Kentucky lawmakers set to discuss fuel taxes, insurance, ag haulers

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Monday, January 20, 2014

Among the bills expected to get consideration at the Kentucky statehouse during the next few months are bills that cover automatic fuel tax increases, proof of insurance and agricultural loads.

The first bill targets automatic increases to the state’s fuel tax enacted more than three decades ago.

The 1980 law was enacted to address concerns that rising fuel costs would result in people buying less at the pump. As a result, the state would get less tax money for road and bridge work.

Kentucky law authorizes fuel tax rates to be adjusted every three months based on a formula that ties the rate to wholesale fuel prices. On New Year’s Day, the automatic adjustment resulted in fuel taxes with surcharges of 39.9 cents per gallon for diesel and 35.2 cents for gas.

Rep. Lynn Bechler, R-Marion, introduced a bill that would remove any adjustment to the average wholesale price of fuel without direct action of the General Assembly.

“For more than 30 years, we’ve allowed the gasoline tax to rise based on the wholesale formula of fuel in the commonwealth, without any say or approval of legislators,” Bechler said in a news release. “In my opinion the gas tax rate should not be adjusted unless we in the General Assembly approve it.”

If approved, HB22 would take effect July 1.

Another bill would mean most Kentucky truckers and other drivers would no longer be required to carry proof of insurance.

Sponsored by Rep. Ken Upchurch, R-Monticello, HB218 would instead allow police to check whether a driver has vehicle insurance by checking the Automated Vehicle Information System through a computer in the officer’s patrol car.

“Much of what we do in our daily lives can be done by electronic means instead of paperwork,” Upchurch stated. “So my bill I believe is a no nonsense way to utilize AVIS for confirming insurance coverage for Kentucky drivers.”

Drivers who recently purchased a vehicle, or changed insurance carriers, would still need to carry documented proof in their vehicle for the first 45 days.

Upchurch said the exception is needed to give the state enough time to update the system.

The bill is in the House Banking and Insurance Committee.

One more bill in the Senate Transportation Committee addresses weight tolerance for certain agricultural hauls. Specifically, SB44 would provide a weight tolerance of 10 percent for trucks hauling meats or agricultural crops originating from a farm to first market; livestock or poultry from their point of origin to first market; and primary forest products such as sawdust, wood chips, bark or logs originating from their points of origin to first market.

The weight tolerance wouldn’t apply to interstate travel.

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