By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
We know you don’t have time to keep up with all of the legislative action in your home state that has potential to affect your trucking business. That’s why your Association keeps a close watch on the action 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.”
The Senate unanimously approved a bill that would set up standards for ticket camera placement and for the citations based on them. Sen. Joe Simitian wrote in the bill that before communities can install cameras they must show that “the system is needed at a specific location for reasons related to safety.” The provision would affect ticket systems installed after Jan. 1, 2012. SB29 has moved to the Assembly.
The General Assembly has forwarded to the governor a bill to open the door to allowing the state to form partnerships with private groups for new roads. HB1091 would prohibit the state from partnering to expand existing roads.
As of July 1, the state forbids the collection of fees applied for police and fire personnel responding to accidents. HB2119 provides protections for anyone involved in a wreck. Incidents involving the cleanup of hazmat and the need for ambulance services would not be prohibited from incurred costs.
A bill on life support in the Senate would limit tractor-trailers to the right lanes on interstates with three or more lanes in each direction. On two-lane stretches of interstates, trucks would be restricted to the far right lane. SB139 would allow trucks to use the left lane of multi-lane highways near large cities. The bill failed to get enough votes to pass the full Senate, but could be brought back for further consideration.
A new law requires a restructuring of the Maine Turnpike Authority. LD1538 makes a number of changes, including a requirement for Senate confirmation of the authority’s director. Additional requirements call for the agency to submit spending budgets and transfer 5 percent of its annual operating revenue to the state DOT.
Gov. Dave Heineman signed into law a major roads funding bill that relies on the existing sales tax and bonding to get road work done. LB84 takes one-quarter of a cent of the state sales tax each year for the next two decades and earmarks it for highway construction. The switch will not take effect until 2013.
Another new law extends the number of days that permits can be given for trucks in excess of the weight limit. Fees for 30-day permits are $25, while 60-day permits are $50. Until now permits could be extended by 120 days. LB35 lengthens the extension to 200 days.
Gov. John Lynch signed into law a bill to increase the maximum weight limits for large trucks equipped with idle-reduction technology. Previously HB117, the new law authorizes commercial vehicles equipped with auxiliary power units to weigh up to an additional 400 pounds. It takes effect Jan. 1, 2012.
The Assembly voted to advance a bill to the governor’s desk that would require large trucks base plated in New York to have front-end mirrors installed if traveling through any of the five boroughs. S3151 would apply to all trucks weighing at least 26,000 pounds with conventional cabs.
The Senate voted to advance a bill to the House that would put a stop to the use of red-light cameras throughout the state. Existing law authorizes more than 20 communities throughout the state to use the devices. Violators face $50 fines. S187 would make it illegal to operate any red-light cameras.
A new law authorizes tougher penalties for drivers who use roads closed due to harsh weather. State law has limited fines for violators to $20. SB2157 authorizes escalating fines starting at $100 and points tacked onto licenses.
A $6.5 billion budget deal was approved to fund state government for the upcoming year. One component of the deal – HB2171 – borrows about $102 million from the state DOT for other uses in state government. To help recoup some of the loss, the Legislature agreed to allow ODOT to sell $70 million in bonds.
A bill in the Senate Transportation Committee is intended to encourage car and truck drivers to clear snow and ice off their vehicles. SB266 would require drivers to make “all reasonable efforts” to remove all accumulated ice or snow from their vehicles. Fines would range from $25 to $75.
Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law a bill to standardize red-light cameras statewide. Among the various provisions in SB1684 is a requirement for traffic studies to show the system is necessary. Cities are also prohibited from issuing tickets to drivers who fail to come to a complete stop when making a right turn on red.
Undeterred by a gubernatorial veto, lawmakers voted to route a growing percentage of certain sales tax proceeds for transportation. SB229 earmarks 30 percent of any increases in sales tax revenue to roads for a five-year period. Starting in 2013, about $59.6 million in sales tax revenue will be shifted from the general fund to the highway fund.
Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law two bills to authorize tolls. SB5700 establishes tolls on the state Route 520 bridge across Lake Washington. Variable toll rates are authorized on the bridge to pay for a replacement crossing.
HB1382 authorizes express toll lanes on Interstate 405 from Bellevue to Interstate 5 at Lynnwood. The toll rate will vary according to traffic conditions. General purpose, or free lanes, cannot be converted to express toll lanes.
The Legislature voted in favor of a proposed amendment to the state Constitution – SJR23 – to require any money collected through the state’s fuel tax and vehicle fees to be spent on transportation projects. In order for the state Constitution to be amended, state lawmakers must approve the change in two consecutive sessions. Voters would then need to approve it. LL