BOSTON – By a 37-0 vote, the Senate today passed Senate Bill 2168, An Act Relative to Handicapped Parking. S.2168 expanded on a bill that Senator Eileen Donoghue filed in January to combat handicapped parking fraud and to implement the recent recommendations addressing this important public safety issue from the Office of the Inspector General of Massachusetts.
“The misuse of handicapped parking placards robs municipalities of much-needed revenues and prevents persons with disabilities from finding accessible parking,” said Sen. Eileen Donoghue (D-Lowell). “This bill will benefit both disabled individuals and local governments.”
The 2016 Inspector General’s report entitled “The Abuse of Disability Parking Placards in Massachusetts” revealed rampant abuse of handicapped placards. The IG and State Police identified more than 300 cars that parked in downtown Boston using special parking identification placards issued to other people. The Office of the Inspector General has investigated the misuse of handicapped placards for 15 years and repeatedly found drivers using expired placards and placards that had been issued to individuals who had since died.
“The abuse of handicap placards represents a shameful practice that prevents people with disabilities from accessing much-needed parking close to their destinations. This bill cracks down on offenders and curtails the misuse of placards,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst).
The bill changes powers and procedures at the Registry of Motor Vehicles to curtail handicap placard abuse. S.2168 empowers the RMV to require proper documentation before issuing a handicapped placard, and expands the RMV’s ability to detect and punish placard abuse.
“The tribulations of getting about while also being handicapped are often difficult and trying, losing out on parking to the fraudulent actions of others deserves the remedies contained in this bill,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).
The bill imposes fines of $500 for a first offense and $1000 for a subsequent offense for those who lie to obtain or replace a handicapped placard; strengthens license-suspension for misusing a handicapped placard; creates a $100 fine for those who do not return a revoked or canceled handicapped placard; and allows for fines or imprisonment for those acting with intent to distribute placards illegally.
“I applaud the Senate for taking this important step in support of a bill that will reduce chronic abuses of handicapped placards,” said Inspector General Glenn A. Cunha.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.