By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
A House committee yesterday backed legislation that would cap late registration fees for trailers at $10.
Senate Bill 198 came to be after the Democratic-controlled Legislature last year increased vehicle registration fees in order to raise an estimated $250 million annually for crumbling roads and bridges.
But an unintended consequence of the Funding Advancement for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery (FASTER) legislation is that owners of camper and multipurpose trailers were seeing late registration penalties of anywhere from $25 per month up to $100. Because motorists are not as vigilant about registering their trailers as they are their motorized vehicles, drivers started seeing expensive penalties for waiting to register their trailers.
Rep. Wes McKinley, a Democrat from Walsh who voted against the FASTER legislation and is sponsoring SB 198, said he hopes the bill will ease some “ruffled feathers.” When the legislation took effect, angry trailer owners — especially from the agricultural community — complained passionately about late fees mounting to more than the worth of their trailers.
“The biggest contention of the FASTER bill is those hideous late fees that they put on,” said McKinley. “If you’ve got a trailer, a camper trailer — and there’s a lot of camper trailers out there that people have got in storage — all of a sudden they’re looking up; they’ve got to pay that increased fee, and they get a $100 penalty.”
“This is just to say that we’ve recognized that there’s a problem out there and we never intended this to happen, so let this be a little bit of relief for you,” he continued.
SB 198 would cut the late fee for non-motorized vehicles over 2,000 pounds and less than 16,000 pounds and camper trailers or multi-purpose trailers regardless of weight from $25 per month to $10.
The measure was backed last week by the Senate with little opposition. It passed through the Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs committee last week by a unanimous vote.
Off to appropriations
The legislation was backed by the House State, Veteran & Military Affairs Committee yesterday by a vote of 8-3. It now heads to appropriations.
SB 198 works in concert with House Bill 1211, which has already reduced late vehicle registration fees to $10 per month for non-motorized vehicles weighing less than 2,000 pounds. Sen. Bruce Whitehead, D-Hesperus, attempted to attach an amendment to HB 1211 to lower the fee regardless of weight, but the amendment failed to pass the House.
Whitehead acknowledges the late timing of SB 198, but said it is necessary to address concerns from his constituents.
“I had to apply for late bill status to introduce this legislation; however, it was necessary because I knew how important this measure was for my constituents,” Whitehead said in a statement. “While we want to ensure citizens are registering vehicles on time, we cannot unfairly burden our agricultural communities who often own multiple trailers but only utilize them once or twice a year.”
Rep. Jeanne Labuda, D-Denver, joined Rep. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, and Rep. Lois Court, D-Denver, in voting against SB 198 yesterday after a hearing in the House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee. Labuda believes lowering registration penalties will only take money away from crumbling roads and bridges when it is most necessary. There are 126 structurally deficient bridges across the state; 115 bridges are 75 years old; highway sections are 75 to 100 years old; and interstate sections are up to 50 years old.
“Anytime I see a bill like this where people are pleading, ‘Please exempt me from the late fee because I don’t know whether I’m a little guy or whether I don’t use my trailer or whatever very much,’ this takes away from the funding to repair those pot holes that the driver’s probably going to drive over and then break an axle in his car that we couldn’t pay for because we exempted his vehicle,” said Labuda.
“Pay the $100 fee one time and you’ll remember next time,” she concluded.