Michigan House OKs more funds for local roads, discourages pranksters

| 7/15/2009

While most state legislatures have wrapped up their work for the year, some states continue to meet and pursue changes to policy and budgets. In Michigan, efforts to add funds for local roads and discourage roadway pranks are on the move.

The House unanimously approved a bill that would let county road commissions use more money from the Michigan Transportation Fund on the county local road system. It has moved to the Senate for further consideration.

State law now limits to 30 percent of a county road commission’s primary road system funds that can be used on the county local road system. Sponsored by Rep. Joel Sheltrown, D-West Branch, the bill would increase that threshold to 50 percent.

Made up mostly of revenue from fuel taxes and vehicle registrations, $593 million from the transportation fund is allotted to county road commissions in the current two-year fiscal period.

Another House-approved bill would get tough with pranksters who cause injuries, or death, on roadways. It has been sent to the Senate.

Sponsored by Rep. Tom Pearce, R-Rockford, the measure would prohibit intentionally placing items in or across roadways if the person knows or should know that the likely result is that the object will come into contact with a vehicle or a person riding in or on a vehicle.

The effort is spurred by an incident in 2005 where three teenagers from Wyoming, MI, stretched industrial strength plastic wrap across a roadway, fastening it to two sign posts. A motorcyclist hit the barrier late at night and was thrown from the vehicle. He suffered a fractured rib and internal bruises.

There wasn’t a law in place with which to appropriately charge the teenage boys. Despite being found guilty, they were placed on probation with the incident erased from their criminal record at the end of the probationary period.

Pearce’s bill would result in offenders facing $100 fines and/or up to 93 days in jail. If the incident results in property damage, violators would face up to a $500 fine and/or up to one year behind bars. Escalating fines and penalties would result for injuries resulting from the prank including up to a $10,000 fine and/or as much as 15 years in prison for death.

Pearce’s bill – HB4205 – is in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sheltrown’s bill – HB4848 – is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Michigan in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.