States consider bills to combat litter

| 1/26/2005

The plague of drivers littering highways in Colorado and Arkansas has led lawmakers in each state to pursue legislation that would enact stiffer penalties for such acts.

The Colorado Senate unanimously approved a measure Jan. 25 that would hike the fine for tossing containers of human waste along highways in the state to $500 from the current $35.

In testimony before the Senate Transportation Committee Jan. 18, Colorado Department of Transportation maintenance supervisor Randy Dobyns said he and other agency workers often pick up as many as 50 containers of urine and excrement a week that have been discarded by truckers and other motorists on the sides of roadways.

According to the Denver Post, Dobyns said some workers on CDOT lawn-mowing crews have been spattered with the waste when mower blades chew up the containers hidden in the grass.

A number of CDOT workers who work on highway litter patrols have sought anti-hepatitis injections as a preventive measure.

The graphic details were enough for the legislators, who quickly passed the bill to significantly raise the fine. The measure also applies to diapers that are thrown along the highway.

SB9, sponsored by Sen. Jim Isgar, D-Hesperus, now moves to the House for consideration.

Legislation in Arkansas, however, hasn’t been as successful.

The head of the state’s litter-prevention commission came out against a proposal that would have boosted the fines allowed for littering.

Robert Phelps, executive director of the Keep Arkansas Beautiful Commission, told the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee that the problem with legislation offered by Rep. Frank Glidewell, R-Fort Smith, is that it would have given judges leeway to issue a fine only without forcing the offender to spend eight hours of community service picking up trash along the highway. The state’s current litter law requires a fine of $100 along with community service.

Glidewell’s bill would have allowed judges to fine a person caught littering $100 to $1,000. But the wording of the bill – HB1016 – said the judge would decide the fine and “may” also require community service.

Phelps said the fine used to be $1,000 but law-enforcement officers rarely enforced it then because the penalty seemed severe.

The commission favored lowering the fine in 2001 because it added the mandatory community-service time.

The House panel voted against recommending the bill.

Phelps said he regretted having to oppose the bill and that he might have supported the legislation had it maintained the community-service requirement.

Glidewell told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette he doubts he’ll bring up the bill again this session.