Illinois House passes bill to suspend fines for late license-plate renewal
The Illinois House has passed a bill to prohibit charging late fees to vehicle owners who renew their registration late due to the secretary of state’s suspension of mailed reminders.
The Illinois House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill April 12 prohibiting the secretary of state from charging fees to vehicle owners who renew their vehicle registration late due to the secretary of state’s suspension of mailed renewal notices. House Bill 4334 further provides that a vehicle owner who receives a ticket for expired license plates within one month of the plates’ expiration does not have to pay the fine if the plates expired during the period in which the secretary of state had suspended mailing vehicle-registration-reminder notices.
HB 4334 is now before the Illinois Senate. The bill would take effect upon becoming law and, although the secretary of state’s office stopped mailing registration-renewal reminders in October 2015, it is not retroactive.
The secretary of state’s office stopped mailing renewal reminders to save $450,000 per month amid the state’s budget crisis. However, due to this suspension of mailed license-plate-renewal reminders, the state of Illinois has received a $2.7 million windfall in fees for late license-plate renewals during the first three months of 2016, according to the Associated Press. Between January and March 2016, Illinois vehicle owners paid $4.9 million in fees for renewing their license plates late, up from $2.2 million during the same period in 2015. Over 247,000 motorists received fines for late vehicle-registration renewal in the first three months of 2016, compared with 111,000 people in January, February and March 2015.
The unfairness of the state slapping drivers with $20 fines for late license-plate renewal caused by politician-induced budget gridlock prompted Rep. Jaime Andrade, D-Chicago, and several other Illinois lawmakers to sponsor HB 4334.
Ironically, while some lawmakers are trying to lessen the burden of the state’s fiscal problems on Illinois drivers, others have proposed hiking vehicle-related fees. Illinois state Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, has introduced legislation that would increase the state’s gas tax, raise the current $101 vehicle-registration fee for trucks and cars by 50 percent, and include automatic registration-fee increases tied to inflation, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.
And state Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago, has proposed taxing Illinois drivers by the mile, which would require a vehicle-tracking system and a bureaucracy to administer it.
Illinois is in its 10th month without a budget, and its unpaid bills total over $7.6 billion. Legislative measures to suspend late fees may be necessary under the circumstances, but the real solution is for Illinois lawmakers to pass a budget the state can afford – without subjecting residents to onerous fee hikes and tax increases.