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January 16, 2013

Lawmakers hope Corbett backs inspection changes

HARRISBURG — When Gov. Tom Corbett rolls outs his transportation plan later this month, lawmakers hope that a pair of measures affecting inspection rules for motor vehicles will be included.

State Sen. John Wozniak, D-Westmont, said the measures – a bid to eliminate emissions testing in 25 counties in the state’s metropolitan areas and another to give new vehicle owners a two-year reprieve before they must get their cars inspected – could be addressed if the governor addresses transportation on a broader basis than just focusing on funding.

The inspection exemption for new cars was recommended by the governor’s transportation funding advisory commission, which estimated that the two-year window would save motorists $24 million a year.

The emissions testing battle has been championed by state Sen. Elder Vogel, R-Beaver. Wozniak has been working to get new vehicles exempted from inspections.

Wozniak, the minority chairman of the Senate transportation committee, said that the emissions testing has outlived its usefulness, arguing that it dates from the days before almost all vehicles complied with cleaner air rules.

“Ninety-eight percent of vehicles tested pass,” he said. “The rule is archaic.”

While New Jersey, Maryland, and Ohio have eliminated safety inspections, Pennsylvanians are still required to pay a private business to have vehicles inspected for safety and emissions problems each year, a combined cost of at least $50.

“There are more than 9 million vehicles registered in Pennsylvania,” Wozniak said. “It adds up to a half-billion dollar mandate.  We can do something about that.”

Earlier this year, the Senate passed a bill that combined Wozniak’s legislation to exempt new cars from safety testing for two years with legislation to exempt new cars from emissions testing for 10 years. The bills died without action in the House.

A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Auto Dealers Association said the trade group strongly opposes the proposal to eliminate inspections on new vehicles. The group commissioned its own study examining 123,000 vehicle inspections in 2010 and 2011 at 250 car dealers across the Commonwealth and found that 6,400 new cars failed inspection.

Mark Stine, the groups’s executive vice president, said the two-year window would not take into account other factors that may come into play, such as how rigorously a vehicle is used.

“You could have a taxi cab that is less than two years old, but because of the way it’s used, it would need new brakes,” Stine said.

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