Pence announces Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicle changes, $2 million more in fee overcharges

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INDIANAPOLIS — New internal auditors are being assigned to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles as Gov. Mike Pence announced Monday he was seeking legislation to streamline the agency's fee structures amid revelations of an additional $2 million in overcharges during the past six years.

The additional amount brings to more than $60 million the total amount that state officials have acknowledged since 2013 that the BMV overcharged Indiana motorists.

Pence also announced a change in leadership for the agency that he said was timed to a completion of a lengthy review of the BMV's complicated fee structure.

Reviews of the agency's fees also found that motorists had been undercharged about $13 million for some fees and taxes, but Pence said the state would not seek to recoup that money. The governor said the latest overcharges will be refunded.

The BMV said in September that it had overcharged motorists nearly $29 million in excise taxes. In 2013, it settled a class-action lawsuit that claimed it overcharged customers by $30 million.

The new overcharges cover a variety of charges, including penalties paid by drivers who later proved they had auto insurance, delinquent fees for mobile and manufactured home titles, excise taxes for antique vehicles and fees for off-road vehicles and snowmobile decals, according to the BMV.

Pence said he was asking legislators to clarify the various fees and match state law with BMV practice on the charges and how they are collected.

"This is one of the most complex transactional systems in the Indiana state government," Pence said. "It is big. It is complex. Frankly, it is confusing to people who are seeking to interpret it."

Auditors from the State Board of Accounts will be assigned to the BMV for reviews of the fee structure, in what Pence said would add "another layer of accountability."

Rep. Dan Forestal, the top Democrat on the Indiana House transportation committee, questioned why billing mistakes were continuing to occur and said regular reviews by state and independent auditors were needed.

"I do not believe the agency can be trusted to oversee its own operations, unless you happen to believe that foxes are the best overseers of henhouses," said Forestal, D-Indianapolis.

The agency's leadership change will see Commissioner Don Snemis moved to a new position as special counsel for program integrity at the Family and Social Services Administration, overseeing implementation of the Healthy Indiana Plan expansion that won federal approval last week.

The new BMV commissioner will be Kent Abernathy, who has been chief of staff at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management since 2010. The change takes effect Feb. 12.

Pence praised Snemis for sorting out the overcharges during his year leading the BMV. Pence said he picked Abernathy for his management experience to implement the agency's changes.

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