UPDATE: Lawmakers eye changes at troubled BMV

May 15, 2015

Indiana lawmakers say they're seeking changes in how the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles operates after an independent audit released this week found numerous troubles and that the agency might have overcharged motorists more than the $60 million previously disclosed.

Rep. Dan Forestal of Indianapolis, the top Democrat on the House Transportation Committee, said Friday that legislative leaders should establish a committee for a comprehensive review of the agency and develop proposals that the General Assembly can consider during its 2016 session.

Republican House Transportation Committee Chairman Ed Soliday, meanwhile, says he's working with other lawmakers and members of Gov. Mike Pence's administration to draft legislation to unravel what he called a complex web of BMV fees.

The 38-page report by the accounting firm BKD LLP released Monday said the BMV lacks oversight and uses a complex fee schedule that leads to inconsistent charges for the same transactions.

Agency officials have acknowledged overcharging motorists by more than $60 million since 2013 — and the audit reported finding 16 new overcharges that could mean an undetermined amount of refunds for drivers. The BMV admitted last September it has overcharged state residents $29 million in refunds and a year earlier settled a class-action lawsuit that accused the BMV of overcharging customers $30 million.

Forestal said the audit laid out in "graphic detail the mess that is our BMV."

"I know that BMV officials have vowed to enact the proposed reforms included in the audit by BKD, but this is one agency that cannot be trusted to act on its own," he said.

A BMV spokesman declined to comment Friday on Forestal's statement. BMV Commissioner Kent Abernathy said in a statement Monday that internal improvements have begun since he took over the agency in February and that the audit will help it focus on more changes.

Soliday, a Valparaiso Republican, said he believed lawmakers began sorting out the BMV's some 1,200 fees with bills it passed in the last two legislative sessions.

Soliday wrote in a letter to legislative leaders this week that they should have Abernathy update the Interim Study Committee on Roads and Transportation on what steps the BMV has taken in response to the audit findings before next year's legislative session.

The Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate leaders are expected to meet May 28 to determine what topics will be considered by legislative study committees this summer and fall.

Soliday said lawmakers shared blame for the BMV's fee confusion through its changes to motor vehicle laws in the years since the current fee structure was established in 1969.


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