Legislative update

by Ruth Jones
Senior Editor

No good news in New Jersey truck bills
SB 2178, authored by Sen. William E. Schluter, authorizes the state's Commissioner of Transportation to extend the current ban on large trucks (defined as those vehicles subject to the Surface Transportation Act of 1982). Under this legislation, 96-inch wide trucks will be restricted to National Network routes. Gov. Whitman's executive order applied to 102-inch wide trucks. There would be exceptions for trucks making pickups and delivering or traveling to and from trucking company terminals if this bill becomes law. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Transportation Committee.

SB 2179, also authored by Sen. Schluter, will establish a "Truck Law Enforcement Study Commission" if it becomes law. This commission would "study and make recommendations concerning the cooperation of local police in the enforcement of the state's trucking laws and implementing regulations."

The bill also calls for fines of $400 for the first offense ($700 for the second offense, $1,000 for the third offense) for violations of the truck ban on non-National Network highways.

Fines could apply to drivers as well as owners or lessees of trucks violating the ban. Language in the bill gives enforcement officers the discretion to cite the driver "if the officer believes the circumstances of the incident warrant it," although it is noted that the owners or lessees are usually responsible for the violation. The bill also increases fines for presenting false dispatch papers (bills that don't match the cargo) to an enforcement officer from the current $100 to $300. SB 2179 has also been assigned to the Senate Transportation Committee.

Sen. Schluter also (busy fellow, isn't he?) is the co-sponsor of a bill (with Sen. Bernard Kenny) that will grant authority to some municipal police to do emissions inspections as well as size and weight inspections. Under SB 2154, only enforcement officers in cities with populations of more than 150,000 may do these inspections. Fines will go to the state's Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Fund. Language in the bill specifically excludes cities with populations less than 150,000 from getting into the inspection game.

This bill is identical (called a companion bill) to AB 2558, introduced back in 1998 by Assemblyman Joseph Charles, Jr. When lawmakers plan strategies to get legislation passed, companion bills are usually introduced about the same time in both houses. The anti-truck sentiment prevailing in New Jersey is the likely culprit for the rebirth of this effort.

Wisconsin quota bill sent to governor
AB119 was approved by the legislature and was sent to Gov. Tommy Thompson's desk in mid-November. The bill does away with ticket quotas by prohibiting the state from "directly or indirectly" requiring an officer to issue a specific number of traffic citations or warnings in a specific period. Thompson is expected to sign the bill.

Oregon voters OK tax measure
On Nov. 2, Oregon voters approved a change to the state's constitution that will mandate cars and trucks pay their fair share of the cost of maintaining state highways. In May, voters will decide whether to increase the tax on gasoline by 5 cents per gallon, or to eliminate the weight/distance tax on trucks in favor of a 29 cents per gallon tax on diesel fuel. Gov. Kitzhaber signed legislation to do just that, but a petition drive by the Oregon chapter of the American Automobile Association forced a public vote on the issue.

Hearings held on Ohio quota bill
HB 394, authored by Rep. Ron Young, will prohibit requiring law enforcement officers from issuing a minimum number of traffic tickets on a periodic basis if it becomes law. A hearing was held on Nov. 10 in Columbus, and OOIDA's Joan Kasicki tells Land Line there is a lot of support for this bill. "Representatives from the Cleveland Patrolman's Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Troopers for a Safer Ohio, Mentor Patrolman's Association, and some individual officers all spoke in favor of the bill," said Kasicki. The bill is headed for the Committee on Criminal Justice.

Ohio may change points system
Legislators are considering toughening the state's traffic laws by increasing the number of points resident drivers get for speeding violations. For exceeding the speed limit by five miles an hour in a zone with a posted speed limit of less than 55 mph, violators would get two points. For going 10 miles over a 55 or 65 mph speed limit, violators would also get two points. If a driver is nailed for doing 30 or more mph over the limit, four points goes against the license. SB 176 is in the Senate Transportation Committee.