Lawmakers Issued License Plates That Make Them 'Invisible' To Traffic Cams And Parking Tickets (Techdirt)
Tuesday August 6th, 2013
There are rules for the common people and rules for their "leaders," and only in rare cases do the same rules cover both. Chris Morran at the Consumerist points out how politicians (yet again) are being allowed to ignore the same laws that affect their constituents. Colorado legislators are immune from speeding tickets and parking tickets thanks to the special plates issued to lawmakers -- ones that aren't included in the DMV database.
According to CBS Denver, the info for these particular license plates is never entered into the DMV database, so when some state senator goes zooming by a speed camera, he or she won’t get a ticket, because the camera system looks up the license plate number through the DMV. Since no info comes up, no ticket is given. On the parking ticket side alone, there are $2,100 worth of unpaid tickets linked to these "invisible" plates. The Dept. of Public Works has decided it's "too costly" to pursue collection of those fines. Of course, now that this is public knowledge, a politician has "stepped up" to right the wrong.
This appears to be true for parking tickets as well. See, even though a parking enforcement officer might leave a ticket on the car, cities like Denver that rely on the DMV for addresses of vehicle owners come up empty when they try to collect on those tickets.
One state lawmaker recently stated his intention to close this loophole through legislative action in the next session, by simply doing away with the plates altogether. If only this sort of behavior were an aberration. Earlier this year, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad's speeding SUV was pursued by a highway patrol officer who decided (or was instructed) not to pull it over after realizing whose vehicle it was. Like in Colorado, certain public vehicles are issued plates that aren't listed with the Iowa DMV, which makes these vehicles automatically exempt from traffic cam tickets, parking violations and apparently, even speeding clocked by an on-duty state trooper. It should be noted that the trooper raising the complaint about the governor's speeding driver (another state trooper) was placed on leave after making this public.
“[I]t’s absolutely unfair,” said state representative Chris Holbert. “We should be held accountable like any other citizen. We are elected to represent the people and there’s no reason for us to be treated differently.”
After this small debacle, Governor Branstad too "stepped up" to rein in the injustice, except that his idea of "reining it in" falls far short of Colorado legislator Chris Holbert's plan. In Branstad's view, the problem isn't with the plates, per se. It's that there are too many of them.
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad is upset about the number of specialized license plates that have been given to state, local and federal agencies. Over 350 agencies in Iowa have these plates at their disposal (over 3,000 issued so far), a ridiculous amount considering the plates were originally intended for undercover use by various arms of Iowa law enforcement. Branstad probably isn't looking to give up his ticket-dodging plate but presumably will be forcing several others to play by the same set of rules as the public -- that same public these public servants are supposed to be serving.
More than 3 thousand plates have been issued that exempt the vehicles from getting traffic camera tickets. Brandstad has ordered state transportation officials to cut the number of the special plates.
But that's nothing compared to the staggering level of abuse (ranking between 'Chris Brown' and 'Foster Home' on the Abuse Chart) taking place in our nation's capital. Back in 2008, a report by the US Committee on Transportation detailed the astounding number of violations racked up by government employees and officials.
Municipal, state and federal government agencies are among the biggest offenders when it comes to illegal parking and non-payment of parking citations. A report released last week by the US House Committee on Transportation documented 4000 cases last year where employees in federal vehicles skipped out on paying parking tickets worth $700,000 in Washington, DC and New York City. The total does not include unpaid tickets in foreign countries and other cities throughout the fifty states where 642,000 automobiles registered to the US government are in use. The worst offender? The FBI, which the report found to be responsible for the largest number of delinquent parking tickets by a single agency. The FBI, properly chastened, examined the cases listed and, because it's such a shit-hot investigative agency, found itself "unable to come up any suspects who may have been responsible for illegally parking FBI vehicles on 218 occasions."
"Over one-half of all workers in the southernmost section of Manhattan are government employees," the report explained. "Essentially, all of lower Manhattan is a free parking lot for government vehicles."
Federal workers were not alone in ignoring parking laws. City workers in Washington and New York also disregarded citations issued by fellow employees. DC government vehicles generated 329 unpaid tickets worth $33,360 while New York city and state vehicles skipped out on paying 2562 tickets worth $490,939.
To the surprise of roughly no one, those responsible for enacting and enforcing laws are seldom as interested in following them. Apparently, performing the "business of government" is such a total sacrifice that illegal parking, speeding and other traffic violations should be waved off so that our nation's do-gooders are unimpeded in their good doings.
Colorado Parking Citations (PDF)
Dc Parking (PDF)