Missouri lawmakers OK delay in new car inspections

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 | 4:44 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri motorists could have more time before their new vehicles become subject to safety inspections.

A bill sent to the governor Tuesday would delay mandatory inspections until a vehicle is five years old. Current law requires people to have a vehicle inspected two years after it is made.

The inspection provision was included in a larger bill that also would require the Department of Revenue to award driver's license office contracts through a competitive bidding process — something Gov. Jay Nixon already has begun by his own order.

Supporters of the delayed inspection provision claim some unscrupulous mechanics charge new-car owners for parts that don't really need to be replaced.

"There are some shops out there that are taking advantage of people with a two-year, four-year-old car," said Rep. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, the bill's House sponsor. "They were basically being sold a bill of goods."

The legislation would not lower inspection standards, and motorists would still be subject to a ticket if they are pulled over for infractions such as a broken headlight.

Dixon said he opposed an earlier version from Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, that would have extended the new car inspection deadline to 10 years. Dixon said that next year he would like to add a minimum mileage requirement for safety inspections.

Some lawmakers expressed concern that repair shops might lose business and more people would end up driving unsafe cars.

"In this economy, I just can't see more and more people spending their dollars just to make sure their car is safe" unless an inspection is required, said Rep. Vicki Englund, D-St. Louis.

The legislation also would require a competitive bidding process to select the private contractors who run local offices that issue vehicle and drivers' licenses and collect vehicle sales taxes. The offices often are called "fee offices," because the operators get to charge a fee for each state transaction they perform.

Missouri has 183 local fee offices, which historically have been awarded by governors to political allies.

Former Gov. Matt Blunt initially awarded license offices by the traditional method but began using a competitive bid process in 2006 as license office slots opened up.

Nixon announced after the November election that he would put all license office contracts up for bid. To date, 102 contracts have been bid out.

"Missourians deserve to know that the management of their local fee office has been chosen based on merit and how well they serve their customers, not on political affiliation," Nixon said in a written statement Tuesday after the bill passed. "This is a great day in making our reforms permanent."


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