MI bills would trim truck fine, reduce gridlock, boost county road funds

| 8/5/2009

Most statehouses throughout the country have gone quiet with lawmakers returning home until the first of the year, but a handful of states continue to meet.

In Michigan multiple bills under consideration would trim bond amounts for truck weight violations, ease gridlock caused by certain fender-benders, and give counties another source of road funds.

One bill is intended to lessen the potential blow to the pocketbooks of truck owners or drivers for truck weight violations.

Michigan law mandates that the owners or drivers pay a fine for vehicles loaded and driven or moved on highways when overweight. The fine is based on the weight of the excess load and its distribution. If the person doesn’t immediately pay the fine or post bond in an amount double the fine, the vehicle must be impounded.

Sponsored by Sen. Alan Sanborn, R-Richmond Township, the bill would eliminate the requirement to double bond amounts. Instead, bonds posted for overweight vehicles would be for the amount of the fines.

Bill supporters say there is no reason for the bond to be double the amount of the actual fine. They say it places an unreasonable burden on drivers or owners while they contest violations because they never will owe more than the amount of the fine.

The bill – SB433 – also establishes standards for truck weighing scales. It is awaiting consideration in the House Transportation Committee. If approved there, the bill would move to the House floor before it could head to the governor’s desk. The Senate already approved it by unanimous consent.

Another bill would require moving drivable wrecked vehicles off the road.

Sponsored by Rep. Pam Byrnes, D-Lyndon Township, the measure calls for mandating that drivers – or licensed passengers – remove their vehicles from traffic lanes as long as the vehicles are still drivable and no serious injuries were suffered. Failure to move vehicles would result in $105 fines.

Advocates for the requirement say that studies have shown that more than 20 percent of wrecks are secondary wrecks that occur because of drivers reacting to an existing accident scene or because of a backup situation.

Intended to boost road funding options for local governments, one more bill would repeal a ban on counties using general property tax revenue for road construction and maintenance.

Sponsored by Rep. Kate Ebli, D-Frenchtown Township, the bill would allow counties with a surplus of money in their general fund to use a portion of the revenue for road work.

Ebli’s bill – HB5141 – and Byrnes’ bill – HB5140 – are in the House 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.