OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 444

AN ACT CONCERNING PARKING FOR PERSONS WHO ARE BLIND AND PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES WHICH LIMIT OR IMPAIR THE ABILITY TO WALK.

SUMMARY:

This bill establishes several new requirements with respect to the issuance and use of handicapped parking windshield placards, including:

1. requiring anyone issued a placard to have either a Connecticut driver's license or a non-driver photo identification card;

2. requiring a placard to expire and be renewed when the recipient's license or identification card has to be renewed;

3. requiring the newly issued placards to contain additional information;

4. requiring placards to be returned to the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) commissioner when the recipient moves to another state or dies;

5. establishing a $ 500 fine for using a placard after the person to whom it was issued dies; and

6. requiring a person's certification of eligibility for the credential to be made under penalty for false statement.

The bill also requires the DMV commissioner to (1) establish an on-line procedure for members of the public to file complaints of violations of the handicapped parking laws and (2) evaluate alternative enforcement methods and certain other issues related to the handicapped parking laws and submit recommendations to the Transportation Committee by January 15, 2010.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage

HANDICAPPED PARKING PLACARDS

By law, anyone who is blind or who has disabilities that limit or impair the ability to walk as defined in federal regulations may apply for special license plates, a removable windshield placard, or both plates and a placard that grant special parking privileges for the recipient. Display of these plates or placard permits the holder to use specially designated parking spaces. Windshield placards are issued for both permanent and temporary disabilities. Currently, only the temporary placards expire. Placards can also be issued to (1) the parent or guardian of a person under age 18 who qualifies for the credential and (2) any organization that meets DMV criteria and certifies to the commissioner's satisfaction that the vehicle for which the plate or placard is requested is primarily used to transport blind or disabled people.

The bill makes all handicapped parking placards subject to renewal. To receive a placard, a person must have either a driver's license or a DMV-issued non-driver photo identification card. Organizations eligible to receive plates or placards are exempt from these requirements.

The bill requires placards issued to individuals to be renewed when the person's driver's license or identification card is renewed. The commissioner must develop a procedure for canceling or renewing existing placards that can be implemented over a period of “several” years. The new placards must be issued in accordance with the new requirements the bill establishes. If the commissioner's procedure results in a request for renewal within six months before expiration of the holder's license or identity card, the commissioner may extend the placard renewal requirement until that date.

The bill requires the new renewable placards issued on or after January 1, 2010 to contain the signature of the person to whom it was issued, the placard's expiration date, and the last five numbers of the holder's license or identity card. The bill authorizes placards to be issued to the parent or guardian of any qualifying person who is blind or disabled if the person is unable to request or complete an application. The bill requires any placard to be returned to the commissioner if the person to whom it was issued either moves out-of-state or dies. This is already required for the special license plates.

Currently, any violation of the handicapped parking laws, including those relating to proper use of plates and placards, is punishable by a fine of $ 150 for a first offense and $ 250 for any subsequent offense. The bill establishes a fine of $ 500 for anyone who uses a placard or special license plates after the person to whom they were issued has died.

CERTIFICATION OF ELIGIBILITY FOR SPECIAL PLATES OR PLACARD

By law, someone's eligibility for handicapped parking privileges can be certified by a licensed physician or advanced practice nurse or by a member of DMV's handicapped driver training unit. Qualifying blindness can be certified by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Beginning January 1, 2010, the bill requires these certifications of eligibility to (1) specify which of the qualifying criteria the person meets and (2) be made under penalty for second-degree false statement (a class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $ 2,000, up to one year imprisonment, or both).

ONLINE COMPLAINT PROCEDURE

The bill requires the commissioner to establish an online procedure through which members of the public can file complaints of violations of the handicapped parking laws. The procedure must require complainants to identify themselves.

DMV STUDY

The bill requires the commissioner, in consultation with members of local police departments, to:

1. review and evaluate alternative ways of enforcing the handicapped parking laws in areas not normally patrolled by local police, including private property open to public use;

2. develop recommendations, including any necessary legislation, authorizing local police departments to use ancillary staff for handicapped parking enforcement including retired police officers and licensed private security companies; and

3. recommend increased fines and mandatory court appearances for violators.

The commissioner must submit his recommendations and proposals to the Transportation Committee by January 15, 2010.

BACKGROUND

Eligibility Criteria for Handicapped Parking Plates or Placards

Connecticut's law uses the federal criteria for defining limitation in ability to walk (23 CFR 1235. 2). These criteria can involve physician-certified limitations that are not outwardly visible. Specifically, under these criteria, someone qualifies if a physician, advanced practice nurse, or DMV handicapped driver training unit personnel certifies that the person:

1. cannot walk 200 feet without stopping to rest;

2. cannot walk without the use of, or assistance from, a cane, brace, crutch, another person, prosthetic device, wheelchair, or other assistive device;

3. is restricted by lung disease to such an extent that his forced respiratory volume or arterial oxygen tension is below certain limits;

4. uses portable oxygen;

5. has a cardiac condition that creates functional limitations falling within the American Heart Association's Class III or IV criteria; or

6. is “severely limited” in walking ability due to an arthritic, neurological, or orthopedic condition.

For eligibility purposes, someone is considered blind if his central visual acuity does not exceed 20/200 in the better eye with correcting lenses, or if it is better than 20/200 but is accompanied by a limitation in his fields of vision such that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle of no more than 20 degrees (CGS 1-1f).

COMMITTEE ACTION

Transportation Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

35

Nay

0

(03/13/2009)