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16 February 2012

Stouffer: Transportation Tweaks Could Put More Money on Roads

Among the first bills passed in the Missouri Senate this year is Senate Bill 443, which would make some changes to part of Missouri’s transportation laws, mainly to bring the state in line with federal standards and put more money toward our roads.

The bill has two major parts: the first dealing with intoxication-related traffic offenses and the second relating to commercial driver’s licenses.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

The first portion of Senate Bill 443 allows courts and the Missouri Department of Revenue (DOR) to issue limited driving privileges to repeat offenders for the purpose of driving to or from his or her place of employment, school, alcohol or drug treatment programs, and seeking the services of a certified ignition interlock device provider. Limited driving privileges may not be granted for seeking medical treatment or other circumstances that create undue hardships for the driver.

Also, federal law does not authorize DUI courts as an alternative to mandatory jail or community service, currently laid out in Missouri state statute. In order to comply with federal law, Senate Bill 443 would allow prior and persistent offenders to avoid the minimum days of imprisonment by performing community service and completing a DWI court program, if available. The DWI court program or other treatment program must include the minimum periods of community service. The measure also makes changes to community service requirements.

Commercial Drivers’ Licenses

The second portion of the bill deals with commercial drivers’ licenses (CDL’s). The measure changes the penalties for CDL holders’ failure to appear in court, adds new definitions to the Uniform Commercial Driver’s License Act, makes changes to current compliance guidelines for Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations, supports the implementation of the “Medical Certification Requirements as part of the CDL” federal rule, and implements a Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulation known as “Medical Certification Requirements as part of the CDL.”

Simply put, the biggest change is an effort to streamline the process for all Missouri CDL holders to eventually link their "medical card" to their driver’s license. This would ultimately eliminate the need for CDL holders to carry their medical card, as the medical certification would be included in the records maintained by the DOR. Until this bill is approved, and the systems are in place with DOR, Missouri CDL holders should continue to carry their medical card with them when they drive. Those already traveling across state lines already meet this requirement. Farmers would be exempt within a 150 mile radius, so those farmers traveling inside Missouri — but 150 miles from their farm — will need to comply.

Finally, since Senate Bill 443 puts state laws back in line with federal guidelines, the measure would also allow the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to move $60 million from its legal fund to its transportation fund. This way, MoDOT could put more funds into what it is supposed to do: fix roads. Considering the department’s road budget is half of what it once was, this is a step forward.

It is my hope that Senate Bill 443 will receive quick passage in the Missouri House and be signed into law. We need these changes to go into effect as soon as possible.

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