Illinois residents seeking license plate renewals are being treated unfairly by the state.
That’s not unusual in Illinois, where taxpayers and other customers are often an afterthought, if they are considered at all.
The Secretary of State’s Office quit mailing reminders of license plate sticker renewals in October, citing the state’s poor financial position and lack of a budget. The move saves the state about $450,000 a month. That’s a significant savings and residents can sign up to be reminded by email.
But other steps that should have gone along with that move are languishing in the General Assembly.
The result is that the state has collected more than $5 million in fines for overdue stickers this year, more than twice the amount usually collected. The amount of fines reached $1.9 million in March. It’s an unfair situation since citizens had come to rely on the mailed notices.
One solution to the issue is legislation that has been proposed in the General Assembly. This legislation would suspend the fines until reminders could be mailed again. The legislation also would require law enforcement to issue warnings rather than tickets when they see a car with expired plates.
That’s a pretty common sense approach.
Most citizens want to do the right thing and if they received a warning, most folks would fix the situation quickly.
Unfortunately, that legislation is still awaiting a full vote in that chamber and then has to be approved by the Senate.
While they are changing the law, the General Assembly could also make the system easier for residents.
Many states anchor the date of license plate renewals on the vehicle owner’s birthday, similar to the way driver’s license renewals are handled. That’s an easy way to remember to check the expiration. When you blow out the candles, check to make sure that your license and sticker plates are up to date.
It shouldn’t be the intent of any law to make people pay fines for being unmindful.
Obviously, there needs to be consequences for anyone who intentionally avoids renewing a license or a license plate sticker. However, when the state suddenly changed its procedures, steps should have been taken to ease the burden on residents.
Not sending out the mail reminders is a reasonable way to save money and people can sign up for email reminders on the secretary of state’s website.
But in this transition, the legislature should move quickly so that fewer people will be fined for simply forgetting to renew their license stickers. While they are at it, the General Assembly could simplify the process.
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