State lawmakers are considering a bill that would increase the cost of vehicle inspection fees and create a new surveillance program that would require auto mechanics to submit information about inspections to the Maine State Police.
Rep. Bruce White (D-Waterville) originally proposed the bill, LD 900, to streamline and modernize the vehicle inspections process.
But it would also give the Maine State Police the power to create an electronic surveillance system that would track vehicle inspections.
The original bill provided that participation would be voluntary for auto mechanics; however, an amendment filed over the weekend would allow the Maine State Police to make participating in the surveillance program mandatory.
In April, White testified that his bill would bring efficiencies to the vehicle inspections process, reducing the paperwork burden on the Department of Public Safety, though it’s unclear whether that would result in a spending reduction.
“This legislation will also help reduce the opportunity for illegal inspection stickers being created by those acting in bad faith, which is a significant public safety risk for millions of motorists who travel on Maine roads,” said White.
Sen. Ben Chipman (D-Cumberland) was originally a sponsor of the bill, but he withdrew his support once the bill morphed into a mandatory system with a set fee increase, from $12.50 to $20.00.
Chipman did not respond to a request for comment on the bill.
Jacob Posik, communications director at the Maine Policy Institute, said Maine’s vehicle inspection regime ought to be abolished rather than expanded into a more expensive surveillance system.
“Maine’s vehicle inspection program has long outlived its usefulness, which makes it even more troubling that lawmakers want to raise fees for inspections on Mainers during this time of persistent inflation and economic uncertainty,” said Posik.
“A digital record would be made and kept in a database maintained by the State Police, putting pressure on mechanics to force Mainers to pay for services requested by other mechanics, even if they disagree with that assessment, in fear of losing their license to inspect vehicles,” he said.
The amendment also raises questions about how the data would be handled once it is collected.
For example, would a Maine State Trooper be able to access the database while on patrol and pull over a vehicle solely because the database showed unaddressed repairs?
Another unanswered question is whether those records would be accessible under the Freedom of Access Act.
For example, if a trucking or transportation company was involved in an accident, would trial attorneys be able to access repair records to see whether a defendant had properly maintained their vehicle?
You can read the original bill and the amendment below:
Disclosure: The Maine Wire is a project of the Maine Policy Institute.