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Transportation Improvements Pass State Legislature

Information is provided by the office of 28th District State Sen. Joey Hensley, MD, R-Hohenwald, who represents Giles, Lewis, Maury and Marshall counties.

2023 Session of the 113th General Assembly

The 113th General Assembly has adjourned for 2023, and it was a very successful year. We have taken measures for Tennessee to be a better place to live, work and to raise a family in. I will go over laws passed this session.

Transportation Modernization Act - The General Assembly passed major legislation to modernize Tennessee’s infrastructure and address traffic congestion, prolonged project delivery timelines, and the deteriorating revenue stream for road funding.

The Transportation Modernization Act of 2023 was one of Gov. Bill Lee’s key legislative proposals and seeks to address a $26 billion backlog of congestion-related needs.

This major legislation issues no new taxes, no road debt and ensures that funds are proportionally allocated to urban and rural areas of the state.

Choice Lanes - The legislation would allow the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) to form partnerships with private entities to create choice lanes to address congestion. Choice Lanes allow drivers to choose to use free lanes or pay a user fee to enter new additional lanes for a guaranteed minimum speed.

No fee would be charged to use general-purpose lanes, and the number of general-purpose lanes would not be reduced.

Choice Lanes provide additional capacity in heavily congested corridors, benefiting those who use the Choice Lanes and those who remain in general-purpose lanes.

Data from other states has shown Choice Lanes reduce traffic in the free, general purpose lanes by 30%.

Transportation Modernization Fund-This bill establishes the Transportation Modernization Fund and invests $3.3 billion to fund critical infrastructure projects in rural and urban areas. Each of TDOT’s four regions would receive $750,000,000, while the State Aid Program, which provides funds to counties for local transportation projects, would receive $300 million. By investing $29 million per year, it would take 15 years to allocate $300 million to the State Aid Program.

Alternative Delivery Model - The legislation expands TDOT’s ability to use alternative delivery contracting, which has saved time and money on the right projects.

The move would put TDOT in a strong position to optimize the delivery of increasingly complex infrastructure solutions. TDOT’s alternative delivery program has saved $22 million and resulted in 70% faster delivery compared to the traditional delivery model.

Electric Vehicle Parity - Additionally, the legislation addresses the erosion of the state’s gas tax collection by the growing use of electric vehicles (EVs).

It establishes parity between what drivers of combustible engine vehicles and their EV and hybrid counterparts pay in gas taxes by increasing the registration fee for EVs to $200 for the first three years following passage and $274 by 2026.

For hybrid vehicles, a $100 fee would be set immediately following passage.

Sergeant Chris Jenkins Law - A law makes it a crime for a person to transport a ladder not properly secured to prevent it from falling onto a public roadway.

A violation of the law results in a Class C misdemeanor and an improperly secured ladder that caused a motor vehicle accident results in a Class A misdemeanor.

It does not change any additional requirements that exist for commercial motor vehicles.

The legislation is named after Sgt. Chris Jenkins who was fatally struck by a semi-truck while removing a ladder from Interstate 75.

Jabari Bailey Highway Safety Act - This law requires citizens to move over for any stopped vehicle whose hazard lights are on, building on existing law that requires citizens to move over for a stopped emergency vehicle.

The bill is named after Jabari Bailey of Memphis who lost his leg in a life-altering accident after stopping to help a car on the side of the road.

New rules for license plates - The General Assembly passed a law that eliminates the license plate fee for parents or guardians of people who are permanently confined to a wheelchair and who do not own or operate a vehicle.

The law also discontinues honorary consular cultural license plates as they can mislead law enforcement into thinking the driver has diplomatic immunity.

Adding “In God We Trust” to all license plates – The General Assembly passed the omnibus license plate legislation which will add “In God We Trust” to all license plates. The legislation offers an opt-out option to Tennesseans who do not wish to have the phrase on their license plate.

Emergency personnel license plates - This law allows emergency communication dispatchers to be eligible for emergency personnel license plates so they can more rapidly access call centers in emergencies.

Creating a new class of driver’s license for motor scooters - Under a new law, a Class M-Limited license, a new class of driver’s license for motor scooters, may be issued for all lower-speed and lower-weight motor scooters, including mopeds, but not for larger motorcycles. The bill does not apply to Bird or Lime scooters found in many cities.

Motor scooters are a reliable and affordable transportation option for commuting to work and school, and the bill maintains safety and licensing safeguards.

The Department of Safety may develop knowledge and skills tests that are suitable for the Class M-Limited license and for the operation of motor scooters.

Removing a restriction for minors learning to ride motorcycles - A new law makes it easier for minors to learn how to ride motorcycles.

This law removes the restriction of minors who have been issued a motorcycle learner’s permit from driving beyond 20 miles of their home if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian who is also operating a motorcycle and who holds a valid motorcycle license. The bill also requires the completion of a certified motorcycle education course.

Ensuring safer intersections for Tennesseans - A new law will require the Department of Transportation to standardize, by speed limit, the time a traffic-control signal must display the yellow signal light when following the green signal light.

Also, the law establishes a one-second delay between the exposure of a red or “Stop” signal light and the display of a green or “Go” signal light for another traffic signal in the same intersection.

Improving visibility of vehicles with large loads - This law aims to improve the safety of roadways.

It requires vehicles carrying logs or wood that protrude more than four feet from the back of the vehicle to carry a specific type of blinking light and at least two red flags so the cargo is easily visible to other motorists.

Increasing penalties for teens distracted driving - To enhance safety, the General Assembly passed a law that increases penalties for distracted driving.

The law states that persons 18 years of age or younger caught texting while driving twice in a year will have their driver’s license suspended for six months.

Those older than 18 caught texting while driving three times in a year will also have their license suspended.

Each year, the number of distracted driving offenses increases in Tennessee.

Keeping dangerous drivers off the road – A new law ensures motorists who have had their driver licenses revoked in another state cannot drive in Tennessee and vice versa.

Helping veterans obtain CDL - This law will help address the truck driver shortage by making it easier for qualified veterans to receive a commercial learner’s permit.

The Department of Safety will be required to waive the knowledge test to obtain a temporary permit for applicants who provide documentation showing relevant military experience and a clean driving record.

This legislation helps veterans find employment. Any applicant who received a knowledge test waiver would still be required to complete applicable vision and skills tests and pay appropriate fees.

Sen, Hensley may be contacted at 425 Rep. John Lewis Way N., Suite 742, Nashville ,TN 37243 or by calling 615-741-3100, calling toll free 1-800-449-8366 ext. 13100 or fax 615-253-0231.

His district address is 855 Summertown Highway, Hohenwald,TN 38462, or call 931-796-2018 or call his cell phone at 931-212-8823 or E-mail: sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov

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