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House to consider new BMV fee oversight plan

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) Indiana House lawmakers will consider plans next week to increase oversight on the state’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

The changes come inside a massive spending bill, known as an omnibus bill, debated by the House Roads and Transportation Committee Wednesday. The bill corrects what the committee’s chairman, Rep. Edmund Soliday (R-Valparaiso) called “a mess of more than 1,200 poorly worded statutes.” It would also require the agency to create an internal audit group that would deliver an annual report to the Auditor of State.

Committee members approved the bill by a 10-2 vote Wednesday.

The required report would include quality control measures and error reduction data, and would be filed independently as an addition to the agency’s annual audit by the State Board of Accounts.

Following a tense exchange between Soliday and Rep. Dan Forrestal (D-Indianapolis), the committee declined to hear a proposed amendment to the bill that would have required a third audit to be performed bi-annually by an independent outside accounting firm. Forestal told I-Team 8 he initially intended to file the measures as a standalone bill, but felt they would never have been called for a committee hearing.

The measures sought a “greater accounting of how the BMV is realizing cost savings,” Forestal said.

The proposed oversight additions follow numerous allegations that the agency has overcharged drivers over the last decade by at least $65 million in fees. The latest overcharges were announced by Gov. Mike Pence at a hastily assembled news conference earlier this month where Pence also announced the replacement of BMV Commissioner Don Snemis by former Indiana Department of Environmental Management Chief of Staff Kent Abernathy.

An outside audit on the agency’s financial structure is now underway. That audit is now directed to be completed by May 1, Pence announced earlier this month.