Nebraska secures local road dollars; other issues also approved

| 6/15/2006

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman has signed a handful of bills of interest to truckers.

One bill that was signed into law directs funds to local governments for new road construction and maintenance. The new rule takes effect Oct. 1, 2006. The new law, previously LB904, sends all sales and use tax collected on motor vehicle, trailer and semi-trailer sales to the state’s highway fund.

It also reroutes the half-cent in the 5.5-cent sales tax that is diverted to the state’s general fund for local road projects. The revised allocations will amount to an estimated $15 million a year to be distributed equally between counties and cities.

Local governments could opt to use those revenues to pay off bond obligations.

Sen. Tom Baker of Trenton, the bill’s sponsor, said the new law was needed for local governments who lost transportation funding during recent budget crunches.

Another bill signed by Heineman addresses safety concerns that likely are shared by many truck drivers.

The new law, previously LB79, requires certain public railroad crossings to be closed if they do not have gates, signals, alarm bells or warning personnel and are located within one quarter mile of a crossing that does have those signals. Any closing could be contested.

Crossings that are the only access to a property are exempt from the rule.

According to a fiscal analysis, the Department of Roads estimates as many as 200 rail crossings will need to be closed.

Another new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2007, might cause some concern for truckers and other drivers. It changes the renewal period for a driver’s license for persons required to use bioptic or telescopic lenses.

Existing state law requires annual renewal for affected drivers. The new law, previously LB1008, requires such renewals every two years unless a shorter period of time is deemed necessary by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

One other bill signed into law funds enhanced 911 emergency services in the state.

Enhanced 9-1-1 is a service that allows emergency dispatchers to pinpoint the location and phone number of a person on a cell phone without the caller having to say a word.

The new law, previously LB1222, assesses a surcharge of up to 70 cents for cellular customers to help finance the service. Customers based in Omaha will pay up to a 50 cent surcharge.

Each county in the state is required to implement enhanced 911 service by July 2010.