House advances bill to kill vehicle late fee

DENVER — Colorado motorists no longer would have to pay a fee for late renewal of their license plates under a bill that won preliminary approval in the Colorado House on Tuesday.

The measure, introduced by Western Slope Rep. Randy Baumgardner, would return the state to the $10 late fee that county clerks could charge at their discretion before the higher late fee was approved.

In 2009, the Legislature approved increased vehicle registration fees that included a $25-a-month late fine, which is capped at $100. Money from those fees is used to fund road and bridge projects around the state.

But the late fee caught most people off guard, with some saying there are legitimate reasons for not renewing vehicle plates each year. To address some of those concerns, the Legislature last year reduced the late fee on trailers, but not on vehicles.

At the time the new fees were approved, state officials didn’t expect to earn much money from the late fee. Lawmakers thought it was needed to catch new residents who were not registering their vehicles in Colorado within three months, as required by law.

Turns out, a number of Colorado residents were filing late, too. As a result, the state has been earning about $25 million a year from the late fee, Baumgardner said.

“We didn’t expect that extra money,” the Hot Sulphur Springs Republican said. “These late fees are just a gimme. This money was never counted on, they never expect this money, and if no one was ever late, this money would not be in this account.”

Regardless, Democrats who oppose the bill said it’s appropriate to charge a fee on people who fail to renew their plates on time. Not doing so is unfair to those who pay their bills when they are required.

“It’s galling to those people who do pay their license fees on time to see their neighbors are just ignoring it, and taking out a free loan on the back of the state and paying it whenever they are good and ready,” said Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Denver. “That’s not fair. If everybody else is paying on time, so should the laggers.”

The measure requires a final House vote, which could come as early as today.

Baumgardner said despite Democrats’ opposition to it in the House, he’s hoping Democrats in the Senate, where they have a majority, will view it more favorably.


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