Bill ending new-car inspections dies

Legislators cite concern for garages that depend on fees May 17, 2012 

— Remember that proposal from House Republicans to stop making new-car owners get safety and emissions inspections until the cars were more than three years old?

Forget it.

As has happened in the past when legislators tried to ease North Carolina’s inspection requirements, the new proposal was killed Wednesday after a lot of phone-calling and letter-writing by garage owners who make their living from car inspections.

Two weeks ago, the House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee endorsed a budget provision that would delay the required inspections until cars were more than three years old. Proponents said the inspections are an unnecessary expense for motorists, because newer vehicles rarely flunk.

That proposal was killed Wednesday by a 7-5 vote in the House-Senate Joint Transportation Oversight Committee. That means the idea is dead for the “short” legislative session that convened Wednesday.

Sen. Jerry W. Tillman, a Randolph County Republican, protested that the measure would hurt garages, tire dealers and inspection stations – whose trade associations had lobbyists in attendance at the crowded meeting room.

“I know a lot of people who do this, and they sell some gas on the side, but most of their profit comes from these inspections,” Tillman said. “We have 7,500 small businesses that do these inspections.”

Car owners statewide pay $13.60 for the annual safety inspection. The emissions inspection, required in 48 mostly urban counties, costs an additional $16.40. Studies have shown newer cars have fewer safety or emissions problems. State motor vehicle and air quality agencies have supported the proposal to end inspections for cars from the three most recent model years.

Rep. Ric Killian, a Mecklenburg County Republican, said the legislation would free new-car owners from unneeded expense and state regulation.

“I understand it could have an effect on certain businesses,” Killian said. “But at the same time if you’re providing direct relief to the consumer, I think that’s a good thing. You have to ask yourself how much government intervention you really want, and what good can come of it,” he continued. “If it’s just a matter of bringing in your car to make sure your (tire) tread depth is a certain amount, I would say that’s something an individual can be responsible for on their own.”

Tillman and other opponents said they were concerned about safety as well as the impact on inspection businesses. David P. Ferrell, a lobbyist for the Inspection Station Association of North Carolina, thanked Tillman for his help after the meeting.

Ferrell said inspection station and garage owners had worked hard to express their concerns to legislators after the inspection legislation was unveiled two weeks ago.

“I think there was a good grass-roots effort that took place,” Ferrell said. “I suppose they wrote letters, tried to call, explained what they’re seeing in the field. Because these are the folks that are catching some of the safety problems that cause accidents.”

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