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 early fall roundup of what passed in recent weeks and of other noteworthy items still active. For a complete rundown of state legislation, visit and click on “Issues & Actions.” You can also visit and click on “Legislative Watch.”


A bill on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk would overturn a ruling from the California Supreme Court that allows officers, without a warrant, to search the contents of a cellphone confiscated from anyone under arrest. SB914 clarifies that officers must first obtain a search warrant when there is probable cause to believe that a suspect’s phone contains evidence of a crime.

A new law provides additional resources for State Police and local law enforcement from an additional $15 penalty that will be charged to people convicted of crimes or offenses – such as speeding.

HB143 splits up to $4.25 million in revenue between the state’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security and local law enforcement to address violent crime. Any additional funds would be directed to the state’s general fund.

Trucks traveling outside of the Chicagoland area already are authorized to travel 65 mph on rural interstates – the same speed as smaller vehicles. Starting Jan. 1, 2012, SB1913 expands the 65 mph speed limit for cars and trucks to include U.S. and state highways outside of Chicago and the five surrounding “collar” counties.

Two bills of note could be considered at the statehouse this fall. S1780 would create more flexibility for truckers in the state’s idling restriction. Massachusetts now limits idling to five minutes each hour. The bill would exempt drivers idling their trucks during a rest period.

Another provision covers idling while trucks wait to load or unload. In addition, owners of locations served by trucks would be prohibited from causing vehicles to idle for more than 30 minutes while waiting to do business at the location.

H3073 would expand language offerings in the state when taking the CDL exam to include Spanish and Portuguese. Also, the state could expand the list of languages if deemed necessary.

Michigan lawmakers are considering legislation to add funds for road work.

A legislative package would rely on the state’s Natural Resources Trust Fund to ease the squeeze on funding for road repairs. If approved, roads would claim 60 percent of the trust fund’s annual revenues.

Because the trust fund is protected by the Michigan Constitution, voters must sign off on changes to how the money is distributed.

The package – HB4021, HB4028 and HJRB – is in committee.

HB4521 would 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.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill that is intended to eliminate blindspots for truck drivers traveling in New York City. It takes effect Jan. 18, 2012.

Previously S3151, the new law requires large trucks base-plated in New York to have front-end mirrors installed if traveling through any of the five boroughs. Specifically, the law applies to all affected trucks weighing at least 26,000 pounds with conventional cabs.

Another new law now in effect toughens the state’s rule on texting while driving. S998 makes it a primary offense to send, receive and read text messages while at the wheel. Previously, violations were a secondary offense. Violators face fines up to $150 and two penalty points on a license.

The state’s two-year, $56 billion budget deal includes authorization for state officials to pawn off the Ohio Turnpike. As part of any lease deal, HB153 gives Ohio state lawmakers some oversight. The Legislature would be responsible for writing the terms of any contract to operate the road. In addition, limitations could be placed on toll increases.

A new law does away with indemnification clauses in motor carrier transportation contracts. SB41 defines affected contracts as “any agreement, regardless of whether it is written, oral, express, or implied,” between a motor carrier and a shipper covering the transportation of property for hire by the motor carrier, entry on property to load, unload or transport property, or any service incidental to such activity, including the storage of property. LL