House considers further reduction in vehicle safety inspection requirements

      A state representative who several years ago championed an easing of Missouri’s vehicle safety inspection law says it’s time to make more vehicles exempt.

Representative J. Eggleston (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Senate Bill 89, passed in 2019, rolled back that law.  Since it was enacted, safety inspections have not been required on vehicles that have fewer than 150,000 miles and are up to ten years old.  That portion of SB 89 was proposed by Representative J. Eggleston (R-Maysville)

      He says in the time since that law passed Missouri’s roads have been no less safe.

      “[SB 89] got rid of about half of the cars that needed to be inspected from being inspected … here we are, two or three years later, I’ve looked, I have not found any sudden burst of cars falling apart and causing accidents so I think we’re ready to get rid of [vehicle inspections],” Eggleston told the House Committee on Downsizing State Government.

      Eggleston’s proposal, however, wouldn’t completely eliminate inspections in Missouri.  Under House Bill 2499, all vehicles made since 2012 and having fewer than 150,000 miles would be exempt.

      “I toyed with just doing an all-out, getting rid of it all at once … but because of some of the consternation [about the 2019 proposal], I thought we’ll just ease out of it,” said Eggleston.  “So I basically said, ‘Any car that’s not being inspected today is not ever going to have to be inspected.  Any of them that are inspected today will continue’ … so over time this will just naturally phase itself out.”

      Eggleston’s idea has some support, including from O’Fallon representative Tony Lovasco (R)

      “I do think that ultimately, as technology increases, we’re going to see more and more construction improvements made and what not where [inspections are] really going to be completely superfluous very soon, and I think it does makes sense to have it just drop off naturally rather than us revisiting this every few years,” said Lovasco.

      Representative Michael Burton (D-Lakeshire) doesn’t support extending the 2019 legislation.  He said for him it’s an issue of safety.

      “Let’s talk about a cracked windshield.  That’s something that’s inspected whenever the car goes through an inspection, and I know we have laws where you can’t drive around with a cracked windshield but we also know that police officers right now are generally not pulling people over for that, but I think that can be a safety issue … same thing with seatbelts.  Whenever you get a car inspection they’re checking to make sure all the seatbelts work and what not.  That’s a safety concern of mine.”

      Eggleston said there are 35 states which have no vehicle inspection requirements, and that includes all the states that border Missouri.  He said that hasn’t made their roads less safe than those states who have such a requirement.

      “Their statistics on accidents and deaths are no different than ours.  There’s no correlation between states that have inspection programs and safety at all,” said Eggleston.  “The safety issue you were talking about, it’s perceived but I don’t think it’s actual. There’s no data to back that up.”

      The committee’s top Democrat, Gretchen Bangert (Florrisant), opposed the 2019 legislation and has reservations about taking it further.  She also dislikes that the 2019 law allows vehicles to be sold without an inspection, and wishes this bill would reverse that.

      “So I could have a car that’s a junker and has some sort of issue, and if you don’t know because you don’t get an inspection yourself and just trust me, then the car hasn’t been inspected.  That’s one loophole that I wish we could look at is if you were selling a car to another person that it would have to be inspected regardless of the miles,” said Bangert. 

      Eggleston said it is up to a potential buyer to decide whether to get an inspection on a vehicle they’re considering purchasing.

      His 2019 legislation, as a stand-alone before it was amended onto SB 89, passed out of the House 102-45.

      The committee has not voted on HB 2499.

Previous stories:

Bill rolling back vehicle inspection requirement signed into law

House votes to roll back, rather than eliminate, vehicle inspection requirements

House committee asked to weigh stronger civil asset forfeiture law

      A House committee has been asked to consider closing what’s been called a “loophole” in Missouri law regarding civil asset forfeiture.

Representative Tony Lovasco (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

       Civil asset forfeiture, “allows the government to take your private property without compensation and without the need to convict you or even charge you with a crime,” Representative Tony Lovasco (R-O’Fallon) told the House Committee on General Laws

      “Now you might think that this is a ridiculous process that we wouldn’t allow here in Missouri, and you’d mostly be right,” Lovasco continues, but he says there’s a hitch.  While Missouri law doesn’t allow for civil asset forfeiture without a conviction he said local prosecutors are getting around it through the federal equitable sharing program.

      “This program allows local prosecutors to transfer assets to federal jurisdiction to actually proceed with a case under federal law, which does not have the same due process rights that Missouri’s law affords,” said Lovasco.

      He said the federal program also allows 80-percent of the proceeds stemming from seized assets to go to the law enforcement agencies who seized them, “which creates an unfortunate, perverse incentive to be very, very aggressive at actually filing these cases.”

      Lovasco’s proposal, House Bill 1613, would block Missouri law enforcement and prosecutors from transferring seized property to federal authorities.  It would also stipulate that federal authorities working with authorities in Missouri must give responsibility for seized property to a state entity. 

      The bill would apply to seizures including less than $100,000 in U.S. currency.  Lovasco explained this was a compromise with law enforcement, who told him that most cases involving that amount of money or more are tied to drug trafficking.  He said he doesn’t like this limit but it will make the bill more appealing to some lawmakers.

      The plan has bipartisan appeal including from Peter Merideth (St. Louis), the committee’s top Democrat.  He told Lovasco he strongly agrees with the proposal but he also doesn’t like that $100,000 cap.

      Lovasco said nationwide, the median amount of money that has been seized by authorities is less than $1,300.  In Missouri the number is higher, but he argues that in most cases money has been seized from people who aren’t involved in crime at all.

      He showed his colleagues a blank Uniform Vehicle Stop Report which includes check boxes for listing contraband that is discovered. 

      “Currency is listed as a check box.  We are in a situation where simply traveling throughout the State of Missouri with legal tender could mark you as a target for law enforcement and subject to having your property taken from you without trial.  That is unacceptable.  My bill aims to correct that,” said Lovasco.

      Reverend Darryl Gray of St. Louis told the committee civil asset forfeiture reform is important in the African American communities of the state. 

      “If one of your colleagues is driving down the street going to buy hay with $10,000 in cash and they got pulled over and one of my colleagues is driving down the street in my neighborhood with $10,000 in cash, your friend might go home with $10,000.  Where I live they’re not going home with that $10,000.  That’s another reality, too,” said Gray. 

      “Stopping someone in my community with x-number of dollars, be it $10,000, $5,000, or $1,000, and you take that away based on some suspicion you have and … turns out that no crime has been committed, the effect that has on that person’s family, that is my biggest concern.”

      The only opposition to the bill voiced in the hearing came from St. Charles County.  Lobbying on behalf of the County, Michael Gibbons said the county’s prosecutors and others believe such asset forfeiture is an effective tool in fighting drug trafficking.  He maintains it is done in St. Charles County without abuses described by Lovasco and other backers.

      “We believe that this is a very important tool to combat the kind of crimes that we’re seeing.  We think we do it effectively, we absolutely believe we do it the right way and … there’s been no evidence presented today, anyway, that says that we’re not,” said Gibbons.

The committee has not voted on the legislation.