State Watch

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 roundup of noteworthy issues signed into law in recent weeks and the latest activity on other notable efforts.

For a complete rundown of state legislation, visit and click on “Issues & Actions.” You can also visit and click on “Legislative Watch.”


Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, has prefiled a bill for consideration during the 2012 regular session. It would give police in small towns the authority to ticket speeders on interstates. SB8 also would allow speed enforcement for all police departments on roads outside of city limits but within their jurisdictions.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill to authorize a vote in Alameda County on transportation funding. Previously AB1086, the new law allows the county Transportation Commission to place a tax hike question on the November 2012 ballot.

The law was needed to provide a one-time exemption from the existing 2 percent cap on local sales taxes. Recent measures approved in San Leandro and Union City prevented a countywide measure because it would exceed the 2 percent cap.

Another new law extends the use of ticket cameras in the San Francisco area through 2015.

California law already allows the city and county of San Francisco to issue citations based on photos snapped of parking violations in transit-only lanes. City-owned public transit vehicles can be outfitted with cameras to record parking violations in the affected lanes. AB1041 avoids a sunset date at the end of this year.

At press time, a bill still on the governor’s desk would give communities wiggle room on speed limits.

Since 2004, California law has required cities to round up their speed limits starting at the 85th percentile of travel speeds. The posted speed must be rounded to the nearest 5 mph increment.

AB529 would give local governments the option to round speed limits down after a traffic study.

Gov. Pat Quinn recently signed three bills of note into law. HB1091 opens the door to allowing the state to form partnerships with private groups to get more road work done. The partnership allows private business to partially or fully fund construction in return for revenues, such as tolls.

The new law does include some state oversight of any lease deals. State lawmakers are required to approve all potential public-private partnerships. Also, the state is prohibited from partnering to expand existing roads.

SB1644 adopts a statute that increases by 400 pounds the maximum weight limits for large trucks equipped with idle-reduction technology.

The new law also standardizes gross weight regulations. When the gross weight of a vehicle with a registered gross weight of up to 77,000 pounds exceeds certain weight limits by as much as 2,000 pounds, the owner or operator must remove the excess weight. The rule changes take effect Jan. 1, 2012.

SB42 allows the Illinois DOT to issue permits for loads that exceed size and weight restrictions for short trips, under certain circumstances.

The rule applies to divisible loads that previously had to be broken down into separate shipments to meet truck weight limits. Divisible loads include sand, gravel, dirt, logs, fuel and garbage.

The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee met with the Department of Legislative Services to address viable options to raise revenue. Options discussed include raising the state’s fuel tax rates, adding a 6 percent sales tax on fuel purchases, or increasing other taxes and fees.

Lawmakers will most likely consider the proposals during the regular session that begins in January.

Two bills of note could be considered at the statehouse before the end of the year. H956 would mandate the removal of snow and ice from atop large trucks when accumulation amounts to one-quarter of an inch thick or more. Violators would face fines of at least $100. If injury or property damage occurs, fines would increase to $500.

H918 would allow communities to adopt ordinances permitting them to post cameras to nab red-light runners and speeders. Violators would face up to $100 fines. Feeding the perception that the main objective of the cameras is to boost revenue, points would not be added to offenders’ licenses and insurance companies would not be notified.

Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law a bill to halt a $12 million deposit in road tax money to an economic development fund for two years. Instead, HB4748 routes revenue generated from driver’s license fees for road construction and maintenance.

Still under review in Lansing is a bill – HB4521 – to earmark a portion of state sales tax revenue to state road projects. Now, sales tax is imposed on motor fuel purchases, but none of the revenue goes to roads.

Another bill would allow the state to block driver’s license renewals for people who accumulate three or more unpaid parking tickets in the same community. Michigan law now puts the threshold at six.

Communities will receive a shot in the arm for transportation funding if SB130 goes through.

Gov. Brian Sandoval signed into law a bill that prohibits sending text messages while driving. SB140 also forbids the use of hand-held cellphones while at the wheel. The new rule takes effect Jan. 1, 2012. Until then, police can issue warnings for violations.

Rep. Margaret Cheney, D-Norwich, is expected to pursue a gas tax increase next year to help cover some of the expense of making road and bridge repairs incurred by the remnants of Hurricane Irene. As proposed, the tax increase would remain in place for two years and would be designated solely for local road repairs. The plan does not include a bump in the diesel tax, which is nearly a dime higher than the gas tax. LL