Legislative Update from State Senator Joey Hensley: 2020 Transportation Improvements

0
221

    General Assembly enacts legislation improving transportation options for Tennesseans with disabilities and the elderly — Legislation designed to improve transportation options for Tennesseans with disabilities and the elderly was approved by the 111th General Assembly. The Tennessee Accessible Transportation and Mobility Act of 2020 creates an office within the Tennessee Department of Transportation to focus solely on expanding and improving accessible transportation across the state. It will be the first of its kind in the United States.

    Research and experience confirms that the lack of accessible transportation is the most common barrier for people with disabilities for employment and to live fully included lives. This new law works to identify and remove these barriers so people with disabilities have opportunities to improve their quality of life through greater access to education, employment, health care, housing, and their community. The measure requires the new Office for Accessible Transportation to do an assessment to identify transportation challenges in coordination with all appropriate state and local agencies. The office will consult with accessible transportation consumers and industry professionals. In addition, it will be tasked with constructing a five-year strategic plan and must report back to the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee regarding needs for mobility and accessible transportation annually. This assessment will help Tennessee make needed improvements so disabled and elderly citizens can be more engaged in the community and live more productive lives.

   New law allows counties without regional planning commission to open or close roads— A new law that I sponsored was passed this session, which allows 25 Tennessee counties without a Regional Planning Council to create a committee that can open, change or close certain roads in that county. The measure allows the local county commission, by a two-thirds vote, to set up a five-member committee of the commissioners to only hear opening, changing and closing of roads. 

   State’s “slow poke” law is extended under legislation – Legislation was approved this year extending the state’s “slow poke” law to divided highways with two or more lanes in each direction. Current law requires cars to stay out of the left lane of interstate highways with at least three lanes, except in the case of passing other vehicles or while the road is under construction or repair, with violators facing a $50 fine. Many traffic safety experts believe that driving too slow in the passing lane is at least as dangerous as diving too fast, resulting in a number of highway accidents.

   Law strengthens penalties for traffic ticket quotas — Legislation strengthening penalties for public officials to set traffic ticket quotas became law this year. The new statute makes it a Class B misdemeanor for a public official to set a traffic ticket quota for their municipality, subject to a $500 fine. The measure adds to a 2010 law that made traffic ticket quotas illegal. 

   Legislation names roads and bridges for Tennessee heroes – Several Tennessee heroes were honored this year through legislation passed annually to name roads, highways and bridges for distinguished citizens. The majority of the roads this year were named after Tennessee heroes in the U.S. Armed Forces to honor their service to state and country. Similarly, an annual bill is passed that provides the opportunity for new special license plates to be authorized or to implement changes to existing ones. This year’s law included authorization of a new specialty earmarked license plate recognizing the centennial of women’s suffrage. 

   New law expands emergency service tags to more professions — A new law passed this year, which allows additional emergency service personnel to be issued special emergency license plates. The legislation expands the definition of emergency service squad to include emergency medical technicians, paramedic, emergency medical technician paramedics, and other emergency medical responders. It also includes physicians and nurses who accompany or attend a patient in an ambulance. Emergency responders seeking emergency tags are required to submit proof of their profession to their county clerk’s office.