by Andrew Crisp
Following more than four hours of testimony over two different days, members of the House Transportation and Defense Committee voted late Monday to approve Senate Bill 1117, which narrowly passed the Senate 22-13. The committee voted "yes" despite conflicted views from Idaho business, truckers and other stakeholders.
Proponents argued that SB 1117 would help Idaho businesses move more freight with fewer loads by allowing local governments to approve routes for trucks weighing up to 129,000 pounds. But critics countered that increased loads on Idaho's ailing highways and bridges would incur bigger costs for taxpayers.
"The counties come at this with a great deal of deliberation and thought," said Michael Kane, speaking for the Idaho Association of Counties. "We are not anti-truck or anti-progress and development. Our current view is the current bill should not go to the floor with a do-pass."
Kane and other critics, including the Associated Logging Contractors of Idaho, urged the committee to consider a suite of amendments to clarify that local governments can choose not to allow oversize trucks before moving the bill forward. Steve Price, general counsel for the Ada County Highway District, asked lawmakers to clarify that local transportation boards were not required to issue permits for oversize trucks. He said as written, the bill was ambiguous.
However, proponents stressed the business impact without mentioning increased highway costs. The Clearwater Paper Corporation, according to lobbyist Jane Wittmeyer, could stay competitive if heavy trucks can travel Idaho roads. Sponsor Jim Riley said he was speaking for numerous businesses throughout the state that wanted the bill passed. He said he would work with critics to help pass a trailer bill after lawmakers approved SB 1117.
But not all lawmakers agreed on the process. Donnelly Republican Rep. Terry Gestrin moved the bill be sent to the amending order.
"I don’t look at that as a way to kill the bill, I just look at it as a way to meld these bills in a more expeditious manner," said Gestrin.
"If it's on general orders, it can be opened up to any other amendment," said Idaho Falls Republican Rep. Linden Bateman.
Ultimately, Gestrin's substitute motion failed 6-11. The original motion, to send SB 1117 to the floor of the House with a do-pass recommendation, cleared the committee by voice vote.