House Transportation Committee

February 2, 2023


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Rep Holcomb: Good morning, committee. Chair sees a quorum, recognizes a quorum. If you’re here to speak for or against a bill please sign up. Representative Haak, House Bill 1171, you may present. We’re going to try to move pretty fast, ask all the questions you need to but let’s not get repetitive, we got to be on the House floor at 11:00. So you may begin. 


HB 1171 Broadens verbiage for religions to self-insure


Rep Haak: Good morning. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Committee members. Delia Haak from western Benton County. I’m bringing before you a bill this morning that changes one word in our current law, and that is for religious denominations who qualify as self-insurers that have 25 members or more who own motor vehicles registered in the State of Arkansas to change the word from ‘prohibits’ its members from purchasing insurance to ‘discourages’ its members from purchasing insurance according to their religious beliefs. And with that, I will take any questions.


Rep Holcomb: Any questions from the Committee?


Rep Haak: Yes, sir.


Rep Holcomb: Representative Tosh, you’re recognized. 


Rep Tosh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Representative, it says religious denominations. I’m just curious, what about non-denominational churches? We have a lot of those across the state. Do they qualify for this, are they left out? Just try to help me to understand that part of it.


Rep Haak: I think there are entities that 25 members or more can self-insure. This only section in the law is what we’re addressing today is just for religious denominations. But yes sir, to answer your question other groups may self-insure, just like with health insurance and things like that. But this today is not affecting any of those things. This is about changing, those denominations don’t legally prohibit their members from purchasing insurance, they merely discourage their members from purchasing as they feel like it might be against their religious beliefs and faith. 


Rep Tosh: So, follow up. So we’re not singling out non-denominational churches and just, we’re not doing that with this bill are we?


Rep Haak: No, sir. 


Rep Holcomb: Representative Steimel, you’re recognized.


Rep Steimel: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Representative Haak, one of the questions I have is why the needed language change? 


Rep Haak: Because technically their religious denominations do not prohibit their members from purchasing insurance, they merely discourage them. So we wanted at their request to correct this in this current law. 


Rep Steimel: So how many more religious organizations will this include with this language change? I’m sorry, meant to ask for a follow-up.


Rep Haak: And I think that this was just written to include any religious denomination that qualifies as self-insurers, 25 members or more, that want to allow their members to purchase insurance. It discourages them but it does not prohibit them. So in particular, this came about, I have a large Mennonite population in my district, and others that do not under most normal circumstances purchase paid programs of insurance. They most often self-insure both their homes, their businesses, their health insurance and this merely reflects their motor vehicle insurance. 


Rep Steimel: May I have a follow-up, Mr. Chair? The Mennonites are already self-insured and they already take, you know they’re already self-insured, so if this is not effective in the Mennonite Community, what other communities are we trying to? 


Rep Haak: It doesn’t affect their community at all. It only changes the word from prohibits because they technically do not prohibit their members, to discourages their members. So it doesn’t change any impact on the actual carrying out of their purchasing of insurance.


Rep Steimel: I’m just confused as to why the needed language change because they already self-insure.


Rep Haak: Yes, sir. 


Rep Steimel: Okay. Thank you. 


Rep Holcomb: Any other questions from Committee? Are you satisfied? You have another question? Okay, Representative Springer, you’re recognized. 


Rep Springer: Good morning. Thank you, Mr. Chair. I remember when you brought this bill. Motion at the proper time. 


Rep Holcomb: Okay. Any other questions from the Committee? Seeing none, anyone here to speak for or against the bill, no one? Representative Haak, would you like to close?


Rep Haak: I’m closed for my bill. 


Rep Holcomb: All right, she’s closed her bill, what’s the will of the Committee? Representative Springer, you’re recognized. 


Rep Springer: Do pass.


Rep Holcomb: We have a do pass, any discussion? All in favor say aye. Any opposed same like sign. Seeing none, the bill passes. Thank you. 


Okay, is Representative Lee Johnson here? Do not see Representative Johnson. Representative Achor, you ready? House Bill 1244. Okay, well you’re going to have to wait a few minutes then. I’m going to let the Vice-Chair take over. I’m going to run House Bill 1321. 


HB 1321 Truck Platooning Systems


Rep McClure: Mr. Chair, Representative Holcomb, you’re recognized for your bill. 


Rep Holcomb: Thank you, Mr. Chair, Committee. If you don’t mind I’d like to have Shannon from the Trucking Association come up in case the questions get really tough. She’ll know how to answer them. Thank you, I’m going to be as brief as I can. You know technology has really in the last few years taken a real turn in the auto industry, not just the auto industry but transportation as a whole. 


I remember the first time as a young man I heard Ford Motor Company advertise they had a heated steering wheel and I thought what kind of candy stick wants a heated steering wheel? But yesterday before I left the House floor I walked back to the back and hit the fob on my truck and when I got in the truck the steering wheel was heated, the seat was heated, my mirrors were defrosted. When I got on the expressway I put it in cruise, and I’ve got a gap control on my vehicle that will only let me get so close to that vehicle. If he shuts it down without me noticing, y’all that have it know, it’ll set you down in the seat. Even going backwards, it’ll do the same thing, it’ll shut you down. It’s got lane control. I can turn loose of the steering wheel and it keeps me in the lane. Matter of fact, if I try to turn out of the lane it’s harder to turn and it gives me a little shock in my seat to let me know what I’m doing. But what I’m getting at is just technology has changed for transportation as a whole. 


In 2017, we passed House Bill 1754 to regulate vehicles with driver assistance and platooning. Now if you want to know what platooning is, it’s a driver-assisted platooning system that uses vehicle communication to connect the braking and acceleration between two trucks. The link allows the lead truck to control the acceleration and braking of both trucks simultaneously, reacting faster actually than human or even radar sensors could. And so what we’re here today for is to just actually update. Now in 2019, we authorized the vehicles, fully autonomous vehicles on the street. We did a pilot program actually in 2019, we come back in 2021 and we authorized the autonomous vehicle programs. 


Now so what we’re asking for here actually on the platooning of the trucks is it will– actually all this, all the autonomous vehicles that we’re talking about has to be run before the highway department or DOT, they have to pre-approve any routes that we do. So what we’re talking about here now in platooning, we’re doing platooning in Arkansas but the only thing we’re doing now is the second truck has a driver in it. He’s not doing anything, he’s just sitting there. And it’s still controlled by the first truck. So as short as this bill is it actually does a whole lot. It’s actually taking the driver out of the second vehicle and allowing the first driver to control everything. Now everything is synchronized, even if a vehicle gets in between it’s still able to control the vehicles. So with that, Shannon do you have anything you want to add to that? 


Rep McClure Mr. Chair, if you would identify yourself for the Committee, please? 


Newton (Trucking): Thank you, Mr. Chair. Shannon Newton, Arkansas Trucking Association. The only thing that I’d like to add is that really what we’re trying to do today is to make the statute technology neutral. We passed a statute in 2021 that allowed for autonomous technology to be on the road but the 2017 legislation still was prescriptive and requiring a driver in the second vehicle. So all we’re doing is trying to match that 2017 language to the legislation that we passed in 2021. 


Rep Holcomb: I might add too that I think Texas and Oklahoma are already doing this. And the way I understood it when I was communicating with the Trucking Association, I think there’s 30 other states that’s got this same legislation up before. So be glad to take any questions. 


Rep McClure: Committee members, is there any questions? 


Rep Holcomb: Please ask questions. 


Rep McClure: Seeing none, is there anyone in the audience that’d like to speak for the bill or against the bill? Representative Holcomb, are you closed for the bill?


Rep Holcomb: Well I just want to say we don’t want to get behind in Arkansas. We know how important trucking is. If you shut the trucks down, it’s over with. We have nothing in the stores, we have no goods. One thing about this truck platooning, it’s 40% more efficient to do truck platooning than it is without it. Now you take 40% fuel efficiency across this state and you add hundreds of trucks a day to that, you’re talking about millions and millions of dollars in savings which comes back to not only the wholesaler but to you and I at the grocery store when they deliver. 


So what I don’t want to happen is the other states do this legislation and Arkansas not do it, and they come up to the Arkansas line are they’re going to stop and have to put another trucker in that truck when they go through Arkansas, they’re going to get him out? No, they’re not going to do that. They’re going to go around the states that allow that if we don’t allow this. So I would ask you to consider that so we can stay up with the federal program what’s going on across the rest of the United States. In that, I close.


Rep McClure: Representative, before you close.


Rep Breaux: I’m all for efficiency. I’m thinking about the safety of it. How do you feel about that right there, either one of you?


Rep Holcomb: Well, I don’t know of any incidents that we’ve had. I’ll be honest with you, we’re currently not doing it in Arkansas. We’re making it where we can do it when we’re ready. Some states are doing it, it’s been successful. And we’re always worried about technology and risk and safety and we’re all concerned about that. So I don’t know how to answer that except that if you’ve driven from here to Memphis in the last few days it’s loaded up with trucks anyway. But we’re all worried about safety and concerned but I think the way this mechanism works it’s pretty safe, secure. If something goes wrong with the driver in the first truck, naturally something was going to go wrong with that truck anyway so the second truck would be with him but other than that I don’t know of any safety concerns, and haven’t heard of anything, any other states where they’re having any issues with this model. 


Rep Breaux: Okay that was going to be my next question, if the other states, Shannon, they doing that okay? 


Newton (Trucking): Yes, sir. I appreciate the question. No person nor technology is perfect. However the technology is better than you and I. 


Rep McClure: Okay, Representative Springer.


Rep Springer: Motion at the proper time. Thank you, Mr. Chair.


Rep McClure: Representative, how do I say it? 


Rep Puryear: Puryear. 


Rep McClure: Thank you.


Rep Puryear:There’s been no safety incidents with the other truck with the driver just sitting there, correct?


Newton (Trucking): Correct. 


Rep Puryear: Yeah. So I mean, so it’s safe to say the same thing would happen if the driver wasn’t in the truck.


Newton (Trucking): Right. To Representative Holcomb’s point, something happens to the front driver that doesn’t change the circumstances of the second truck. That would have been the fate of the first driver regardless.


Rep Puryear: Thank you. 


Rep Holcomb: And Mr. Chair just to add, no one’s come out against this, Highway Department, State Police, no one’s against the bill to our knowledge. No one’s even spoke against it. 


Rep McClure: Any other questions? We’ll go back and go back to the audience again, is there anyone who wants to speak? Oh, Representative Berry.


Rep M Berry: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ms. Newton and Chairman Holcomb. So we approved autonomous vehicles in 2021, correct? And we haven’t had any accidents with autonomous vehicles and there’s nobody in the vehicles. So I don’t see any reason why this wouldn’t be better than autonomous vehicles is that correct?


Newton (Trucking): Yes. To the fact that there is some human element guiding this and when there is not in the full-blown autonomous program. 


Rep M Berry: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


Rep Holcomb: And I might add too that we haven’t had any incidents with our with our autonomous vehicle program, it’s been successful. 


Rep McClure: Okay, Representative are you closed now? 


Rep Holcomb: I’m closed.


Rep McClure: What’s the will of the Committee? 


Rep Holcomb: I motion do pass.


Rep McClure: Have a motion do pass. All in favor say aye. All opposed say nay. Congratulations, sir, your bill has passed. 


Rep Holcomb: Thank you, Mr. Chair, Committee. Okay, Committee, without objection, I’m going to– well, no she’s next on the list anyway, Representative Vaught is here to present House Bill 1324. Introduce yourself, you may proceed.


HB 1324 Allowing police to pull over for not having lights on when wipers going


Rep Vaught: Representative Vaught from District 87. Thank you, Mr. Chair. So I had some officers reach out to me and talk about the safety of vehicles that drive in the rain without the lights being on. The lights are supposed to be on when the windshield wipers are going in the State of Arkansas but that’s not an offense in which they could be pulled over for. This will allow them to be able to pull them over, get them to turn on their lights, visit with them about safety and things such as that and that’s what this bill does.


Rep Holcomb: Okay. Any questions from Committee? Representative Tosh, you’re recognized.


Rep Tosh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Representative, make sure I understand, so it’s a secondary offense now, and if I’m understanding you correctly, you’re wanting to make it a primary offense is that correct?


Rep Vaught: I want them to be able to, yes sir because of the safety. Yes, sir. It’s like with a seat belt, before they couldn’t pull somebody over that wasn’t wearing a seat belt. 


Rep Tosh: So that was a secondary law and you wanted to make it a primary law to summarize this bill. 


Rep Vaught Yes, sir.


Rep Tosh: Okay.


Rep Holcomb: Representative Carr, you’re recognized. 


Rep Carr: Oh, motion for do pass, when appropriate. 


Rep Holcomb: Okay any other questions from Committee? Anyone here to speak for or against the bill? Seeing none, Representative Vaught you want to close?


Rep Vaught: I’m closed. And I appreciate a good vote.


Rep Holcomb: Representative Carr, you’re recognized. You had a motion do pass, is that correct? Any discussion? All in favor say aye. Any opposed same like sign. Hearing none, congratulations your bill passed. 


Rep Vaught: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, Committee. 


SB 47 Decriminalizes leaving a vehicle running unattended


Rep Holcomb: Okay, Representative Achor, you’re here to run Senate Bill 47. That’s a strike against you the first thing so, Senate bill. A little humor there, very little. You may introduce yourself and proceed. 


Rep Achor: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’m Representative Achor. I’m here to present on behalf of Senator Justin Boyd and Representative Zach Gramlich in Senate Bill 47. So I appreciate that the Committee has already agreed that technology is advancing and that vehicle’s safety measures have taken quite a turn over the last half century. In that effort, we have a bill here that I’m excited to present as my first bill, I relayed to the sponsors that I appreciate the opportunity to mess up someone else’s bill for my first run as opposed to my own so very excited about that. 


This bill that Senator Boyd has discussed with me at length is a constituent-initiated and constituent-led bill. It was filed three weeks ago and so far has presented no opposition. That was seen in the Senate, as it passed unanimously both in committee and on the floor. This bill titled ‘to repeal the law that prohibits leaving a running vehicle unattended’. To Chairman Holcomb’s excitement, this would allow you to be able to start your vehicle and enjoy the comforts of heated steering wheels and heated seats without running the risk of a fine. 


So at the current time, Arkansas code 27-51-1306 states that no person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition, and removing the key. This language was originally introduced in the 1930s, was last visited in the 1950s and I would say that it’s very apparent that vehicle safety and technology advancements over the 70 last years have innately removed the original concerns of the 1950 language, and I believe that this bill will remove kind of a undue burden on the government interceding into the personal lives of our constituents. So with that, I would like to answer any questions. Yes, sir. 


Rep Holcomb: Any questions from Committee? Representative Tosh, you’re recognized.


Rep Tosh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I just want to make sure I understand the bill and appreciate the way you explained it, that you’re removing just the section. I hope that’s the case where it’s okay to leave a vehicle running but you’re not addressing the part or removing where it’s an unlocked or an unattended vehicle that’s unlocked. That is still going to be in the statute is that correct, just that you can’t leave it running that as long as it’s locked correct me if I’m wrong.


Rep Achor: That is correct. Yes, sir. 


Rep Tosh: Okay. Wanted to be sure on that, thank you.


Rep Holcomb: Any other questions? Seeing none, anyone here to speak for or against the bill? Seeing none, Representative Achor, you ready to close? 


Rep Achor: I’m closed for the bill. I’d appreciate a good vote. I would like to make a motion for do pass. 


Rep Holcomb: Okay, we have a motion for do pass, any discussion? All in favor say aye. Any opposed same like sign. Hearing none, congratulations, bill passes. 


Rep Achor: Thank you.


Rep Holcomb: I don’t see anything else on the agenda. Representative Johnson and apparently Representative Cozart are not going to be here. So we’re going to pass over those. Any other business to come before the committee today? If not, thank you, Committee. We stand adjourned.