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 who tipped us off on initiatives you cared about.
Here’s our early fall roundup of what governors signed into law in recent weeks and of other items still active.
For a complete rundown of state legislation, visit landlinemag.com and click on "Legislative Watch" under the "Important Info" tab.
Gov. Jerry Brown has multiple bills on his desk that are of interest to truckers. AB767 would allow counties throughout the state to double a local fee for vehicle-theft prevention. Personal vehicle fees would increase from $1 to $2, and commercial vehicle fees would increase from $2 to $4. Counties around the state with populations under 250,000 could also use the revenue to prosecute drunken driving and vehicular manslaughter cases.
AB902 would boost the fine for violating the state’s “move over” rule. The current fine for failure to make way for emergency personnel is $50. After tacking on court fees and other costs, the total penalty is $279. The bill would increase the amounts to $100 and $489, respectively.
A proposed amendment to the state constitution – SCA8 – moving through the Senate would lower the public votes needed for approving local transportation sales tax questions from 66.67 percent to 55 percent.
A new law requires Delaware-based commercial vehicles in excess of 26,000 pounds to be equipped with an audible reverse warning signal, backup camera or other warning device. Farm vehicles are exempted from the requirement. As of Jan. 1, 2014, anyone who fails to equip their truck with the required equipment would face $75 fines. Repeat offenders would face $175 fines.
Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill into law to raise the speed limit from 65 mph to 70 mph on rural four-lane highways and the Illinois Tollway. The change will take effect on Jan. 1, 2014. Cook and the “collar” counties surrounding Chicago, and Madison and St. Clair counties outside of St. Louis can opt out of the rule change.
State lawmakers voted to override Gov. Deval Patrick’s veto of a 10-year transportation funding package that will raise $800 million in taxes annually by 2018.
Specifically, the bill increases the state’s 21-cent-per-gallon fuel tax by 3 cents the first year. The new 24-cent-per-gallon rate will also be tied to inflation, which allows for regular increases. In addition, a 2.5-cent portion of the tax now applied to underground storage tank cleanups will be rerouted to transportation.
Gov. Jay Nixon signed a bill into law that includes a greater incentive to get truck drivers to stop idling. The change increases the weight limits for trucks equipped with auxiliary power units up to an additional 550 pounds – up from 400 pounds.
In addition, HB103 lowers from 35 percent to 30 percent the amount of total revenue localities can receive from traffic violations.
Gov. Brian Sandoval signed into law a bill to do away with indemnification clauses in contracts. The clauses are set up to protect shippers or hold them harmless from anything that happens with a shipment. The new rule took effect Oct. 1.
Affected contracts in Nevada are defined as a contract, agreement, or understanding 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, including the storage of property.
Gov. Maggie Hassan signed into law a bill to boost the speed limit along an 80-mile portion of Interstate 93 north of Concord. Previously HB146, the rule change increases speeds for all vehicles from 65 mph to 70 mph from mile marker 45 near Canterbury to the Vermont border. It takes effect Jan. 1, 2014.
The change doesn’t apply to the Franconia Notch area, where the speed limit will remain at 55 mph.
Another new law authorizes the state to pursue selling sponsorships or naming rights to the 16 state-operated rest areas. Previously HB635, the new law also sets up a committee to study closed facilities.
Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bad bill that sought to classify drayage truck operators and parcel drivers as company employees. A1578 called for deeming port truckers, including owner-operators going onto a port, as employees. (See more info on Page 48.)
The governor did sign into law three bills of interest. S530 increases fines for violators of the state’s left-lane rule from a minimum of $50 to as much as $300 for motorists who fail to keep right except when overtaking another vehicle. Another provision specifies that $50 of each fine would be put into a fund to pay for signage reminding motorists entering the state to keep right except for passing.
A3461 authorizes corporate sponsorship on rest areas along the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and other state-owned highways. Deals could also be reached on other “highway-related services or programs.” Revenue raised from sponsorships would be used to help pay for road work. In exchange for footing the bill to help keep facilities up and running, companies would get “acknowledgment signs” thanking them for the money.
A945 benefits New Jersey truckers and motorists with diabetes. Specifically, affected drivers will be allowed to voluntarily note the condition on their driver’s license. The notation is intended to aid emergency personnel to provide proper care if the person is unable to communicate.
A Senate bill would allow service personnel returning from duty to exchange their military CDL for a state-issued CDL without requiring a driving test. However, SB240 would not waive the written portion of the test.
Rep. Paul Tittl, R-Manitowoc, is working on a bill to raise the speed limit from 65 mph to 70 mph. Specifically, the speed limit would be boosted for all vehicles on freeways and expressways. However, the Wisconsin DOT would be able to set lower speeds near cities.
According to WisDOT, all four interstates have 85th percentile speeds that exceed 70 mph. The highest rate is 78 mph on portions of Interstate 43. LL