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Motorized Bicycle Amendment Act and the Excise Tax Amendment

Monday, October 22, 2012
Testimony of Lucinda Babers, Director of DMV, before the Committee on the Environment, Public Works and Transportation

Good Afternoon, Chairperson Cheh, members of the Committee and staff.  My name is Lucinda Babers, and I am the Director of the District’s Department of Motor Vehicles.  Today I am here on behalf of Mayor Vincent C. Gray to discuss B19-1995, The Motorized Bicycle Amendment Act of 2012 and B19-959, The Excise Tax Amendment Act of 2012.  I am joined by Director Terry Bellamy from the District Department of Transportation, Director William Howland from the Department of Public Works and Assistant Chief Lamar Greene from the Metropolitan Police Department.

B19-959, the Excise Tax Amendment Act of 2012, clarifies that excise tax exemptions for spouses or children who gift each other vehicles is only applicable when the vehicle has already been titled in the District.  The current language confuses customers who believe the gift excise tax exemption is applicable for vehicles not currently titled in the District.  The Act also clarifies that a person moving into the District would be exempt from the excise tax only if he or she had previously registered the vehicle in another state or US jurisdiction prior to moving to the District.  This change clarifies that vehicles previously registered outside the United States would not be exempt from excise tax.  We would request, however, an amendment to the bill be adopted that would add that a person moving into the District would also be exempt from the excise tax if he or she had titled the vehicle in another state or US jurisdiction prior to moving to the District.  This change is necessary to acknowledge that excise or use tax is normally paid in other jurisdictions when the vehicle is titled (versus registered).  We have prepared legislative language in order to make this change and have attached it to the executive’s written testimony.

The remaining testimony will be related to B19-1995, the Motorized Bicycle Amendment Act of 2012, and a discussion of motorcycle related categories.  When determining the registration, licensing, insurance and enforcement of alternative vehicles, such as motorcycles, scooters, mopeds and motorized bicycles, there is no industry best practice nor is there consistency throughout the various jurisdictions.  Therefore, it is necessary for us to target our problem areas, such as the ability to enforce, decrease theft, and ensure driver safety, when crafting regulations.

To achieve these objectives, we recommend that regulations related to motorcycles, which are basically two or three wheel vehicles, greater than 50cc, capable of traveling more than 30 mph, remain unchanged.  Motorcycles would continue to have all the normal requirements of a vehicle and require titling, registration, inspection, insurance, helmet, and motorcycle endorsement license.  Additionally, motorcycles are not allowed to park on the sidewalk.

The second category would be for motor driven cycles that are less than 50 cc, having an automatic transmission and capable of traveling no more than 30 mph.  The requirements for the motor driven cycle would mirror those of the motorcycle, except there would not be a requirement for a motorcycle endorsement on the driver license.

The third category would be that for motorized bicycles as determined by pedals, a post mounted seat and not capable of traveling more than 20 mph.  It is recommended that motorized bicycles have no DMV related requirements and would be able to park on the sidewalk.  This is a change from the current requirements for these cycles to be licensed, registered, titled, insured and inspected.  However, operationally, very few of these cycles currently meet these requirements, so this recommendation will not negatively impact current motorized bicycle owners.

We believe these recommended changes would improve the safety of bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians and provide the necessary registration for enforcement activity.  On October 1, 2012, a new Maryland vehicle law took effect that requires all motor scooters and mopeds to be titled and insured.  All Maryland motor scooters must display a title decal on the rear of the vehicle.  Virginia also has future plans to somehow identify their scooters, mopeds, and motorized cycles to allow for enforcement activity. 

DPW and DDOT note there are unique challenges associated with taking enforcement action against some of these vehicles.  Enforcement officers cannot tell, just by looking at a vehicle, what its maximum speed or cc capacity is.  Therefore, the officer may not be able to identify what set of regulations are applicable to that vehicle.  Also, if a vehicle does not have a license plate on it, or some other information through which the government can easily identify who the owner is, any ticket issued to that vehicle could be meaningless because there would not be any way to hold the vehicle owner responsible.  This is especially problematic when it comes to issuing tickets to motor driven cycles because some jurisdictions, including Virginia, do not require them to be registered or tagged.  We understand this may change, at which time we can revisit the issue.  Maryland just started to require some of these types of vehicles to have special decals, but we do not have any experience yet in trying to identify an owner through a decal to hold him or her responsible. 

DDOT is working to make more dedicated spaces available for motorcycles, motor driven bicycles and motorized bicycles.  We hope this will encourage people to park their cycles in those dedicated spaces, reducing the number parked on the sidewalk.

We appreciate the opportunity to contribute to this public hearing and public roundtable discussion on these important issues.  With the continued support of you, your staff and public input, we are confident we can determine a workable solution related to motorcycles, motorized bicycles and motor driven cycles.  It would be our pleasure to respond to any questions you may have.  Thank You!