State Watch

By Keith Goble
state legislative editor


The majority of state legislatures have wrapped up their work for this calendar year. A special thanks to those of you who followed what took place in your state and tipped us off on initiatives you cared about.

Here’s our end-of-summer roundup on bills you found of interest. It’s a sampling of what passed in recent weeks, as well as other items still active. For a complete rundown of state legislation, visit and click on “Issues & Actions.” You can also visit and click on “Legislative Watch.”

A new law limits lane use on grades that average 6 percent or more for at least one mile along I-70.  SB196 requires that all vehicles that cannot stay within 10 mph of the posted speed limit on affected stretches must stay to the right. Violators would face $19 fines for failure to move right.

Another new law also affects truckers. SB198 reduces the penalty for late registration of non-motorized trailers weighing less than 16,000 pounds. Colorado law has allowed as much as $100 late fees. The new law reduces the late fee to a flat $10 maximum.

One more new law makes available tax incentives for local trucking operations. Effective July 2011, the incentives will provide a prorated sales tax refund for companies based on the number of vehicle-miles driven in Colorado. Also, HB1285 offers a 1.5 percent investment tax credit for new truck purchases in an enterprise zone.

To pay for the tax incentives, fines for “egregiously overweight trucks” will be increased to a level comparable with surrounding states.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed a bill into law that would fine drivers $75 for failure to clear snow and ice off their vehicles. Effective December 2013, HB5387 increases the fine to as much as $1,000 for motorists if snow and ice breaks free and results in injury or damage to another vehicle. The same circumstances would result in truck drivers facing up to $1,250 fines. Drivers will not be liable for accumulations on a vehicle while out on the road.

Taking effect Oct. 1, another new law will strengthen existing state law banning the use of hand-held devices while driving. It also adds a texting ban.

Currently, first-time offenders of the cell phone restriction get off with a warning. SB427 puts drivers on the hook for $100. To encourage police to ticket offenders, 25 percent of fines will go to the municipality where the summons is issued. State government claims the rest.

Gov. Charlie Crist has signed into law a lengthy transportation bill that permits tractor-trailers to weigh 88,000 pounds on designated routes. Loads on interstates will continue to be limited to 80,000 pounds.

Also included in the bill – HB1271 – is a provision allowing a weight allowance for auxiliary power units. The maximum gross vehicle, axle weight limit is increased up to an additional 400 pounds for large trucks equipped with idle reduction technology. One other provision voids indemnification clauses in motor carrier contracts.

A new law changes the procedure for issuance of temporary registration permits. Previously SB1311, the new law directs the sale of a single temporary permit for $60 when no more than one vehicle in the combination is unregistered in the state.

Until now, a combination permit was sold for $120 for the unregistered power unit, even if the trailer was registered.

A bill atop Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk, SB3118, would create an inspector general for the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority. The inspector would be responsible for investigating fraud, corruption and mismanagement. The inspector would be appointed by the governor, with advice and consent of three-fifths of the Senate, for a term of five years.

Quinn has signed a bill into law that addresses concerns about “super speeders.” SB3796 makes it a Class B misdemeanor to speed 30 to 39 mph above the limit. Judges are prohibited from issuing court supervision to anyone found guilty of driving at least 40 mph in excess of the speed limit.

Speeding tickets have been increased at all levels. A new law also puts higher fines on nearly all moving and non-moving violations. Previously SF2378, it requires offenders to pay anywhere from $10 to $100 more for their indiscretions. The average increase is about $42. Driving 11 to 20 mph over the posted limit where the speed is slower than 55 mph would result in an extra $50 fine. The most common violation, which is speeding 6 to 10 mph in a 55 mph zone, would cost offenders another $27.

Gov. Bobby Jindal signed a bill into law that is intended to save the state some money. Previously HB764, the new law throws out a requirement that highway signs be posted alerting the public about how much a road project costs, as well as the project start and finish dates.

At a cost of $500 per sign, the Louisiana DOTD is expected to save $280,500, according to a fiscal note on the bill.

The Senate voted to advance a bill to the House that would let county road commissions use more money from the Michigan Transportation Fund on the county local road system. State law now limits to 30 percent the Michigan transportation tax revenues returned to counties that can be used on the county local road system, rather than on the county primary road system. SB995 would increase that threshold to 50 percent.

Another bill – HB5141 – is also intended to boost road funding options for local governments. It would repeal a ban on counties using general property tax revenue for road construction and maintenance. The House-approved bill that would allow counties with a surplus of money in their general fund to use a portion of the revenue for roadwork. It has moved to the Senate.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm has signed a bill into law intended to ease gridlock caused by certain fender-benders. Previously HB5140, the new law requires moving drivable wrecked vehicles off the road.

Drivers – or licensed passengers – are required to 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.

A bill in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee would have the Ohio Turnpike Commission foot the bill for maintenance and repairs of roads along the toll road.

HB131 would make the Ohio Turnpike Commission responsible for major maintenance and repair and replacement of grade separations at intersections of any turnpike project with county and township roads. Routine maintenance would continue to be the responsibility of the county or township.

Effective Nov. 1, a new law authorizes law enforcement to impound certain vehicles driven by uninsured motorists. Previously HB2331, the new law gives law enforcement the authority to seize uninsured vehicles licensed in the state during traffic stops and accident investigations. Affected vehicles will be towed to an impound lot until the requirements of Oklahoma’s mandatory insurance law are satisfied.

Gov. Phil Bredesen has signed into law a bill prohibiting law enforcement agencies from punishing or rewarding personnel based solely on the number of traffic citations issued. Previously HB2952, the new rule blocks law enforcement agencies from using formal quota policies or even informal guidelines. LL