Tag Archives: bicycles

‘Bike trail bill’ taken off the legislative road

A controversial legislative bill restricting Tennessee cities and counties’ use of gas taxes for parks, greenways, bike lanes and similar infrastructure is dead for the year, reports the Times-Free Press.

Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, confirmed he took the bill off notice (Thursday) after it became clear the Senate Finance Committee wouldn’t proceed with the companion measure (SB1716) sponsored by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga.

The bill drew opposition from biking enthusiasts as well as concerns from at least some cities.

“It got pulled in the Senate so there’s no reason to run it,” Carter said.

…”What it does is it says here’s what we’re going to spend your gas tax money on. So the next year when the gas tax bill runs, people can decide ‘I want to raise my money for this purpose or for this purpose.’ And they can decide.

“It’s actually an honesty in government bill, which is revolutionary and would be very difficult to pass.”

Bike Walk, an advocacy group, mobilized members to oppose the legislation. The bill was amended substantially and provided a number of exceptions. For example, one provision would have let local governments continue to use fuel tax revenues for bike lanes and sidewalks on roads with posted speed limits under 35 miles per hours. But it required an engineering study.

House panel drives past bicycle advocates

A bill to block use of gas tax funds for bike and pedestrian projects won approval of the House Transportation Committee Tuesday, reports the Times-Free Press.

The committee voted 8-6 in favor of House Bill 1650, despite the impassioned pleas of bicycling advocates who made their case before the panel.

The bill, which would greatly restrict the use of gas tax revenue in the development of bicycle lanes, also was addressed by the Senate Finance, Ways and Means committee on Tuesday.

That committee chose to roll the bill another week to give its members ample time to evaluate the bill, which came with a negative recommendation from a Senate subcommittee.

“I am here to urge you today to heed the recommendation of your colleagues and oppose this dangerous legislation,” Bike Walk Tennessee President Anthony Siracusa told the Senate committee. “We here in Tennessee will soon have the unenviable task of deciding whether to raise the state gas tax, and my primary point here today is that this issue of how we fund biking and walking in our great state should be part of this larger discussion of transportation in Tennessee, and not dealt with piecemeal in a small, single bill.”

Senate sponsor Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, attributed the bill’s negative recommendation to himself for not properly articulating its purpose to the subcommittee two weeks before.

Hours later, Siracusa and Bike Walk Tennessee executive director Matt Farr sat before the House transportation committee to again make a case against the legislation.

They were met with an aggressive defense of the bill by several committee members before the bill ultimately advanced to the finance committee, which House sponsor Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, has said will be a formality since an amended version of the bill has no fiscal note.

Sponsors defend bicycle bill as opposition mounts

State Rep. Mike Carter said he had no idea a firestorm would ensue when he filed House Bill 1650 — but that’s what has happened, according to the Times-Free Press.

That firestorm is the largest mobilization of bicycle advocates in state history, according to BikeWalk Tennessee Executive Director Matt Farr.

…The bill, sponsored by Carter, R-Ooltewah, in the House and Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, in the Senate, would ban the use of state gas tax revenue to pay for many bicycle and pedestrian transportation projects.
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Criticism of proposed ban on tax funding for bike, walking trails

Proposed state legislation to block the state and local governments from using fuel tax money for bicycle and pedestrian projects drew criticism as at a legislative briefing sponsored by the Knoxville Chamber, reports Georgiana Vines.

A leading critic of the proposal (HB1650) was Knoxville City Councilman Marshall Stair.

“I am disappointed to learn some members of the Legislature are looking to cut funding for bike lanes and sidewalks rather than developing a long-term solution to address all transportation needs. Biking and walking are effective tools for reducing obesity, decreasing traffic and recruiting businesses. The state should be promoting and encouraging alternative transportation, unfortunately this bill takes us in the wrong direction,” he said in a statement issued immediately afterward.

Susan Richardson Williams, panel moderator, said she didn’t think the bill was a good idea at a time when bike and pedestrian trails are being planned in parks. If a tax isn’t used to fund them, how should they be funded, she asked.

Turns out Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero is aware of the bill, and she and the other Big Four mayors strongly oppose it, city spokesman Eric Vreeland said later. Rogero has discussed the bill with the governor, state legislative leaders and members of the Knox County delegation, he said.

The city has a bicycle facilities plan that provides a blueprint for developing a system of connected bike corridors. It features 100 prioritized, recommended projects totaling more than $35 million, with most being locally funded. The current city budget allocates $1 million for bicycle infrastructure.

…At Friday’s meeting, state Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, said the “push back” on state funds for bike corridors came from Chattanooga representatives.

“It will be highly debated,” he said.

Rep. Eddie Smith, R-Knoxville, also on the transportation committee, said the issue is a lack of revenue being generated by bicyclists or bike trails. Maybe a wheel tax could be instituted, he said. Smith said he’s opposed to taking away state money for bike trails.

Note: The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Carter and Sen. Todd Gardenhire, is on notice for its first vote Wednesday in the House Transportation Subcommittee.

Stories on Bills You May Not Have Noticed… Welfare Felons, Bicycles & Drug Switching

Welfare Felons
A bill that, as introduced, would have prohibited anyone convicted of a drug-related felony from receiving welfare benefits has passed the Senate in a somewhat softened form.
As amended and approved 32-0 last week, SB96 would allow benefits to continue so long as the felon in question has enrolled in or completed a drug abuse counseling program.
“This bill gives these individuals notice that our charity is extended as long as they enroll and successfully complete treatment,” said sponsor Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville. “The bill, however, puts a stop to endless payments to those who continue to ignore our drug laws and who continue to abuse the system for public assistance.”
The bill is up for a final House vote Monday night with approval expected.
(Note: this post was clipped from an item in a recent ‘legislative notebook’ by yours truly. Bill summary from legislative website (as introduced) is HERE.
Bicycle Safety Bill
Last week, lawmakers approved a bill to require higher standards of due care when driving and to enhance penalties when bicyclists and pedestrians are hurt or killed in crashes involving motor vehicles, reports Richard Locker.
The bill was sought by Bike Walk Tennessee, a statewide advocacy group founded in 2009 to improve conditions and safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.
(Note: It’s SB1171. Bill summary page from legislative website HERE.)
Drug Switching
Amid the Tennessee legislature’s attempts this year to rein in prescription drug use is a bill regulating so-called “therapeutic substitutions” of medications. The National Consumers League (NCL) calls the practice “drug switching,” reports Hank Hayes.
NCL says the practice involves replacing a patient’s prescription drugs with chemically different drugs expected to have the same clinical effect. But problems with the practice arise in patient groups using antidepressants, and cardiovascular, epileptic and stomach medications, according to NCL.
(Note: The bill is HB716, which has been sent to ‘summer study,’ according to the legislature’s website. Bill summary HERE.