This legislative update focuses on the issues that impact the mission of Idaho Walk Bike Alliance.
At the beginning of the legislative session, lawmakers established the goal to adjourn sine die March 24. That means there is just one month left for hundreds of legislators, staff, lobbyists and other advocates to pursue their lawmaking goals for the year. There are about 375 bills introduced and in various stages of development. Some died early in the process, a few are already signed into law, but most lie between the two fates. Because there are a few pieces of legislation that affect the mission of Idaho Walk Bike Alliance, we are closely monitoring the following:
Safe Routes to School - Healthy Kids Campaign
The Safe Routes to School – Healthy Kids Campaign, led by Idaho Walk Bike Alliance and the American Heart Association, is at a very exciting stage of the legislative process. Senate Bill 1121 will have a hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee this Thursday, March 2, and then--hopefully--move quickly to the next stages. Here’s how you can help!
Calling and emailing legislators is truly easy, effective and influential. Receiving concise, informed and passionate messages from constituents reminds lawmakers who they represent.
Join us this Wednesday, March 1, at 10 a.m., for a conference call
We'll discuss various health, safety and economic benefits of the Safe Routes to School program and offer advice for talking to legislators.
This link provides contact information for legislators and a brief guideline on messaging.
Don’t know who your legislator is? Follow this link to find out.
This link is an effective argument about why state funding is important.
Electric Bike Legislation
The January 27 and February 9 legislative updates provide broader historical context regarding a proposed bill introduced by Rep. Phylis King (D), of Boise. Of concern is the role of electric bicycles (E-Bikes) within the current transportation framework. Idaho Walk Bike Alliance is in front of this issue, along with many other stakeholders, from advocates to land managers. Defining an E-Bike is the primary step, but there are many other notable hurdles to overcome, such as jurisdiction and enforcement. Robust working sessions to address the myriad factors that this proposal bumps up against leave most involved acknowledging the need for more time. We propose tabling this possible legislation for one year, so the process may advance at a pace that satisfies the majority of those concerned. Despite that recommendation, this legislation may be introduced this session. An Idaho Statesman article from February 24 gives more insight. Contact us if you have questions!
Crosswalk guards, both adults and students, have been guiding kids safely to school for decades. However, outdated language required modification to existing law to define their authority. Sen. Steven Thayne (R), Emmett, sponsored Senate Bill 1019, prohibiting motor vehicle users from disregarding instructions from a school safety patrol member. It also allows for the reporting of violations--but no, does not permit the issuance of citations. As advocates for safe and reliable active transportation, we support SB 1019, and are pleased that it passed easily through the Senate and House Education Committees. Next step is the full House!
When lawmakers approved increased registration fees for gas hybrid ($75 surcharge) and electric cars ($140 surcharge) two years ago, they did not realize how unpopular it would be, especially among those who own hybrid cars. Rep. Joe Palmer (R), Meridian, tried last year to repeal the $75 surcharge, but the Senate voted it down. This year’s legislation, House Bill 20, sponsored by Rep. Steven Harris (R), Meridian, is a repeat of Palmer’s bill. It sailed through both the House and the Senate easily, and now awaits the governor’s signature. To be clear, the $140 surcharge for fully electric vehicles remains in place.
Bicyclists on Rural Roads
Bicycle and pedestrian enthusiasts and advocates in Montana delivered some serious pushback to Rep. Barry Usher’s proposed legislation that would have prohibited bicyclists and pedestrians on two-lane highways outside of municipalities when no paved shoulder is provided. Usher's stated motivation is about safety, but he did not consider how much that would limit access to the clear majority of highways in Montana. After extensive drafts, Rep. Usher removed all language that bans particular users on roads. Instead, House Bill 543requires the Montana Transportation Department to “consider shared use of highways by all users.” This is a step in the right direction—instead of banning walkers and riders for their safety, why not build roads that are safe?
Passing Speed Law
Rep. Lance Clow (R), Twin Falls, before the
Senate Transportation Committee February 23, 2017.
When it comes to increasing speed limits on Idaho highways, legislation moves faster than a Saab 900 Turbo passing a Ford F-350 towing a horse trailer. Rep. Lance Clow (R), Twin Falls, introduced House Bill 132 February 9, which allows driversto pass slow-moving vehicles up to 15 mph above the posted speed limit. This applies to 55 mph and faster two-lane highways, sanctioning a driver traveling up to 70 mph to pass in a 55 mph zone, and 80 mph in a 65 mph zone! This legislation zipped through both transportation committees and the full House in under two weeks, with very few legislators attempting to apply the brakes. It has yet to be voted on by the Senate, so if you want to contact your legislator, there is still time, but you'll have to floor it!
Personal Delivery Drones
Starship Technologies has tested personal delivery drones in Washington, D.C., Redwood City, CA, and some European cities.
The future is arriving faster and faster! Get ready for personal delivery drones—the slow-moving, sidewalk-using variety—if House Bill 204 passes. This legislation amends existing law to “authorize personal delivery devices to operate on sidewalks of the state.” Rep. Jason Monks, (R), Nampa, is the sponsor of this bill, on behalf of Starship Technologies, a London-based company co-founded by the same founders of Skype. According to the company’s website, they would like to “introduce fleets of small, safe, practical, free from CO2 emissions, and best of all, earthbound, delivery robots.” The lobbyist for this bill, Teresa Molitor (Molitor and Associates), assured the Senate State Affairs Committee that the devices travel at the speed of pedestrians, are equipped with sensors, and are monitored, and under the control, of remote operators. The bill will have a hearing in the House Transportation and Defense Committee, where a demonstration of the drone is expected.
Panelists from the Autonomous Vehicle Education Meeting
Idaho Transportation Department offered another aspect of the near-future in a fascinating autonomous vehicle education meeting in the Lincoln Auditorium at the State Capitol February 22. Senate Transportation Chairman Bert Brackett (R), Rogerson, welcomed panelists to discuss the future of autonomous autos in Idaho. ITD’s DMV Business Analyst, Amy Smith, delivered an overview, and Major Sheldon Kelly of Idaho State Police offered a safety and enforcement perspective. Major Kelly said that he was initially skeptical about the safety of autonomous vehicles, but is gaining confidence in the technology. The panel offered a Q&A session with Rep. Steve Hartgen (R), Twin Falls, who, with Senator Brackett, sponsored legislationtwo years ago that crafted a framework for autonomous vehicles in Idaho, but it failed to become law. Utah Rep. Robert Spendlove is sponsoring a bill to create an Autonomous Vehicle Task Force, but no legislation is expected this year in Idaho. Considering the pace of technology's advancement, however, Idaho lawmakers will have to address this issue soon enough, ready or not!
Idaho Walk Bike Alliance will closely follow developments on these issues and any other legislation pertaining to walking and bicycling safety and keep our members informed.
If you know of other policy proposals that would affect our core mission, or if you have questions or comments regarding this legislative update, please contact us right away!