Studded bike tires, government shut downs addressed in policy bill

By T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol Reporter

The Senate Transportation Committee passed its transportation policy bill Thursday, March 15, after a final tune up.

Sen. Pam Wolf, R-Spring Lake Park, successfully amended the legislation pertaining to state law and bicycle equipment.

Although winter bicyclists already use studded tires to gain traction on snowy roads, technically studded tires in Minnesota are illegal.

Wolf’s amendment would make bike tires with studs or other protuberances legal — the amendment also legalized the use of front lamps on bikes that emit a white, flashing signal.

When asked about the size of studs on bike tires, Wolf with a smile suggested committee members examine the tip of their pens.

Other amendments brought longer debate.

One provision in the bill, sponsored by Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, setting a speed limit of 50 mph on I-35E in St. Paul, was removed after debate.

A Department of Transportation official warned the committee the provision would put the agency in a tight spot.

The current 45 mph speed limit emerged out of the courts and was incorporated into the environmental impact statement for the highway.

Federal officials could view increasing he speed limit as throwing open the impact statement — something the feds could contest by withholding up to $40 million in federal highway funding, explained the official.

Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, suggested the proposed speed limit increase was a slight.

“We’re talking about five miles per hour,” he said.

Howe, suggesting motorist routinely broke the 45 mph speed limit, asked an official from the State Patrol whether a motorist driving 50 mph on I-35 risked receiving a speeding ticket.

“In my opinion, no,” said the trooper.

Halls’ provision was removed from the bill.

Another provision in the bill creating contingency funding for highway construction and maintenance in the event of a state government shut down produced lengthy debate.

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, committee ranking minority member, attempted to remove the provision from the bill.

Dibble argued that recent Republican legislation providing for state government funding and services in the event of a shutdown — numerous such bills are percolating through the legislature — reflected an unwillingness to compromise.

Indeed, Dibble argued that to some Republicans “compromise” was a dirty word.

But Committee Chairman Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, argued that almost all transportation funding was dedicated money.

It had nothing to do with the political squabbles over general fund dollars, he argued.

Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, blamed the Dayton Administration for the state government shutdown last summer, arguing the governor had taken an “almost all or nothing” approach to budget talks.

“You plan ahead,” said Gazelka of meeting future crisis.

Dibble’s amendment failed.