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

| 6/11/2007

As the clock winds down on the regular legislative session in Alabama, several bills of interest to the trucking industry have fallen by the wayside. Among the failed efforts were legislation to increase fuel taxes, limit left-lane use and give law enforcement officers more power to arrest people for misdemeanors.

One bill that ran into a roadblock sought to 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 have allowed a 6-cent-per-gallon tax to be added on diesel and gas purchases to pay for roads and transit. The tax would have been used as a match for federal transportation funds, the Birmingham Business Journal reported.

The tax would have been repealed when 90 percent of a participating county’s roads scored 85 or better in Alabama Department of Transportation rankings.

The bill remained in the House Government Appropriations Committee at a deadline to advance, effectively killing it for the year.

A separate bill was intended to combat aggressive driving on multi-lane highways by keeping the far left lane clear of most traffic. It failed to meet a deadline to advance from the House floor to the Senate.

Sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Martin, D-Clanton, the bill – HB251 – would have prohibited traffic from lingering in the so-called passing lane. Left-lane use would have been limited to vehicles passing or overtaking slower moving traffic.

Violators would have received warnings for the first six months. After that, $25 fines would have been handed out. Offenses would have counted against driving records.

One other bill would have given law enforcement officers more power during roadside stops. Sponsored by Rep. David Grimes, R-Montgomery, the bill would have allowed 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.

The bill – HB5 – didn’t advance from the House by the deadline to draw consideration in the Senate.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor