So-called reform of BMV has turned into a disaster, says State Rep. Dan Forestal

March 10, 2016 Dan Forestal

For immediate release:
March 10, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS — Legislative efforts to reform the ongoing mess that is the state’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) turned terribly wrong in the last day of the 2016 session of the Indiana General Assembly, resulting in a proposal that State Rep. Dan Forestal (D-Indianapolis) describes as a disaster.

Despite the concerns expressed by Forestal and others, House Bill 1087 was approved by the Republican supermajorities in both the Indiana House and Senate and sent along to Gov. Mike Pence for final approval.

“I have spent the past two years trying to bring some sense to the disaster that has been the operation of the BMV, and for the past year, I had thought that we were making progress toward true reform,” Forestal said. “Over the course of the last few days, those efforts have been trashed and now I have genuine doubts that we will ever be able to do anything to protect the public’s interests. Thanks to legislative maneuvering, reforms have turned into a complete disaster. Provisions were added to this bill that are counterproductive to the mission of protecting the people of Indiana.”

Forestal centered his objections on the bill to three specific provisions that were included during House-Senate conference committee deliberations:

  • Language that reduces the lines of sight at railroad crossings in Indiana from 1,500 to 300 feet, a change that Forestal said would codify greed over safety in state law by allowing railroads to shirk their responsibility to keep crossings clear;
  • A proposal that enables some mobile home owners to avoid paying property taxes on those residences, a change that Forestal said would cost Marion County taxpayers as much as $1 million; and
  • Allowing rental car companies to overcharge customers by imposing a fee in case the customer has an accident, then keeping that fee even if no accident occurs.

“These provisions have nothing to do with the idea of reforming the BMV, but they were added to the bill at the last minute, and when objections were raised during the conference committee process, the House Democratic member of the committee was removed in order to grease the skids for moving this mess through the Legislature,” Forestal said.

“In that light, I must say I have renewed concerns about many of the issues that have generated so much controversy about this issue from the start,” he continued. “This bill legitimizes the convenience fees that allow private contractors to gouge customers for BMV services. Rather than regular independent audits of BMV services, the bill calls for internal audits, which got us in trouble in the first place. And while the bill does reduce some fees, it increases fees on such things as carrier buses and also raises late fees on many BMV transactions.”

At the same time, Forestal noted that the agency itself has gone to court to get a judge to let it keep approximately $60 million in fee overcharges and ill-gotten gains.

“There was a time when I believed that true BMV reform was achievable, but those days have passed,” Forestal said. “I am sure when the governor signs House Bill 1087 into law, it will be hailed as a step forward in restoring the public’s trust. In point of fact, the people of Indiana should be very afraid of what has just taken place. We are back to square one in helping restore the image of the BMV. I will not allow them to run away from this issue. Hoosiers deserve better.”