Indiana bills target perishable loads, local road funds

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, March 14, 2012

An Indiana bill on its way to the governor is intended to help ensure food safety in commercial vehicles. Another bill on the same path would provide another funding source for local road work.

The House voted unanimously to sign off on changes to a bill to allow the Indiana State Police to inspect commercial vehicles transporting food products to make sure loads comply with health rules or certain health requirements.

HB1298 now moves to Gov. Mitch Daniels’ desk. Senate lawmakers previously approved the bill by unanimous consent.

If signed into law, troopers could also detain affected vehicles to determine compliance with applicable food safety rules. In addition, health inspectors could order the disposal of certain food and the impoundment of noncomplying vehicles.

Offenders found to be transporting loads not in compliance could face $10,000 fines. Hauling food that was ordered disposed could result in $5,000 fines.

According to a fiscal statement on the bill, in the past five years the Indiana State Department of Health has inspected 259 trucks, finding 20 trucks in violation. As a result, 15,937 pounds of food were disposed.

Rep. Bill Davis, R-Portland, said the change would ensure that haulers are complying with food safety standards. If a trooper found evidence of contamination, the state Department of Health would investigate.

“Commercial vehicles handle our food products every day, but there is no efficient process in place to monitor and enforce food safety standards,” Davis said in a statement. “Ensuring the link in the food chain complies with safety rules is necessary to keep dangerous contaminants from our food.”

Also headed to the governor’s desk is a bill to permit counties to use property taxes to pay for local road projects.

Indiana law now mandates that property taxes be used for county highway maintenance only in an emergency. Unanimous approval from county councils also is required.

That could soon change. If so, counties would be authorized to spend property tax revenue to maintain county highways. The affected roads typically are funded through a combination of fuel taxes, vehicle and county fees.

“We wanted to allow county officials the flexibility to use revenue from their general fund for road maintenance when needed,” stated Rep. Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale.

SB98 would allow counties to spend property tax or other miscellaneous general fund revenue on highway maintenance.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Indiana, click here.

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