Kentucky bills cover truck enforcement, speeds, road safety

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Kentucky state lawmakers are back at work and some of the issues they could consider in the weeks ahead cover truck enforcement officers, speed limits and road safety.

A bill in the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee is intended to ensure that truck enforcement officers and state troopers are paid according to their rank. Specifically, SB17 would require that commercial vehicle enforcement officers are paid the same as Kentucky State Police officers with equivalent rank, grade and position.

Another bill in the House Transportation Committee would increase speeds for all vehicles on some roadways. Sponsored by Rep. Kenny Imes, R-Murray, HB58 would raise speeds on four-lane highways from 55 to 65 mph where feasible.

Calloway and Graves chambers of commerce in southwest Kentucky have requested the change citing the benefits of allowing commerce to move more quickly.

Also in the House Transportation Committee is a bill that would require most drivers to flip on their headlights when precipitation makes use of windshield wipers necessary. Sponsored by Rep. Mike Denham, D-Maysville, HB74 would mandate that anyone behind the wheel of a vehicle with a model year of 2000 or newer to have their lights on during weather.

Violators would face fines of $20 to $100.

Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, is behind a separate bill that would provide a break in tolls for certain drivers crossing the Ohio River bridges that link Louisville and southern Indiana.

Preliminary plans put toll rates at $1 for commuters, $2 for other motorists, and $10 to $12 for large trucks. The rates will be charged on two new bridge spans under construction and the existing span that carries Interstate 65.

Low income workers who commute by personal vehicle to Indiana and qualify for the federal earned income tax credit would be eligible to receive annual toll credits or rebates. The tax credit is available to certain workers earning up to $13,980 annually.

According to a fiscal note on the bill, about 415,000 Kentucky income tax filers claim the federal earned income credit. At an expected toll rate of $1 per crossing, the fiscal impact is estimated at about $1.9 million annually.

HB41 awaits consideration in the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee.

One more bill would increase penalties for repeat offenders of the state’s drunken driving rules. Rep. Mike Harmon, R-Danville, offered the bill to enact a three-tier set of penalties – down from four tiers.

Also, the state’s five-year “look-back” window to monitor prior offenses would be doubled to ten years.

In addition, forfeiture of an offender’s vehicle would be permitted if his or her license had been previously suspended. However, the vehicle could instead be transferred to the co-owner.

HB34 is in the House Judiciary Committee.

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