“It’s not a problem for you if it’s not a problem for you. But if it’s a problem for you, it’s a big problem.”
That’s how Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday described what the state’s inspector general has found to be widespread abuse of the commonwealth’s handicapped parking placards system, as he ceremoniously signed into law a bill criminalizing handicapped parking fraud.
The law was filed by Lowell Sen. Eileen Donoghue, and was sent to Baker’s desk on Nov. 15 after unanimously passing both the House and Senate.
“The legislation goes a long way to try and address the abuses, (giving) the tools necessary to the (Registry of Motor Vehicles), including dealing with fraud as fraud,” Donoghue, a Democrat, said at the bill signing. “It’s a win-win for everybody who really depends on handicapped placards to get in and around the commonwealth.”
The law imposes criminal penalties for counterfeiting or stealing a placard; increases the penalties for wrongfully displaying a handicap placard; and outlaws using the placard of a family member who died.
Donoghue she said expects the law will go a long way in raising awareness of the issue.
“It’s something I heard about a lot, frankly, from the disability community,” Baker said. “It’s one of those issues that I was glad that in the final push at the end of the session, it made it through.”
He said he was “thrilled” the Legislature chose to take on the issue.
Donoghue filed the bill in January, following a report by Inspector General Glenn Cunha’s office that found rampant abuse of the handicapped parking system.