Tonko pushes 'Jason's Law'

Legislation is designed to create safe parking areas for truckers
Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., on Wednesday announced re-introduction of legislation aimed at creating more rest-stop parking for long-distance truckers.

The measure, which was introduced last year but never approved, is named "Jason's Law" for Jason Rivenburg, a truck driver from Fultonham, Schoharie County, who was murdered March 4, 2009, during a robbery attempt while he was resting in his rig at an abandoned South Carolina gas station.

"Jason Rivenburg lost his life for a mere $7 while delivering milk to South Carolina," Tonko said at an outdoor news conference on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. "This cannot happen again ... Enough is enough."

Filed in the House late Tuesday, the bill would set up a $20 million annual U.S. Department of Transportation grant program for six years to assist states, local governments and private companies in creating more parking places and rest areas for truckers, who must comply with the federal government's regulation limiting them to 11 hours on the road before resting.

Trucking industry association executives who attended the news conference expressed support for the legislation and decried what they said was a nationwide lack of parking for truckers.

"While parking shortages are more critical in some areas than others, this is a problem that encompasses the vast majority of states in the country," said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association. "It truly is epidemic."

Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., joined Tonko as a co-sponsor, which Tonko said was a sign that the bill could muster bipartisan support at a time when Republican leaders of the House are attempting to dramatically slash the size and cost of government.

Hope Rivenburg, the widow of Jason Rivenburg who was pregnant with twins when her husband was murdered, joined Tonko at the news conference as the second-term lawmaker who represents the Albany area praised her as "tremendously persistent (and) totally resilient in her effort to get this measure passed on the Hill here in Washington."

Hope Rivenburg lives in Fultonham with her three children. She said she was hopeful that the legislation would fare better in this session of Congress than it did in the last.

"I've made a few trips here to D.C., knocking on doors, and we've had national call-in days where (supporters) call in to their representatives," she said. "I definitely have optimism that there's going to be passage of this bill."

Tonko's strategy is to attach his measure to the highway reauthorization bill, the major federal funding mechanism for the interstate highway system that expires later this year. The highway bill is funded in large part through gas taxes on motorists.
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