PA 16-55—sHB 5412

Transportation Committee

Judiciary Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING RECOMMENDATIONS BY THE DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES REGARDING HAZARDOUS MATERIALS, CAR DEALERS, ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION, STUDENT TRANSPORTATION VEHICLE OPERATORS, DIVERSION PROGRAMS, MOTOR VEHICLE INSPECTORS AND MINOR REVISIONS TO THE MOTOR VEHICLE STATUTES

SUMMARY: This act allows the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to contract with unspecified entities to (1) renew driver's licenses and identity (ID) cards, (2) issue duplicate licenses and ID cards, and (3) conduct registration transactions. Existing law already allows DMV to contract with automobile clubs and associations (e. g. , AAA) to conduct these transactions. The act increases, from $3 to $5, the fee AAA may charge for each transaction, and permits the new contractors to also charge the $5 fee. It allows DMV to also authorize municipal departments or offices to conduct these transactions ( 24).

It requires motor vehicle dealers and repairers to undergo state criminal history record checks ( 3); generally requires motor vehicle dealers, car rental firms, and other entities that submit at least seven motor vehicle registration or similar documents monthly to DMV to do so electronically ( 5, 11 & 12); and makes other changes in motor vehicle laws. These include the following:

1. barring a court from suspending the prosecution of, and ordering treatment for, people found to be drug or alcohol dependent if they operated a commercial motor vehicle (large truck or bus) or held a commercial driver's license (CDL) or commercial driver's instruction permit when they were charged with certain crimes ( 9);

2. allowing motor vehicle inspectors to carry firearms and deadly weapons on school grounds while performing their official duties ( 10);

3. requiring DMV to report periodically to the Transportation Committee on DMV office wait times ( 23);

4. requiring commercial drivers transporting hazardous material to comply with federal hazardous material regulations and making a violation an infraction (see BACKGROUND) or misdemeanor, depending on the severity of the violation and the number of offenses ( 1);

5. merging two different procedures for local approval of motor vehicle dealership and repair locations and requiring applicants to obtain the approval of a local building official and fire marshal ( 4);

6. allowing DMV to request continuances of an administrative per se hearing on a showing of good cause ( 6);

7. changing medical requirements for student transportation vehicle (STV) drivers age 70 or older ( 8); and

8. requiring DMV to issue title certificates, at a vehicle owner's request, for vehicles more than 20 model years old ( 15).

The act also corrects an incorrect statutory reference ( 2) and makes other technical and conforming changes ( 7, 13, 14 & 16-22).

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2016, except for the provisions (1) on transporting hazardous material, barring a court from suspending certain prosecutions, allowing motor vehicle inspectors to carry firearms and deadly weapons on school grounds, and requiring certificates of title for vehicles more than 20 model years old, which are effective October 1, 2016, and (2) requiring DMV to report on office wait times, authorizing DMV to contract with entities and municipalities to conduct certain licensing and registration transactions and increasing the transaction fees, which are effective upon passage. Most technical changes are also effective upon passage.

1 — TRANSPORTING HAZARDOUS MATERIAL

The act requires commercial drivers who transport hazardous material on state highways to comply with federal hazardous material regulations.

The act makes a violation of certain federal regulations an infraction or a class D or class A misdemeanor (see Table on Penalties), depending on the type of offense and the number of offenses committed. Under the act, an infraction includes failing to meet recordkeeping, shipping, packaging, labeling, placarding, or security requirements.

New misdemeanors under the act include not properly displaying placards identifying cargoes of poisonous or radioactive materials (49 C. F. R 172. 505(a) & 172. 507(a)); improper packaging that allows the release of hazardous material (49 C. F. R 173. 24(b)); and failing to exercise care in loading or unloading explosives (49 C. F. R 177. 835). A first offense is a class D misdemeanor and each subsequent commission of the same offense is a class A misdemeanor.

By law, motor vehicle inspectors and state and municipal police may inspect vehicles for violations of federal hazardous material regulations (CGS 14-163c (d)). The act requires inspectors and police to enforce its hazardous material provisions, provided they are authorized by regulation to conduct such inspections (see BACKGROUND) and have satisfactorily completed a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) course in specialized hazardous material.

3 — MOTOR VEHICLE DEALER CRIMINAL HISTORY RECORD CHECKS

By law, the DMV commissioner may refuse to grant or renew a motor vehicle dealer's or repairer's license if the applicant has been convicted of violating laws relating to the business or certain other crimes, such as fraud. Prior law required applicants for a license or license renewal to disclose any such conviction that occurred within five years before their application.

The act instead requires new license applicants to submit to state criminal history record checks, conducted according to state law, no more than 30 days before applying for a license. They must do so based on their names and birthdates and provide the results to DMV.

It requires dealers and repairers seeking license renewals to disclose if they have been convicted of a crime related to their business or certain other crimes, not just those that occurred in the previous five years. It requires such applicants to make this disclosure under penalty of false statement, a violation of which is a class A misdemeanor.

4 — APPROVAL OF MOTOR VEHICLE DEALERSHIPS AND REPAIR SHOPS

By law, a person seeking a motor vehicle dealer's or repairer's license must show DMV a certificate showing that a zoning authority (e. g. , a board of appeals) of the town where the business is proposed has approved the business location. In addition, prior law provided two different procedures for approving the location of a dealership or repair shop, depending on the town's population.

The act merges the two procedures and eliminates a requirement that motor vehicle dealers or repairers obtain approval from local or state police when seeking to locate a dealership or repair shop in a municipality with fewer than 20,000 people. The act instead requires that dealers and repairers proposing business locations in municipalities of any size obtain the approval of the local building official and fire marshal. By law, failure to comply is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 (CGS 14-51a). As under prior law, these provisions do not apply to certain ownership transfers (e. g. , to a spouse or child, or to the withdrawal of a partner from a partnership).

5 — DEALERS FILING MOTOR VEHICLE REGISTRATIONS

The act generally eliminates a motor vehicle dealer's ability to apply in person to DMV for a registration by requiring that dealers who apply to DMV for an average of seven or more permanent registrations per month do so electronically. (Previously, the commissioner could require this of dealers who averaged 10 or more such applications. ) But it allows a dealer to apply in writing for a hardship exemption from electronic filing, such as when it is unable to communicate with DMV electronically. The act allows DMV to enter into an agreement with one or more nonprofit motor vehicle dealer associations to file registration applications on behalf of individual dealers for whom electronic filing is a hardship. DMV may authorize the association to charge participating dealers a convenience fee, as determined by the commissioner, for this service.

6 & 7 — ADMINISTRATIVE PER SE STATUTES

By law, motorists implicitly consent to be tested for drugs or alcohol when they drive a vehicle. The law establishes administrative license suspension procedures, including a hearing, for drivers who refuse to submit to a test or whose test results indicate an elevated blood alcohol content (BAC).

By law, a DMV hearing officer or the person who is the subject of such a hearing may, on a showing of good cause, ask the DMV commissioner for a continuance. The act allows DMV to also request a continuance for good cause.

It also makes a minor technical change regarding police reporting requirements when making certain drunk driving arrests.

8 —STV DRIVERS AGE 70 AND OLDER

Prior law allowed people age 70 or older to transport special education students if the driver met minimum physical requirements set by the DMV commissioner and had a physical exam twice a year or when asked to do so by a school superintendent.

The act reduces the frequency of the physical exam to once annually and complies with federal law by requiring that a federally certified medical examiner conduct it (see BACKGROUND). But it requires the driver to have more frequent physical exams if directed to by the medical examiner or a school superintendent.

9 — SUSPENSION OF PROSECUTION FOR ALCOHOL OR DRUG DEPENDENCY

The law allows a court to suspend prosecution of, and instead order treatment for, certain people charged with a crime and found to be alcohol or drug dependent. Successful completion of the treatment may result in dismissal of the charges (CGS 17a-697).

By law, a person is generally ineligible for this treatment option if he or she is charged with, among other crimes, DUI or 2nd degree assault with a motor vehicle, although the court may suspend prosecution and order treatment in certain cases. The act makes people younger than age 21 who are charged with DUI ineligible for the treatment option, although, as under existing law, the court may suspend prosecution and order treatment in some cases. But the act prohibits the court from suspending prosecution and ordering treatment for anyone who was driving a commercial motor vehicle (large truck or bus) or held a CDL or commercial driver's instruction permit when he or she was charged with any of the following crimes: (1) DUI, (2) DUI under age 21, (3) 2nd degree assault with a motor vehicle, or (4) 2nd degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle.

10 — ALLOWING MOTOR VEHICLE INSPECTORS TO CARRY WEAPONS ON SCHOOL GROUNDS

The act allows properly designated and certified motor vehicle inspectors to carry weapons (i. e. , firearms or other deadly weapons, as defined in law) on school grounds while performing their official duties. By law, motor vehicle inspectors may make arrests or issue citations for violations of motor vehicle statutes (CGS 7-294d & 14-8).

11 — VEHICLE REGISTRATION BY CAR RENTAL COMPANIES

The act changes registration and renewal requirements for car rental companies licensed in Connecticut and also applies these new requirements to car rental companies licensed in other states. Under prior law, the commissioner could allow qualified car rental companies licensed in Connecticut to renew motor vehicle registrations electronically, and such companies could also issue 60-day temporary registration transfers. The act instead allows qualified car rental companies to electronically register, transfer, and renew registrations of motor vehicles used in connection with their business and eliminates the obsolete provision on temporary registrations. It requires electronic filing by car rental companies for (1) registrations and transfers if they file an average of at least seven of these each month and (2) renewals if they file an average of at least seven of these each month. A car rental company, within five days of the electronic issuance of a registration or transfer, must submit to DMV an application and documents necessary to register or transfer the registration, as the law already requires for registrations issued by other means. By law, the commissioner must adopt regulations to implement these provisions.

12 — REGISTERING OR TITLING MOTOR VEHICLES

The act allows the DMV commissioner to require any qualified person, firm, or corporation whose business is filing applications for motor vehicle registrations or title certificates to file these applications electronically if the commissioner finds that they file an average of at least seven such applications per month. It requires such a person, firm, or corporation, within five days of the registration's electronic issuance, to submit to the commissioner an application and all documents required to register the vehicle. The commissioner must adopt implementing regulations.

15 — TITLE CERTIFICATES FOR OLDER VEHICLES

The act requires DMV to issue certificates of title, at an owner's request, for vehicles older than 20 model years. Under prior law, the DMV commissioner was not required to issue certificates of title for these vehicles but could do so at his discretion. Under existing law and the act, owners of these vehicles are not required to obtain a title. DMV may charge the vehicle owner the legally required fees.

23 — DMV REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

The act requires DMV to submit to the Transportation Committee periodic reports on wait times at DMV offices.

It requires, starting August 15, 2016, DMV to report to the committee each month on the length of these wait times. Each report must include the following, for the previous month and for each office that uses a numbered ticketing system: (1) the average wait time from the time a customer receives a numbered ticket to the time when the customer is served, (2) whether the average wait time decreased or increased from the previous month, and (3) the number of transactions at each office that could have been conducted online. Each monthly report must also include the number of transactions conducted on DMV's website in the previous month.

Starting January 15, 2017, the department must report annually to the committee, (1) identifying specific goals for acceptable wait times at DMV offices, (2) summarizing steps DMV took in the previous year to achieve those goals, and (3) including a strategy to achieve or exceed those goals in the coming year. The committee may hold a public hearing within 30 days of receiving this report, and the commissioner, or his designee, must testify at any such hearing.

BACKGROUND

Infractions

Infractions are punishable by fines, usually set by Superior Court judges, of between $35 and $90, plus a $20 or $35 surcharge and an additional fee based on the amount of the fine. There may be other added charges depending on the type of infraction. For example, certain motor vehicle infractions trigger a Special Transportation Fund surcharge of 50% of the fine.

An infraction is not a crime, and violators can pay the fine by mail without making a court appearance.

Motor Carrier Safety Inspection Authority

A person with inspection authority is a motor vehicle inspector or state or municipal police officer who has satisfactorily completed 80 hours of on-the-job training and an FMCSA course in federal motor carrier safety regulations, among other things. To maintain inspection authority, motor vehicle inspectors must annually receive in-service training in current federal motor carrier safety regulations, safety inspection procedures, and out-of-service criteria. The DMV commissioner determines the type and extent of training (Conn. Agencies Regs. , 14-163c-9).

STV

By law, an STV is a motor vehicle other than a registered school bus used by a carrier to transport students to or from school, school programs, or school-sponsored events (CGS 14-212).

Federal Medical Requirements for Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers

Drivers transporting public passengers must meet medical qualifications established in federal law (CGS 14-44(b)). Federal law and regulations require commercial motor vehicle drivers to obtain a medical examiner's certificate from a licensed medical examiner listed on the FMCSA National Registry (49 C. F. R. 391. 43).  

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