Alabama bills address fuel taxes, left-lane use and probable cause

| 4/27/2007

Several bills of interest to the trucking industry have been offered this year in the Alabama Legislature. Those efforts include legislation to increase fuel taxes, limit left-lane use and give law enforcement officers more power to arrest people for misdemeanors.

A bill in the House Government Appropriations Committee would allow county commissions to increase the excise tax on motor fuels by resolution. State law now requires the Alabama Legislature to sign off on local efforts to levy county excise taxes.

Sponsored by Rep. Mac Gipson Jr., R-Prattville, the bill – HB164 – would allow a 6-cent-per-gallon tax to be added on diesel and gas purchases to pay for roads and transit. The tax would be used as a match for federal transportation funds, the Birmingham Business Journal reported.

The tax would be repealed when 90 percent of a participating county’s roads scored 85 or better in Alabama Department of Transportation rankings.

A bill awaiting consideration on the House floor is intended to combat aggressive driving on multi-lane highways by keeping the far left lane clear of most traffic. Sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Martin, D-Clanton, the bill would prohibit traffic from lingering in the so-called passing lane.

The bill – HB251 – would limit left-lane use to vehicles passing or overtaking slower moving traffic. Violators would receive warnings for the first six months. After that, $25 fines would be handed out. A change made to the bill would allow offenses to count against driving records.

At least 20 states have similar left lane restriction rules, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Another bill – HB5 – awaiting consideration on the House floor would give law enforcement officers more power during roadside stops. Sponsored by Rep. David Grimes, R-Montgomery, the bill would allow officers during investigations of wrecks to arrest people for any misdemeanor traffic offense where there is probable cause.

Under existing state law, an officer is not generally authorized to arrest a person for a misdemeanor traffic offense that is not committed in the presence of the officer.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor