By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
Elected officials in close to half of all statehouses throughout the country continue to consider bills that affect your trucking business.
We know you don’t have time to keep up with all the legislative action. That’s why your Association keeps a close watch on the action for you.
On this and the following pages, you will find a roundup of some significant happenings from around the country.
For a complete rundown of state legislation, visit landlinemag.com and click on “Legislative Watch” under the “Important Info” tab.
Effective in August, a new law requires motor carriers to offer workers’ compensation to independent contractors. If owner-operators choose to accept the insurance coverage, it would not terminate the individual’s independent contractor status.
Another new law is intended to keep most drivers out of the fast lane. Currently, state law requires drivers to merge right only when another vehicle is trying to pass. Effective this summer, HB1180 will make left-lane use off-limits for anything other than passing.
A proposed amendment to the state constitution – SCA8 – would lower the voter threshold for approving local transportation sales tax questions from 66.67 percent to 55 percent.
One vote away from the governor’s desk is a bill to authorize all vehicles to travel 70 mph. SB2356 would raise the speed limit from 65 mph on rural interstate highways and the Illinois Tollway. Speeds on divided four-lane highways wouldn’t change. Cook and the “collar” counties surrounding Chicago, and Madison and St. Clair counties outside of St. Louis could opt out of the rule change.
Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill into law that puts the KDOT secretary in charge of the state Turnpike Authority. Responsibilities will include serving as KTA’s director of operations and daily administration of the 236-mile toll road. A provision included in HB2234 prohibits any turnpike toll revenue from being used for anything other than KTA projects.
The Assembly voted to advance a bill that would allow motorcyclists and moped drivers to drive between lanes when traffic is congested. AB236 would allow two-wheelers to drive 10 mph faster than the traffic flow – up to 30 mph.
Moving through the statehouse are multiple efforts to increase the state’s 18-cent-per-gallon fuel tax by 12 cents. The gas tax rate would rise to 30 cents over three years. The diesel tax rate would be increased over six years. The 10-year, $817 million bill would protect the new money from being used for anything other than state and local roads and bridges.
A bill on Gov. Maggie Hassan’s desk would boost the speed limit along an 80-mile portion of Interstate 93. HB146 would increase speeds from 65 mph to 70 mph from mile marker 45 near Canterbury to the Vermont border. The change would not apply to the Franconia Notch area, where the speed limit would remain at 55 mph.
Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law that anyone who leads or organizes a cargo theft network could face $500,000 in fines, or five times the retail value of the property seized at the time of arrest. S2092 also specifies criminal charges for operating facilities used for storage or resale of property stolen from motor carriers.
A Senate bill would allow private companies to sponsor rest areas and service areas in return for upkeep of the facilities. S2514 would give the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, DOT and South Jersey Transportation Authority the ability to reach deals.
Another Senate bill would boost penalties for travelers who ignore road closures and drive through flooded areas. S885 would fine violators $250 – up from $100 – and add a requirement for them to pay towns for any rescue that is necessary.
There are multiple bills of note to truckers. A2537/S4589 would classify owner-operator truck drivers as company employees.
S733 would authorize the seizure and possible forfeiture of tractor-trailers for third violations of designated truck routes within 18 months.
A3489 would set up a pilot truck weight photo-monitoring system in New York City. The city government would be allowed to set up a local ordinance to create a demonstration program targeting trucks using roadways posted as a “No Truck” zone. Exceptions would be made for trucks making “a legitimate delivery” in the area.
S1913 would adopt a mileage-based system to number interstate exit signs.
House lawmakers voted 102-15 to advance to the Senate an amended version of Gov. Pat McCrory’s 10-year, $16 billion funding model that calls for putting available resources to the state’s greatest transportation priorities. Specifically, HB817 would set up three tiers of projects.
On the move in the Senate is a funding package that would help pay for roads, bridges and transit throughout the state. SB1 would raise $2.5 billion by the third year. Most of the new annual revenue would come via ending a cap on a tax on wholesale fuel prices. Other changes include phasing out Act 44, which requires the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to route $450 million annually to the state for roads and bridges.
Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law a bill that is intended to rein in “civil asset forfeiture.” The practice allows police to take cash or property from people pulled over along roadsides without charging them with a crime. SB891 allows people whose money or property has been confiscated by police to get an immediate hearing before a judge.
Another new law targets small communities that have police patrol spots on interstates and that issue tickets outside of city limits. Specifically, towns with 10,000 residents or less are allowed to patrol only within city limits. HB505 takes effect July 1.
A new law now in effect limits use of a runaway ramp for emergencies only. Blocking access to ramps by “stopping, standing or parking” in the pathway will also be prohibited. LL