Facts and Fiction About House Bill 428 - remove the $20 late license plate renewal fee

Over the past two months I have received many calls from constituents objecting to the new $20 late vehicle registration fee that was implemented by House Bill 2, the biennial transportation budget. When this fee was first brought to my attention during the debate on HB 2, I had to admit that I was perplexed. I already thought it was illegal in the state of Ohio to operate a motor vehicle with expired tags. I did my research and sure enough, prior to this $20 fee being passed, not only was it illegal to be driving with expired tags but it was a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of at least $500 or 90 days in jail.

So why did we need to add a $20 fee for late vehicle registrations if it was already a crime to operate an unregistered vehicle on the roadways of Ohio? Shouldn’t the penalty of a large fine and possible jail time deter irresponsible drivers from taking to the roads?

As I did further research I realized that this $20 fee had nothing to do with keeping unsafe drivers off of the road and had more to do with the state looking for another way to collect additional revenue. After this fee went into effect I heard various compelling reasons from some of my constituents as to why many of them chose not to register their vehicle until they need to. All of the people that I spoke to did not take their vehicles with expired tags onto the roads. These people only use these vehicles on a seasonal basis. They may own a hot rod that they race at Summit Motorsports Park and only need to register it during racing season because that is the only time of year that they use it. Or they may be a retiree on a fixed income who only uses their RV in the winter when they travel to warmer climates. Or they may be one of the many unemployed or under-employed residents of my district who may not have the cash on hand to renew their registration exactly on their birth date. Most of the people who are being penalized by this fee are responsible citizens, not reckless drivers.

I fully support strong laws that keep irresponsible drivers off of the road. As I have said before, it is currently a misdemeanor punishable by a fine or jail time for drivers who take unregistered vehicles on to the road. I introduced House Bill 428 to remove a $20 administrative fee that was added just this past summer. Many critics of my bill are saying that I want to repeal the misdemeanor penalty for driving with expired license plates and encourage reckless drivers to take to the roads, which couldn’t be further from the truth. This legislation keeps in place the laws and misdemeanor penalty against operating a motor vehicle without a current registration.

There is nothing about this fee that is designed to keep unsafe drivers off of the road; this fee was simply a fundraiser for the state to make up for a shortfall in revenue. And as the Lorain Morning Journal puts it, “Citizens need to be treated fairly and forthrightly when it comes to paying for state services. The $20 late fee is more than an aggravation, it unfairly penalizes farmers and others who operate vehicles during limited periods of time.”

If you would like to speak with me about this or any other state issue, I encourage you to come to my next Town Hall meeting in Norwalk. It will be on Saturday February 27th, 2010 at Norwalk High School in the Fisher-Titus Learning Center at 1:00pm.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative. If you need to contact my office for any issue you can give us a call at 614-466-9628.

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