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 our early fall roundup of bills you were most interested in – your handpicked A-list of what passed in recent weeks and of other noteworthy items still active.
A bill on the governor’s desk would require brokers of construction trucking services to secure a surety bond of at least $15,000 to ensure payment to dump truck operators. AB145 would make failure to secure a bond as much as a $5,000 fine. In addition, a rebuttable presumption would be created in favor of the dump truck operator if there is a civil action filed due to lack of payment.
New on the books is a law that stiffens penalties for striking an emergency worker after not moving over. Now in effect, violators who strike an emergency worker would face a Class F felony.
Another new law raises the penalty for red-light camera violations. HB189 increases the base fine from $75 to $110.
One more new law creates a three-tier system that is intended to curb drivers when heavy snow falls. The first tier of SB306 simply discourages driving. The next level puts in place a “driving restriction.” The final tier would be an all-out driving ban.
Offenders of the second and third tiers would face up to $115 fines. Repeat offenders would face time in the clink.
A new law prohibits indemnification clauses associated with annual permits for trucks exceeding height limitations. HB1174 no longer allows an indemnity bond or proof of insurance protection for $300,000 to be required to obtain a permit.
Another change increases actual gross weight, single axle weight, tandem axle weight, or the allowed weight on any group of two or more axles. As a result, trucks equipped with APUs are authorized to weigh up to an additional 400 pounds.
Gov. Pat Quinn has been busy signing bills. HB5819 restores language in Illinois law that gives trucks up to 65 feet in length access onto local roads to points of delivery or for food, fuel, rest and repair.
SB3695 will deposit into a State Police fund the fines and costs imposed in traffic and criminal cases. Certain fine amounts will also rise by as much as $15.
HB4860 prohibits tow truck operators from stopping at the scene of an wreck unless law enforcement, or the owner or operator of the vehicle has contacted them.
State law now mandates that drivers merge into a lane farther away from emergency vehicles before passing, if practical. If unable to switch lanes, drivers are required to slow to a “reasonable and prudent speed” to help ensure the safety of emergency personnel, including police. Violators would face $500 fines.
Gov. John Lynch recently signed into law a new 10-year highway plan. HB2010 includes $30 million in state bridge funding for replacement of the Memorial Bridge. Another $20 million in federal grants is also sought by the state to complete the work.
The plan also provides funding for widening portions of the Spaulding Turnpike and Interstate 93. In addition, it addresses nearly 60 “red list” bridges.
Gov. Chris Christie has signed into law a bill that exempts CBs and two-way radios from the state’s ban on hand-held communication devices while driving. S1429 took effect immediately.
Other bills before lawmakers include A2907, which would enable truck drivers to operate or move a vehicle or combination of vehicles having a weight up to 107,000 pounds, where permissible. The special permit fees could not exceed $2,000.
A2204 is intended to prevent toll road authorities from profiting from the diversion of traffic onto the state’s toll roads. Tolls would be suspended on any portion of highway or expressway to aid in evacuation due to hurricane or other emergency. Also, tolls would be waived when other nearby roads become impassable.
Effective Nov. 1, a new law gives law enforcement the authority to seize uninsured vehicles licensed in the state during traffic stops and accident investigations. Affected vehicles will be towed to an impound lot until the requirements of Oklahoma’s mandatory insurance law are satisfied.
Another law now in effect changes the rule on left turns in oncoming traffic. Drivers can now get tickets for failure to wait until all oncoming traffic has passed before turning left. Oklahoma law previously allowed vehicles to turn left after signaling and pausing in an intersection. Oncoming traffic was required to yield to the turning vehicle.
A bill nearing passage at the statehouse would allow an unlimited number of cameras to be used in cities with fewer than 250,000 people. Pittsburgh would also get cameras. Philadelphia already has a program set up.
HB1800 would route half of the fine revenue from $100 tickets to the State Police. The rest of the money would go to municipalities. Pittsburgh would have its own deal. There, 75 percent of fine revenue would go to its pension fund. What’s left would go for local projects.
A bill in the House Transportation Committee would permit local, full-time police officers who work for “full-service accredited police departments” to use radar to nab speeders. HB2513 would allow local departments to keep only 25 percent of the revenue made from speeding tickets. The state would get half of the revenue while the remaining 25 percent would go to nonprofit agencies with accreditation programs for local police officers.
Speeding fines will soon be doubled when traveling within 200 feet of parked emergency vehicles with lights flashing. Violators could also face charges of reckless endangerment of emergency workers and loss of driving privileges for 60 days, up to one year in jail, and as much as $5,000 in fines. HB2464 takes effect Jan. 1, 2011. LL