By Keith Goble
state legislative editor
The majority of state legislatures have wrapped up their work for this year. A special thanks to those of you who followed what took place in your state and tipped us off on initiatives important to you.
Here’s a roundup of noteworthy issues signed into law in recent weeks and the latest activity on other notable bills still active.
A new law brings California’s commercial driver’s licensing rules in compliance with FMCSRs. AB2144 implements changes sought to beef up out-of-service violations for operators and motor carriers.
Other bills of interest signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger include SB1268, which prohibits transportation agencies, such as Caltrans, from selling or sharing personal data. Agencies are also required to purge data that is no longer needed. In addition, FasTrak subscribers must be given notice of the privacy practices affecting them. The requirements also apply to other toll collection systems.
SB949 prohibits local law enforcement from issuing their own tickets for traffic violations already covered by state vehicle code, such as reckless driving and running red lights. Cities and counties could continue to issue administrative tickets for violating posted signs, such as speed limits and stop signs.
AB2567 allows local governments to contract with private companies to place ticket cameras on street sweepers. Cameras can be used to identify vehicles that remain on streets “during designated street-sweeping hours.” Tickets would be mailed to drivers.
Schwarzenegger vetoed AB909, which sought to reduce the fine for rolling through a red light while turning right. The total ticket amount, which includes additional fines and penalties, would have dropped from about $450 to about $220.
The fine for residents who fail to tag their vehicles in Delaware within 60 days of establishing residency is on the way up from $25 to a range of $400 to $600. The new rule can be enforced only as a secondary offense. HB388 includes an exemption for truck trailers registered under the IRP.
A new law raises the cap for the amount of “design-build” work that the Georgia DOT can contract. Previously SB305, the new law increases the share of design-build transportation projects from 15 percent to 30 percent.
Gov. Pat Quinn has been busy signing bills. SB3732 requires mandatory revocation of a CDL if the person refuses to submit to blood or breath testing when suspected of driving under the influence and causing death or serious injury. Noncommercial drivers will also lose their driving privileges. After one year, offenders can apply to have their license reinstated. The fee would be $500. It takes effect July 1, 2011.
HB4673 is intended to get tough with trucking operations that do business on construction sites. Failure to display the company name on the truck would result in at least $500 fines – up from a maximum of $100. It takes effect Jan. 1, 2011.
Also effective the first of the year, SB935 is intended to reform oversight of red-light cameras. Requirements include calling for police officers to review violations, prohibiting additional fees for administrative hearings to contest tickets, forbidding tickets solely for stopping after the painted stop line, and making video evidence accessible on the Internet.
A bill in the House Judiciary Committee would require suspected drugged drivers to submit to a preliminary oral drug test during a traffic stop. The test can detect drug use in six categories, including marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine. HB6432 would require additional screening if the preliminary test is positive.
Halfway through the statehouse is a four-bill package that would repeal parts of a seven-year-old law that imposes extra fees on drivers for certain traffic offenses.
Among the fees that the bill package would eliminate is an annual $200 fine for not having proof of insurance when pulled over. Extra fees for drivers with multiple speeding tickets or other offenses, such as driving without a license or insurance, also would be dropped.
Bills before lawmakers include A2759, which would route one-third of fine revenue generated through traffic tickets issued by the State Police to the municipality where the violations occurred. The other two-thirds would stay with the state. Municipalities could use the revenue for “general municipal purposes” and to defray costs of operating municipal courts.
A651 would require police officers to obtain a breath or blood sample of drivers of all vehicles involved in wrecks resulting in death or serious injury to another person. The bill includes hefty fines for refusal to abide by the rule. In addition to fines of up to $1,000, offenders would face a possible two-year suspension of their driver’s license – the same penalty for a conviction of refusal in relation to a drunken driving charge.
S2030 would make the maximum penalty for driving recklessly in an attempt to endanger someone five years in prison – up from 18 months. Offenders would also face up to $15,000 fines – up from $10,000.
A3154 would put in place a “three strikes” policy for drivers caught violating the state’s ban on handheld cell phones or texting laws three times. Fines for repeat offenders would increase from $100 to $250. Third offenses would result in $500 fines, in addition to a 60-day license suspension. A similar Senate bill – S2181 – is also being considered.
A2407 would allow businesses to sponsor and advertise their products at toll plazas on the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway.
Offered during the special session on transportation, SSHB15 would authorize the State Police to levy a per person “patrol services” fee to be paid by each municipality that relies solely, or partly, on the police force for patrols.
In addition to losing privileges of State Police patrol services, failure by townships to pay the fees would result in forfeiture of all Commonwealth funding including liquid fuels and fuel use tax payments.
A House bill would expand the duties of county sheriffs throughout the state. HB5285 would remove limitations and restore investigative, arrest and other law enforcement powers to “properly trained” sheriffs and their deputies. County sheriffs could also enter into agreements with municipalities that rely on State Police “patrol services” for their enforcement needs. LL