OOIDA State Watch

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor

ALABAMA

At press time, a bill up for consideration during a special session would increase the state's fuel tax rates by 5 cents per gallon. HB28 would also authorize automatic 2-cent-per-gallon increases in the years ahead.

CALIFORNIA

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that instructs the state DOT to study wrong-way driving wrecks. The agency will also be responsible for looking at safety measures pursued by other states that could prevent such incidents.

ILLINOIS

One new law substantially increases the penalties for truck drivers who injure or kill someone because they willingly violated hours-of-service rules. HB1516 upgrades offenses to a more serious Class 2 felony for incidents that result in death. Incidents that result in severe injuries to others would be a Class 3 felony.

LOUISIANA

Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law two bills of note. HB208 gradually ends most money transfers from transportation to the State Police. The agency now collects about $70 million annually from the Transportation Trust Fund. A provision included in the new law is intended to ensure that the State Police continue to receive about the same amount each year through other state revenue sources.

SB221 authorizes the transfer of up to $100 million per year in vehicle sales tax revenue from the state's general fund to the Transportation Trust Fund starting as early as July 2016.

MAINE

The Legislature has overridden the veto of a bill that allows the state to hold the vehicles of certain toll scofflaws. LD987 permits the Maine Turnpike Authority to send a notice of violation to the motor vehicle registry of the jurisdiction that issued the registration warning that if tolls are not paid, the owner's right to operate a vehicle in Maine may be suspended. After a notice is mailed to the vehicle owner for failure to comply, a suspension of driving privileges in the state would take effect.

MARYLAND

Gov. Larry Hogan signed into law a bill to open the door to increasing interstate and state expressway speeds from 65 mph to 70 mph. SB44 leaves the final decision on whether to increase speeds to the Maryland State Highway Administration.

MASSACHUSETTS

Multiple bills would make blocking a highway in order to protest a felony offense if a loss of life results. H1337 and H1336 would authorize prison terms as long as 10 years. H1335 would authorize a sentence of up to 20 years. H1672 would set up to $2,500 fines and a maximum of one year behind bars. H3453 calls for offenders to face up to 10 years in prison.

NEW JERSEY

A bill headed to the governor's desk would direct the Turnpike Authority and the South Jersey Transportation Authority to study and report on additional opportunities to make money along the state's three toll highways by providing new and better services at rest areas and welcome centers. A801 includes business, commercial or retail services.

One Senate-approved bill is intended to give South Jersey residents more of a say in happenings at the Turnpike Authority. S241 would require representation on the Turnpike Authority's board by all regions of the state. At least one of the seven appointed members would be from Ocean, Atlantic or Cape May counties.

Another bill would require yellow times at intersections posted with traffic lights to have a minimum duration of four seconds if at least 85 percent of traffic approaching the signal is traveling at a speed up to 30 mph. A4059 would add an extra half-second to the minimum duration to compensate for every 5 mph increase in the actual speed up to seven seconds for traffic traveling at a speed in excess of 55 mph.

OHIO

House lawmakers voted to advance a bill to the Senate that would outlaw provisions in trucking contracts that provide for shippers to be indemnified for losses caused by their own negligence and make them "void and unenforceable." HB71 defines affected contracts as "a contract, agreement, or understanding" between a motor carrier and a shipper covering the transportation of property for compensation or hire by the motor carrier, entry on property to load, unload, or transport property.

OREGON

Gov. Kate Brown signed into law a bill that authorizes the city of Portland to operate fixed photo radar on "high-crash urban corridors" 24 hours a day. HB2621 does not require police presence.

PENNSYLVANIA

Rep. Joe Emrick, R-Nazareth, has a three-bill package to give the state more oversight of the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission. HB814 would require an annual financial and management audit of the commission by Pennsylvania's auditor general and his New Jersey counterpart. HB812 would allow for gubernatorial veto of actions by the commission. HB813 would give the governor 10 days to invoke veto power over any actions by an individual commissioner.

A separate House bill would sync the state's code with federal CDL regulations on license testing and learner's permit standards. HB1412 includes provisions to clarify that an employer is prohibited from knowingly permitting a driver to get behind the wheel if they are under a license restriction, and provides that a skills test from another state must be accepted and that interpreters are not permitted during the test.

Another House bill covers the frequency of truck inspections. State law now mandates that trucks with a registered gross weight in excess of 17,000 pounds to undergo semi-annual inspections. HB1413 instead calls for annual inspections.

A bill nearing passage would eliminate the mandatory escort of super-sized loads by the State Police. SB748 would permit certified pilot escorts to be used. The Pennsylvania DOT and state troopers would provide oversight.

Currently, any load greater than 201,000 pounds, over 160 feet, and/or 16 feet wide requires a police escort. The transporting company pays a $50 set up fee and pays $2 per mile plus overtime for the police escort.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law a bill to suspend size and weight rules for commercial vehicles during a state of emergency declared by the governor. S358 applies to trucks weighing up to 90,000 pounds or up to 12 feet wide. Affected loads would have access to non-interstate routes for up to

120 days following the emergency declaration. Restrictions on travel time along interstates and non-interstates would also be suspended for up to 30 days.

TEXAS

One new law requires the Department of Public Safety to have in place uniform procedures that all motor vehicle weight enforcement officers must follow. HB1252 also authorizes the agency to revoke or rescind the authority of any weight enforcement officers that fail to comply with the established weighing procedures.

Another new law creates a grant program to reduce wait times for agricultural inspections at ports of entry along the Texas-Mexico border. SB797 allows local governments and private companies to help pay for overtime and/or increased agricultural inspectors at international bridges during peak times.

WASHINGTON

Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law a $16.1 billion transportation revenue bill. SB5987 will increase the state's 37.5-cent-per-gallon tax to 49.4 cents by the summer of 2017. Revenue from the fuel tax increase will be routed to the newly created Connecting Washington account within the Motor Vehicle Fund. Certain vehicle fees are also included in the new funding plan.