Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

June 29, 2013

Clerks fear fallout from licensing law

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

CATLETTSBURG — A new state law scheduled to take effect Monday targets delinquent taxpayers by preventing them from renewing driver’s licenses or registering their vehicles.

However, the law won’t go into effect until later this fall, which has local county clerk’s offices sighing in relief.

They feared the law would bring them an influx of unhappy customers and lead more motorists driving with expired tags and licenses.

The law, included in House Bill 440, known as the “pension funding bill,” prohibit delinquent taxpayers from renewing driver’s licenses, professional licenses or registering vehicles, to force compliance with state tax laws.

Delinquent  individuals would be flagged in the state’s AVIS system, which is used by County and Circuit Court Clerks to issue the licenses, vehicle tags and registrations. The measure expected to capture millions in state revenues beginning in 2015, which will go into the state’s underfunded pension system.

Jim Isaman, a spokesman for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said Friday implementation of the new law is not expected until “sometime this fall.

“We are currently working with the Department of Revenue to establish a memorandum of understanding and the Commonwealth Office of Technology to complete the changes needed to move forward,” he said.

That’s good news to Debbie Jones, Boyd County Clerk.

Jones said clerk’s offices across the state are worried the taxpayers are unaware of the changes and are not going to take the news well.

“They are going to be totally shocked when they come in here and find this out,” she said. “I am just in disbelief that they would do this,” she added.

Individuals who are flagged in the system, will get “a little card the state has prepared that says you have to call the Department of Revenue Collections to get their finances straightened out,” said Jones, adding, “Can you just imagine how upset people are going to be?” 

Jones is also worried individuals with commercial drivers licenses will be unable to work and that the changes will spur individuals to drive with expired tags and licenses.  

Lawmakers share those concerns too, and many are already calling for changes.

House Transportation Chairman Hubert Collins, D-Wittensville, said many did not know the measure was included in the House Bill 440 when it passed in the eleventh hour on the last day of the General Assembly’s legislative session.  

Representative Kevin Sinnette, D-Ashland, said he voted for the bill, but like many Democratic lawmakers, didn’t see the bill until just before voting on it and didn’t have time to read the 78-page amendment until later. He voted for it because it was the “pension funding bill.

“It is primarily putting teeth into the revenue generating laws that are already out there. The quickest way to get someone to pay their taxes is to take their driver’s license,” he said. “It was not my understanding that there was an automatic, ‘You are delinquent on taxes, we have to take your license,’” said Sinnette.

 According to the bill, taxpayers are to have been notified by the Department of Revenue of overdue bills, and there is a right to appeal.

“I think it is going to cause a lot of unintended consequences. I think it needs to be looked at again,” Sinnette said. He said if other lawmakers don’t take action to address it, he will.

“It looks good on paper, but it might be a nightmare.”

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or by email at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com