Saturday, July 02, 2022 |
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A quartet of bills that crack down on abandoned vehicles have passed both chambers of the state Legislature.
House Bills 1411 through 1414 propose harsher penalties for owners of derelict vehicles that could generate millions of dollars for the state per year.
According to Puna Rep. Greggor Ilagan, co-introducer of all four bills, there were 1,620 abandoned vehicles reported in Hawaii County during 2019 alone, with 9,020 reported statewide that year. Under new penalties outlined in HB 1414, repeat offenders could be fined between $750 and $1,000.
“Our focus is not exactly to generate money,” Ilagan said Thursday. “We’re just hoping these fines would be a deterrent for people.”
The fines imposed by HB 1414 are tiered based on the number of offenses. While the current laws impose fines between $150 and $500 in abandoned vehicle cases, HB 1414’s $750 fine would be issued for a third offense, and $1,000 for any offense beyond that. Ilagan said he does not have an estimate for how much money could be raised by such a bill.
Ilagan said HB 1413 has the most power to dissuade people from abandoning vehicles. Should a vehicle owner owe fines relating to an abandoned vehicle, that owner could have their driver’s license suspended, or have its renewal prohibited, until those fines are paid in full.
“That’s huge,” Ilagan said. “That’s a big penalty for people to deal with.”
The other bills are more technical. HB 1411 assigns legal weight to signatures made in vehicle transfers: In order to reduce vehicle title transfer fraud, the bill renders the signature of a person involved in a vehicle transfer as a legal attestation that all information provided in the certificate of ownership is correct, which would make it easier for investigators to determine the proper owner of an abandoned vehicle.
The final bill, HB 1412, closes a legal loophole that currently allows vehicle owners to avoid the “abandoned vehicle” designation by simply moving their vehicle a nominal distance. The measure requires each county to establish a minimum distance for a vehicle to be moved to avoid the designation.
Gene Quiamas, deputy chief of the county Department of Environmental Management’s Solid Waste Division, said that, in 244 abandoned vehicle tow requests made between July 1 and Dec. 30 of last year, the vehicles could not be located for one reason or another.
Ilagan said that, if the bill passes, he will meet with officials in every county to ensure they set up proper minimum movement distances.
Although bills 1411 and 1412 will go to conference committees to discuss changes made during their journeys through the Legislature, Ilagan said he has no problems with the bills as they are now.
“I’m honestly excited they’ve got as far as they have,” Ilagan said. “They’re all good bills. They’ve barely changed at all.”
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