Connecticut Legislature recap for 2019 session

Below is a summary of some of the major legislative issues that MTAC worked on in 2019. Contact Joe Sculley directly if you have any questions on these, or any other legislative or regulatory issues.

Tolls

MTAC has been leading the fight against efforts to establish congestion-price tolls on existing interstate highways, which has never been done by any state in the U.S. Tolling legislation did pass the Transportation Committee and the Finance Committee, as it did in past years, but it did not pass the House of Representatives or the Senate. There is talk of a special legislative session for the purpose of transportation funding, and more specifically, for voting to approve tolls. A specific date has not been set at this time. Just because there are calls for a legislative session to vote for tolls, does not necessarily mean that it is guaranteed to happen.

Earlier this year, a number of MTAC members sat down to talk about the costs and negative impacts that tolls would place on their businesses. The video produced from the conversations had that day is posted on YouTube and has been shared with every member of the legislature. Feel free to view the video once again, share with anyone, and post on your social media accounts.

$10 Towing Surcharge: Raised Bill 866

MTAC President Joe Sculley testified in opposition to a bill that would add a $10 surcharge on to the cost of a non-consensual tow, which in theory would be used to reimburse towers for the cost of abandoned vehicles involved in non-consensual tows.

The bill was an attempt to circumvent the regulation of rates for non-consensual tows. The regulation of non-consensual tows is an important aspect of consumer protection for both individuals and small businesses who own and operate vehicles. Without this, towers have been known to charge tens of thousands of dollars for non-consensual tows and subsequent storage. It should be noted that this type of situation is sometimes the cause of an abandoned vehicle, whether it be a passenger vehicle, or commercial motor vehicle or commercial trailer.

This bill died in the Transportation Committee.

GPS Mandate: HB 5365

MTAC President Joe Sculley testified in opposition to a bill that would require truck-specific GPS devices to be in use on all trucks with a GVWR of more than 10,000 pounds.

Sculley’s testimony said the bill was likely introduced in response to trucks driving through no-through truck zones in certain municipalities. He said that MTAC has met with state and local leaders in certain municipalities where violations of no through truck restrictions have occurred. MTAC has urged that local law enforcement (as well as any state enforcement agency with proper jurisdiction) enforce any alleged violation of no through truck restrictions which are authorized by state law. Town leaders have plainly stated to MTAC that they will not do that. MTAC questioned how a GPS mandate would be enforced, considering that a no through truck restriction is not able to be enforced.

This bill died in the Transportation Committee.

Age Discrimination: HB 6113

MTAC President Joe Sculley submitted testimony in response to a bill which would prohibit employers from inquiring about the date of birth on employment applications.

The testimony explained that federal regulation (49 CFR 391.21) requires that employers ask applicants for commercial truck driving jobs about their date of birth.

MTAC requested that the bill be amended to include a provision which recognizes this federal regulation, and exempts any employer who is subject to this requirement from the proposed prohibition on date of birth inquiry.

The bill was subsequently amended to allow for a date of birth inquiry “in the case of a bona fide occupational qualification or need.” The bill was going to be further amended with stronger language which would have said that the prohibition “shall not apply to any employer requesting or requiring such information based on a bona fide occupational qualification or need, or when such information is required in order to comply with any provision of federal or state law,” but the bill was ultimately not taken up by the House of Representatives.

Rest Areas: SB 713 An Act Concerning Open Rest Areas

MTAC President Joe Sculley testified in support of a bill which would fully fund Connecticut’s state-owned rest areas.

Sculley explained that funding has been cut so that the rest areas are only staffed from 8:30am to 3:30pm. The buildings are locked at all other times, and there is no staff around. However, truck drivers need to take breaks at all hours of the day in order to comply with federal Hours of Service regulations. Full funding for state-owned rest areas so that they are all staffed 24 hours per day is important for the trucking industry. He pointed out that at the time the funding for rest areas was cut, news reports stated that it would save the state $2 million per year, but based on this year’s budget figures, that amount is only 0.1% of the Special Transportation Fund budget.

MTAC has been told that the money to fully fund rest areas was included in ConnDOT’s agency budget, meaning that the rest areas should return to full operation.

Connecticut Infrastructure Bank: SB 70

MTAC President Joe Sculley testified on a bill which would create a Connecticut Infrastructure Bank.

Sculley explained that MTAC is not necessarily opposed to the concept of an Infrastructure Bank. However, he suggested that the issue should be studied further before the legislature votes to create the proposed Bank.

Sculley said that the proposal would “finance a loan program with funds appropriated from the Special Transportation Fund or other sources of revenue designated for infrastructure improvements,” and he pointed out that the recently-enacted Constitutional lockbox requires that transportation revenue be deposited into the Special Transportation Fund.

The bill was amended in the Senate to (in theory) address concerns regarding the transportation lockbox. However, it was pointed out by some legislators that the legislature can still change the law regarding what funds are deposited into the Special Transportation Fund (the lockbox). Additionally, the proposed Infrastructure Bank would be “raid-able,” much like the Green Bank, to which Infrastructure Bank proponents often compare it.

This bill ultimately died because it was never taken up by the House of Representatives.

Truck Dealer Registrations: HB 6771

During the legislative session, MTAC had representatives from dealer members testify before the Transportation Committee in support of HB 6771, which would allow commercial truck dealers to process registrations for new CMVs weighing up to 80,000 pounds.

Jim Rizzo from Gabrielli Trucks said, in part, “Currently, we are only allowed to issue registrations and transfer plates for commercial vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of up to and including 26,000 lbs. Vehicles above this capacity rating require the same documentation. What dealers are seeking, through the passage of this bill, is the ability to issue registrations and transfer plates for commercial vehicles above the 26,000 lb. GVWR and up to the maximum GVWR of 80,000 lbs. which would include straight trucks and tractors.

Luis Tejada from Freightliner of Hartford said, in part, “Since the bulk of our sales involve vehicles over this weight class, all of our current Motor Vehicle transactions must be done in person at any of the Connecticut DMV branches. I can’t tell you the man hours this task requires on a regular basis.”

The bill did not ultimately advance. CT DMV says that legislation is not necessary to accomplish this change, it can be done administratively. MTAC looks forward to the opportunity to work with CT DMV to work towards this change.

Motor Carrier Eligibility for State Contracts

MTAC has been pushing for legislation that would address the arbitrary standard used by CT DMV for evaluating current or prospective motor carriers who have or are pursuing state contracts. The current standard is not based on anything in statute, or regulation, or Executive Oder.

A provision was included in SB 924 which states: “The Commissioners of Administrative Services and Motor Vehicles shall jointly study the current system used to evaluate motor carriers that provide or seek to provide commercial motor vehicle services to the state or any municipality and make recommendations to make such system more efficient. Not later than January 1, 2020, the commissioners shall submit a report of the results of such study to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to transportation, in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a of the general statutes.”

MTAC will attempt to work with all appropriate state agencies as this issue is studied, in order to work towards a more reasonable standard.

Marijuana — Raised Bill 1089 An Act Concerning Cannabis and the Workplace

MTAC President Joe Sculley testified on legislation to legalize recreational marijuana. The testimony stated that MTAC is not necessarily opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuana. However, Commercial Driver’s License holders operating Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs) are required by federal regulation to be tested for controlled substances (drugs and alcohol), per 49 CFR Part 382 – CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES AND ALCOHOL USE AND TESTING. This will still be the case even if Connecticut legalizes recreational marijuana.

The testimony suggested that the legislation refer to federal regulations and provide protection for the employer who complies as required. Employers should not be penalized by the state in any way if they are forced to take action against an employee for simply acting in accordance with federal regulations.

Marijuana legalization legislation did not pass this year, but will likely be debated again in the future.

Wine Shipments to Consumers

One section of SB 647, known as “An Act Streamlining the Liquor Control Act,” deals with reports to be filed by common carriers regarding their deliveries to consumers in Connecticut of packages containing wine. MTAC was heavily involved in working to make sure the language of that particular section was something that was workable for the common carriers.

The result of Section 11 of the bill is that the shipper must properly label the package as containing alcohol; the carriers will retain records of such deliveries for no more than 18 months; the common carriers shall file reports regarding such deliveries when requested by the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection or the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services; there are no financial penalties imposed on the common carriers, other than a potential suspension or revocation of their in-state transporter’s permit in the event that a common carrier “fails to keep records, refuses to respond or fails to provide such records to the requesting agency as required.”

SB 647 has been passed and signed into law.

Vaping Legislation: HB 7200

HB 7200 did many things, including raising the legal smoking (and vaping) age to 21 years old. The bill, which was passed and signed into law, contains a provision mandating that a signature of someone who is 21 years of age or older be obtained when vaping products ordered online are delivered to a consumer. MTAC was involved with crafting this provision to be sure it was something that was workable for carriers who may be involved with making deliveries of such products.