12/10/2015Michigan Senate Leader Wants Unlimited Tolling Powers
Every road in Michigan could be converted to a toll road under a measure considered by a state Senate committee.
Michigan state Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall (R-White Lake Township) wants every road in his state to be tolled and photo enforced. Legislation he introduced to this effect was heard before the state Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday. Opponents are calling the measures a Christmas shopping list for the tolling industry.
Kowall's first bill allows any public commission or board to enter into a deal where a private company would build a new toll road, or toll an existing road or bridge. As long as the existing road is "improved" by repairs or another form of upgrade, it is eligible for tolling without the approval of the state legislature or a vote by any elected officials. The public would have no involvement in the deals, which would be negotiated behind closed doors.
"Documents and other analysis used in the decision-making process and preparation of the procurement documents and proposals shall not be subject to release or disclosure by the public authority until final award and execution of the public-private agreement... absent an administrative or judicial order requiring such release or disclosure," Senate Bill 627 states.
The measure also authorizes the private tolling company to exercise the power of eminent domain to seize land for use by the for-profit tolling business. The land so taken would be exempt from local and state property taxes.
A companion bill introduced by Kowall creates a system allowing private tolling firms to issue photo tickets to the owners of vehicles accused of not paying tolls. The state would suspend the license of anyone accused of failing to pay a single toll. Representatives from a motorist rights group spoke out against both bills on Tuesday.
"In no other state is driving more synonymous with freedom from tolls, vehicle tracking and automated enforcement than in Michigan," James C. Walker testified. "The National Motorists Association believes no one should support Senate Bills 627 and 628. We urge the committee to reject them on principle."
The state legislature shared that sentiment in 2010 when it struck down a bill that would have similarly allowed unlimited use of tolling in the state. In 2013, lawmakers shot down legislation that would have authorized the use of red light cameras.
A copy of the tolling bill is available in a 60k PDF file at the source link below.