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DC DMV Testimony Before Committee on Transportation and the Environment

Friday, October 27, 2017

Friday, October 27, 2017

Testimony of Lucinda Babers, Director Department of Motor Vehicles Before the Committee on Transportation and the Environment

Mary Cheh, Chairperson

Friday, October 27, 2017
11:00 am -- Room 412
The Wilson Building,
Washington, DC

Good morning, Chairpersons Cheh and Evans, members, and staff of the Committees. I am Lucinda Babers, the Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). I am pleased to testify before you today on four bills introduced by the Council. I am joined today by Jeffrey Barnette, Deputy Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer for the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO).

Bill 22-204 is the “Traffic and Parking Ticket Penalty Amendment Act of 2017.” Under the Bill as introduced, there would no longer be a penalty imposed equal to the amount of a civil fine on District residents for failure to answer a notice of infraction within 30 days when the infraction has been detected by an automated traffic enforcement system, or involves a parking, standing, stopping, or pedestrian offense. As written, the Bill eliminates the doubling of fines for non-District residents for parking tickets and District and non-District residents for photo enforcement tickets if payment is not made within 30 days of ticket issuance. However, the Bill does not repeal DC Official Code § 50-2301.05(a)(2)(B), which still allows for the doubling penalty and an additional $5 penalty for parking violations after day 60 or for failing to appear for a hearing.

Assuming that was the intent of the Bill, the Department questions whether eliminating the penalty at day 30 will provide an incentive for those in violation to pay tickets in a timely manner or to pay tickets at all. Most cities either have an incentive for people to pay a reduced ticket amount for paying earlier or there is a penalty for paying late. In addition, although booting, towing, Clean Hands and collections activities are currently used and will not be affected by the proposed legislation, this Bill will undoubtedly have an impact on the District’s revenue.

Bill 22-237 is the “Parking Ticket Waiver Act of 2017.” As indicated in the preamble of the Bill, this Bill provides a waiver for parking infractions when the registered owner of a vehicle does not receive proper notice of the infraction within two years of its issuance and provides an eight-year statute of limitations for collecting parking and moving infraction fines. The Department has concerns with the proposed Bill.

The Bill requires DMV to send a second notice within one year of issuance of a parking ticket to a customer who did not answer the ticket. However, the Bill does not repeal default judgments, booting, towing, collection, and Clean Hands activities which all occur after day 60. Therefore, under this legislation, DMV would be sending a notice to a customer who has already had action taken on their ticket and vehicle. Thus, it is unclear what population of customers with overdue tickets this Bill is trying to address, or why a one-year notice would correct those individuals’ behavior if prior action had not already. Additionally, since the Bill allows for a customer to prove a parking ticket notice was not received, DMV would be unable to use evidence that the notice was sent to the address of record unless costly mail enhancements (such as certified mail) are implemented. Even with mail enhancements, customers could simply refuse to sign or accept the mailing.

The Bill’s requirement that unpaid ticket fines older than eight years of issuance be discharged again raises concerns about the impact on revenue since the Office of the Chief Financial Officer’s Central Collection Unit (CCU) currently discharges fines and penalties after 15 years of ticket issuance.  However, the OCFO can speak more about their concerns during their testimony.

Bill 22-410 is the “Parking and Moving Violation Amnesty Act of 2017.” As indicated in the preamble of the Bill, this Bill requires the DMV Director to establish an amnesty program for District residents who owe more than $1,000 for parking, standing, stopping, and pedestrian violations to waive monetary penalties upon the payment of fines owed. Specifically, there is to be a yearly one-month amnesty program which waives penalties after a resident pays at least 60 percent of outstanding ticket fines, if the fines are more than $1,000. The Department also has concerns with this Bill.

First, any amnesty program should be managed and implemented by the OCFO’s Central Collection Unit because this Unit was created to collect outstanding ticket debt using settlements, payment plans, amnesty, etc. The DMV no longer engages in outstanding ticket collection activities. Additionally, the parameters of the program would have someone who owes $1,000 in ticket fines and $500 in penalties pay $600 in fines to have the $500 in penalties waived.  However, the individual would still owe an additional $400 in ticket fines. It is unclear whether the intent of the Bill is to still have the customer pay the $400 in outstanding fines, or whether its intent is to have these fines waived in addition to the $500 in waived penalties. In either case, the Department questions whether this Bill would encourage customers to wait to pay their ticket fines during the annual amnesty period. The Department will defer to OCFO on how the Bill’s approach aligns with current amnesty practices.    

Bill 22-488 is the “Ticket Payment Plan Amendment Act of 2017.” As indicated in the preamble of the Bill, this Bill allows persons seeking to discharge delinquent debt incurred through the commission of a moving, parking or non-moving violation to participate in a deferred payment plan and to allow for appeals of decisions denying access to a deferred payment plan to be appealed to the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). Since this Bill is not applicable to DMV, but is applicable to the CCU and OAH, the Department has no comment on this Bill other than to note it appears to limit CCU’s discretion to assist customers with ticket payment options.

As mentioned earlier, the OCFO will provide testimony related to most of these Bills.  Thank you for the opportunity to testify today, and I look forward to answering any questions the Committees may have.