By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
Included in this issue’s State Watch you will find the annual Legislative Guide, beginning on Page 42. The directory is your reference guide for tracking issues important to you.
On this page, Land Line rounds up some recent actions from statehouses.
One bill would give police in cities with fewer than 19,000 residents the authority to ticket speeders on interstates. SB8 would also allow speed enforcement for all police departments on roads outside of city limits but within their jurisdictions.
Multiple bills address road safety issues. HB4177 would force local governments in more than 50 cities and counties throughout the state to take down red-light cameras.
Also covering ticket camera use, HB33 stops short of an outright ban on the cameras. It calls for lengthening yellow-light durations based on traffic speed. The standard would be three seconds at 25 mph, increasing by about one-half second for each additional 5 mph. In addition, intersections with a posted speed of more than 55 mph, on approach, would be required to alert drivers.
Another bill would prohibit travelers from driving in the left lane of a multilane highway when they are about to be overtaken by another vehicle, even if they are driving the speed limit. S244 includes failure to stay to the right as one of the offenses that make up “aggressive careless driving.”
To boost available funding for local projects, SB217 would route two-thirds of 1 percent of the state sales tax to counties, cities and towns based on the share of local road and street mileage. The money now goes to the state’s general fund.
Rate hikes to access most toll roads, bridges and tunnels in the state have spurred multiple efforts to give truckers and other travelers more input. SB3 would require General Assembly approval of any rate increase.
HB40 would mandate a 30-day notice before any Maryland Transportation Authority vote to increase tolls, fees or other charges. The authority would also be required to take public comment at the meeting a vote is expected.
A Senate bill would put in place statewide rules to prohibit vehicles in excess of 8,500 pounds from idling for more than 5 minutes per hour. While loading or unloading, idling would be allowed for up to 30 minutes in a 60-minute period.
Certain exemptions would apply. SB819 does not include an exemption for extreme temperatures. It does, however, specify that auxiliary power units, gen sets or other idle-reduction technology is allowed.
Also in the Senate is a bill to do away with indemnification clauses in trucking contracts. The clauses are set up to protect shippers or hold them harmless from anything that happens with a shipment. SB873 would outlaw provisions in affected contracts that provide for shippers to be indemnified for losses caused by their own negligence and make them “void and unenforceable.”
Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law a bill to restore funding to keep welcome centers in Sault Ste. Marie, St. Ignace and Mackinaw City open seven days a week. Truckers directly benefit from the funding. A total of 37 truck parking spaces will remain accessible each day at the facilities.
A new bill would authorize officers with the Nebraska State Patrol to inspect the accounts, records and equipment of motor carriers or shippers. LB751 would give patrolmen the authority to enforce federal safety and hazmat regulations.
Rep. Ron Maag, R-Salem Township, introduced a bill that would increase the speed limit on the state’s interstates for all vehicles from 65 mph to 70 mph. Left-lane use would also be restricted on affected roadways. HB395 would require vehicles to stay to the right except to pass a slower vehicle or to exit the freeway. Road users would also be allowed to merge left to make way for vehicles entering the roadway.
Beating a Jan. 1 deadline, lawmakers acted to protect the use of red-light cameras in Philadelphia. HB1399 extended the ticket program’s expiration date to June 30, 2012. The revenue from the program is split between the city and the state for use in other communities.
Halfway through the statehouse is a bill to allow state government and local transportation authorities to partner with private groups to provide funding. SB344 would create a seven-member board to review toll proposals – four members must be state lawmakers. Before any deal could be green-lighted by the board the General Assembly would get a 20-day window to vote on the project.
Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, introduced a bill to designate the far left lane of Interstate 26 in Charleston for truck drivers.
Specifically, trucks traveling both directions on I-26 between Cosgrove Avenue and Ashley Phosphate Road would be limited to the far left lane.
H4440 specifies that trucks found in violation of the lane restriction would face up to $100 fines.
Addressing some financial woes at the South Carolina DOT, another bill would require the agency to keep the public updated on how money is being spent. S1007 would make the state DOT responsible for posting online a running register of financial transactions.
Five measures are expected to be addressed by lawmakers this session to help the Wyoming DOT address a $135 million annual shortfall.
One option is to increase vehicle registration fees by $7.50. A separate effort would divert nearly $14 million a year from general government fines and penalties for highways. The revenue now is applied to education.
Another initiative would reroute about $25 million in sales tax paid on off-road diesel for roads each year. In addition, elimination of the state’s ethanol tax credit and additional fees for ignition interlocks will be pursued. LL