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Injustice at any speed – Shepard takes aim at mopeds
By John Friedrich
Much of our state lacks functional public transportation. For some, a low-speed moped is a smart way to get around a large city like Raleigh. For many others mopeds offer the only affordable means to get to work. More than one moped user relies on these small engines because their driver’s license has been suspended due to a DUI conviction.
Chances are that few people who are inclined to live in urban downtowns on a budget or who lack the thousands of dollars to buy, register and insure a used car are loyal Republican voters. Thus they are a consequence-free means of raising up to two million dollars in taxes, according to the GOP.
Representative Phil Shepard (R-15 Onslow) has spent two years working on a plan to require DMV registration of mopeds and further hopes to require moped drivers must secure liability automotive insurance. 10 percent of his campaign donations come from insurance agency groups.
In 2013 this plan was effectively opposed by Mike Stone (R-51 Lee) who, as a former motor scooter dealer, informed his upper-middleclass or wealthy fellow Republican legislators that “these folks are trying to do right and put their life back together and move in the right direction…and this is just one way that a guy who has nothing has an opportunity to get back to work. So the question is, do we want to kick a man that has nowhere else to go? I know this is probably a different perspective from a Republican,” Stone said.
Stone also pointed out this year, as the debate returned, that golf carts are unregistered and involved in traffic accidents, but unlike mopeds, golf carts are popular among wealthy-enough voters. Despite these sharp words a bill requiring license plate registration passed the House as HB 1145. The State Senate, as is their wont, went even more conservative than their colleagues in the other chamber.
Senators re-introduced a provision to mandate the coverage of automotive insurance in addition to registration fees. The loosely projected annual insurance fee varies from $65 for those who use mopeds out of poverty or environmental concern up to $400 for those who rely on a moped due to a prior DUI charge.
According to the NCDMV there would likely be 25,000 mopeds registered and titled in the first year alone, bringing in approximately 1.5 million dollars annually in the form of taxes. Even if the insurance fees were capped at the lowest projection of 65 dollars per moped per year, this would “generate” 1.63 million dollars to insurance companies servicing the North Carolina market each and every year. This latter figure would likely grow substantially when those repairing their lives after a DUI were mandated to pay up to $400 each.
Hopefully the two chambers will fail to reconcile their differences this year. Moped drivers then would be given a reprieve before they either give up their jobs or reduce their incomes further, for the sake of insurance agents’ steady business.