By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
The majority of state legislatures have wrapped up their work for this calendar year. A special thanks to those of you who followed what took place in your state and tipped us off on initiatives you cared about.
Here’s our end-of-summer review of bills you found of interest. It’s a roundup of what passed in recent weeks, as well as other items still active. 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.”
Gov. Robert Bentley signed into law a bill to allow the city of Montgomery to use cameras to enforce speeding in construction zones, near schools and in neighborhoods. Fines could be as much as $100.
Two bills of note died in Sacramento. SB333 sought to, at least temporarily, reduce the 10 mph speed differential between cars and trucks along a rural, 120-mile portion of Interstate 5 stretching from Woodland to Cottonwood. Trucks would have been allowed to travel 5 mph less than the speed posted for smaller vehicles.
AB950 sought to deem drayage truck operators, as well as any owner-operator going onto a port, to be employees of the companies that arrange for their services. Owner-operators would effectively have been banned from the ports.
Awaiting the governor’s signature is a bill to require local governments to submit truck routes to the Illinois DOT. All designated truck routes would be posted on IDOT’s website. HB1377 would also make distinctions in the CDL curriculum and study guide, and in materials relating to obtaining or renewing a CDL, as to the difference between using a truck-attributed GPS device and other non-truck-attributed GPS devices.
Trucking operations that are required to pay the motor carrier fuel tax now must submit all required reports and taxes in electronic format. SB458 also places sole responsibility for civil penalties for an oversize/overweight violation on the person whose U.S. DOT number is registered on the vehicle hauling the load. Another provision in the new law puts the state in accordance with the FMCSA’s 2012 medical certification requirements.
Also signed into law is a bill specifying the speed limit in a highway work zone must be at least 10 mph below the normal speed in the area. In addition, all forms of dangerous driving in the affected areas will carry harsher penalties. Revenue generated from violations specified in SB338 will be used to hire off-duty officers to patrol work zones.
Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law a bill to allow bonds secured by unclaimed property funds to be used for completion of Interstate 49 from Shreveport to the Arkansas line. Unclaimed property funds are turned over to the state by businesses when the rightful private owners cannot be found.
Gov. Paul LePage signed into law a bill that could soon authorize faster travel on the northernmost stretch of Interstate 95. LD1557 gives the Maine DOT authority to increase the speed limit from 65 mph to 75 mph along the 91 miles of highway that link Old Town and Houlton. The earliest that drivers could see 75 mph speeds posted on the affected stretch of highway is the end of September.
Also signed by the governor is a $637 million two-year highway spending package, which includes dropping fuel indexing as a funding source. Indexing is a system of automatic adjustments in the tax on motor fuels. Indexing will end in July 2012.
Another new law prohibits texting while driving. It takes effect in September.
Gov. Brian Sandoval signed into law a bill to require the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada to partner with a private group to finance a 15-mile toll road around Boulder City. The toll rate will be set by a state board and collected by a third party. There is no indication yet about possible toll rates.
Another new law forbids text messaging while driving. In addition, SB140 prohibits the use of hand-held devices while driving. It takes effect Jan. 1, 2012.
The new two-year, $56 billion state budget includes a provision to pawn off the Ohio Turnpike. The budget bill allows state lawmakers to write the terms of any turnpike lease deal. In addition, limitations could be placed on toll increases.
A new law makes unenforceable any motor carrier contracts that provide for shippers to be indemnified for losses caused by their own negligence. Previously SB259, the new law defines affected contracts as any written agreement for the transportation of property for compensation or hire, entry on property to load, unload or transport property, or any service incidental to such activity, including the packing or storage of property.
Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law a bill to outlaw speeding tickets based on photos. S336 also requires police to directly hand tickets to drivers within an hour of a violation.
Gov. Rick Perry signed into law multiple bills of interest. HB1353 allows truckers and other drivers to travel at the same speed, night and day. It takes effect Sept. 1.
The speed limit on most rural highways can be increased to 75 mph day and night – as long as state studies deem it safe. In addition, any speed differential between cars and trucks will be eliminated.
The 80 mph speed limit in West Texas will also apply to all vehicles 24 hours a day.
Speed limit changes do not end there. HB1201 authorizes 85 mph speed on new highways. A separate provision writes the Trans-Texas Corridor out of the books. After years of debate in Austin, the multibillion-dollar TTC was declared dead in 2009, but concern about language that remained on the books spurred additional action. The new law removes any reference to the failed highway project from statute.
SB1420 includes multiple provisions. TxDOT will undergo multiple reviews. The agency and local tolling authorities are also authorized to sign public-private partnerships for as many as 10 toll roads. Another provision calls for shifting from TxDOT to a new state DMV the permitting for oversize and overweight vehicles.