Shades of Blue

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Senate Passes Bill to Overhaul Emissions Testing

State Sen. John Griesheiemer was all smiles Friday morning. Thursday evening, the Senate gave final approval to legislation sponsored by the Washington Republican overhauling the auto emissions inspection program in Franklin County and the St. Louis area. A few weeks earlier the bill appeared to be dead in the water because of an amendment that was tacked on which would have done away with safety inspections statewide.

Griesheiemer called that amendment a "poison pill" designed to scuttle the bill. But after the House restored the original language of the bill by retaining the safety inspections, the Senate passed the bill in a bipartisan 29-4 vote.Griesheimer said the governor would sign the bill -- possibly in a ceremony in Franklin County -- later this year but that it would not go into effect until Sept. 1, 2007.

"For me this (bill) is the culmination of fighting this program since it first came into existence in 1993. I've fought it ever since," Griesheimer said Friday. "Anyone who has had to get their vehicle's emissions tested knows the nightmare the process can be, so I am grateful to my fellow lawmakers for having recognized the need to make emissions inspections less cumbersome for my constituents."

The bill changes the required emissions testing process by doing away with centralized testing and allowing more shops to do the test if they meet certain requirements. The bill also gives most owners of new vehicles a break from the emissions inspection for the first four years.Under the legislation, the inspection fee is capped at $24.Cars and light-duty pickup trucks and vans with diesel-powered engines will now be subject to the inspection.

To cut down on the number of unnecessary inspections, the legislation includes the following exemptions:New cars for four years after their model year, provided that at the two-year safety inspection, the vehicle has fewer than 40,000 miles on the odometer.Vehicles that are driven fewer than 12,000 miles between biennial safety inspections.Vehicles manufactured before 1996; but they still must undergo a gas-cap pressure test, which would be included in the vehicle safety inspection.Heavy-duty trucks with gross vehicle weight ratings of more than 8,500 pounds.

Griesheimer said that he hoped the legislation would create an opportunity for car dealerships, garages and auto-repair shops that currently offer safety inspections to also provide emissions testing."Illinois has already passed similar legislation making it more convenient for consumers to obtain emissions testing so I'm glad we were able to help Missouri residents. This (bill) is justification that the previous program was bad and needed to be changed," Griesheimer added.Griesheimer said that he did not know what would happen to the present state contractors who offer emissions testing but he said that there is a possibility that they might begin to offer safety inspections as well.

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