Interstate Highway Route 15.
(8) On Route 101, between the intersection with Boronda Road and the intersection with the San Benito-Monterey County Line.
(9) On Route 152, between the junction with Route 156 at the Don Pacheco "Y" and the intersection with Ferguson Road.