By Keith Goble
state legislative editor
We know you don’t have time to keep up with all of the bills being considered in your home state that have potential to affect your trucking business. That’s why your Association keeps a close watch on legislative action in statehouses for you.
Here’s a roundup of some new laws and other significant bills nearing passage in legislatures around the country. For a complete rundown of state legislation, visit ooida.com and click on “Issues & Actions.” You can also visit landlinemag.com and click on “Legislative Watch.”
A new law increases the maximum gross vehicle, axle weight limits for large trucks equipped with idle-reduction technology. Trucks equipped with auxiliary power units are now authorized to weigh up to an additional 400 pounds. Previously SB288, the new law is already in effect. For a list of states with APU exemptions, see the box in this section.
Another new law in effect outlaws levying fees for the response of vehicle incidents by law enforcement. A law enforcement agency, officer or any other entity is forbidden from charging a “first responders” fee on drivers, owners of vehicles or insurance providers. HB306 does not affect volunteer fire departments or rescue squads.
Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that called for a safety study of keeping trucks to the right on a portion of Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson and other non-urbanized areas with three or more lanes in each direction. Brewer said in her veto statement that the study was unnecessary. Arizona law already limits slow traffic to the right.
Concern about local governments using automated cameras as cash cows spurred lawmakers to adopt a law that transfers up to $7 million this fiscal year from money left in the photo-enforcement fund after all costs are paid to the public-safety equipment fund.
SB1018 also prohibits photo-enforcement systems from being placed within 600 feet of a posted speed-limit change.
Two bills on the governor’s desk have the attention of truckers. SB196 would limit lane use on grades that average 6 percent or more for at least one mile along I-70. All vehicles that cannot stay within 10 mph of the posted speed limit on affected stretches would need to stay right. If signed into law, it would take effect July 1.
HB1113 would transfer responsibility for inspections at the state’s ports of entry from the Colorado Department of Revenue to the State Patrol. The DOR will keep responsibility for size and weight enforcement, credentials, permits and other functions.
A bill before Gov. M. Jodi Rell would fine drivers $75 for failure to clear snow and ice off their vehicles. HB5387 would increase the fine to as much as $1,000 for motorists if snow and ice breaks free and results in injury or damage to another vehicle. The same circumstances would result in truck drivers facing up to $1,250 fines. Drivers would not be liable for accumulations on a vehicle while out on the road.
One bill awaiting action from Gov. Charlie Crist includes a provision to increase weights for 80,000-pound tractor-trailers to 88,000 pounds on certain roadways. Tucked inside the lengthy transportation bill, HB1271 includes an incentive to reduce truck idling. Large trucks equipped with auxiliary power units would be authorized to weigh up to an additional 400 pounds.
Another bill atop the governor’s desk has drawn the ire of truckers and others who are protective of funds that are made available for transportation work. SB1964 would authorize $160 million to be raided from the State Transportation Trust Fund to help cover budget deficits.
At press time, OOIDA had issued a Call to Action urging the governor to veto the bills.
A new law is intended to make public-private partnerships more attractive. HB1186 exempts private entities that build toll roads from having to pay property taxes on the property they put roads on.
Also signed into law is a transportation funding plan that lets regions decide whether to increase the 4-cent sales tax by one penny to pay for roads, bridges and transit. HB277 gives voters the final say on the tax in the 2012 presidential primary.
Under the new plan, the state would be broken into 12 regions. Officials in each region would come up with a list of local projects, and could then submit the list to voters, along with the 1-cent sales tax increase to fund them.
Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign a bill that is intended to set the framework for the Illiana Expressway. SB3659 would permit the state to partner with a private group to develop, build and manage the proposed 53-mile expressway linking Illinois and Indiana.
A lease deal could last as long as 99 years. At least one public hearing would be required before any public-private agreement is made. And the governor would get the final say on any potential agreement.
Another bill on the governor’s desk addresses concerns about “super speeders.” SB3796 would make it a Class B misdemeanor to speed 30 to 39 mph above the limit. Punishment could include six months in jail and a $1,500 fine.
It would also prohibit judges from issuing court supervision to anyone found guilty of driving at least 40 mph in excess of the speed limit. Exceeding the speed limit by 40 mph could result in a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
Gov. Mark Parkinson has signed into law a 10-year, $8.2 billion transportation program. H2650 includes a four-tenths of a cent increase in the state’s sales tax in January 2013.
Another provision authorizes the transportation secretary to recommend construction of a new toll or turnpike project, or the designation of an existing highway as a toll or turnpike project.
Truckers are getting the shaft with a $135 increase in annual registration fees, which will be phased in during 2013 and 2014.
The Senate has approved a transportation budget for next year. Awaiting House consideration, HB1167 would take $84 million from other transportation funds to be used for road and bridge work. The budget cuts would allow the state to secure $475 million in federal matching money to benefit roads and bridges.
An analysis from the Senate Fiscal Agency shows that the proposed shifts in the MDOT budget would result in a $40 million reduction in highway maintenance. Half of the state’s 14 welcome centers would also face permanent or seasonal shutdowns.
Also included is a provision that would prohibit MDOT from putting money toward the proposed Detroit River International Crossing unless state lawmakers and the governor approve legislation allowing construction.
Another bill – HB4961 – would enable certain transportation projects, such as the DRIC, to be built as public-private partnerships and financed with tolls.
Targeting speed traps, two House bills would require all municipalities to comply with a 2006 traffic law that requires speed limits to be determined by the number of driveways and cross streets on a particular stretch of road, or by conducting a traffic study to determine the average speed of 85 percent of drivers.
HB6164 and HB6165 would force communities to conduct speed studies to properly set limits required by the four-year-old law.
Life would be a little easier for hazmat haulers under a Senate bill. S1937 is intended to reduce credentialing requirements for hazmat. Truckers seeking a hazmat or tank vehicle endorsement would be exempt from a secondary background check, provided they have a valid TWIC.
One bill would allow the state to privatize the Ohio Turnpike and Ohio Lottery. Proceeds from sale or lease deals would be used to set up scholarships.
SB224 would eliminate the Ohio Turnpike Commission once control of the Turnpike is transferred to a private entity. Among the roadblocks to enacting the legislation is a potential public vote on the issue.
For consideration during the special session on transportation, a bill in the House Transportation Committee would raise at least $300 million a year by implementing a toll at the border of each of the state’s interstates. PennDOT would collect toll revenue and earmark it for road and bridge improvements, as well as funding transit.
HB2 calls for motorists to pay $1 and commercial vehicles to pay $5 when crossing the border in or out of the state.
Gov. Joe Manchin vetoed a bill that called for increasing the minimum number of troopers “up to” 800 by July 2016. HB4397 sought to give the state police superintendent authority to develop a program to increase the number of troopers during the next six years. LL