The first two bills in Gov. Butch Otter’s six-bill transportation package came up for hearings in the House Transportation Committee today, and while one passed unanimously - HB 96, to repeal the ethanol exemption - the other stalled. HB 150, to add a $20 fee to every specialty license plate, provoked an array of puzzled questions from the committee, from whether holders of a personalized specialty plate would pay double the new fees - they would - to whether plate fees cover the Transportation Department’s costs - they don’t, when the cost of non-fee disability placards are counted in, but the bill would cover the gap - to whether higher fees might mean fewer takers, thus not raising the anticipated money (they might).
“I have some doubts,” said Rep. Russ Mathews, R-Idaho Falls. “What it does seem to do is we might be creating an unintended consequence … making a lot of people unnecessarily angry.” House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, questioned why only specialty-plate holders should subsidize disability placards, rather than all license plate holders. House Majority Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, moved to hold the bill in committee, and his motion passed unanimously. Committee Chairwoman JoAn Wood, R-Rigby, said the panel still could reconsider it with some additional information, and perhaps an alternate version that better addresses some of the questions.
Clete Edmunson, Otter’s transportation adviser, said the administration separated the special-plate fee out from a larger registration fee bill “to clarify the situation,” but it may have just muddied it. He said they’d be glad to come back with more information. “There are a lot of questions here,” he said. “We can answer a lot more questions.”