Bill Knowles, county clerk for Hamilton County, on Tuesday cautioned legislators not to disrupt the successful tags by mail and Internet program while tightening checks on whether motorists have proper insurance.
He testified before the Tennessee Senate Commerce and Labor Study Committee.
The panel is headed by Senator Steve Southerland. Members are Senators Dolores Gresham and Charlotte Burks.
He spoke concerning Senate Bill 2517 - the Uninsured Motorist Enforcement Act.
Here are his remarks:
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee:
Thank you for permitting me to speak on the issue before you today. I have followed General Assembly vehicle insurance compliance legislation with interest across the years.
Many of you have been gracious to read my numerous emails on the subject.
Hamilton County was one of the pioneers in creating tag renewals by mail in the mid 1970’s. Now the mail program is an option in each of the 95 counties.
My office also forged ahead being the first county in Tennessee to offer renewals by Internet in 2001.
So, how Tennessee law is amended regarding the compulsory insurance law will have a profound impact on motorists from Shelby to Pickett County.
I agree that strengthening the current compulsory insurance law is important to law enforcement.
My major concern regards the methodology of how the verification law will be established.
While a Tennessee solution is sought to assist law enforcement, it must also be crafted to be a seamless check accommodating the robust mail and Internet programs administered by county clerk offices.
The most efficient and rapid method of serving the motoring public should be considered when improving the critical issue of vehicle insurance compliance.
I believe that the resolution must be a cyber-handshake between the Tennessee law and the insurance industry’s most up-to-date databases.
It should include a quick check of the vehicle identification number commonly referred to as the VIN and display a simple screen with a yes or no compliance response.
Either the vehicle is properly covered and eligible for registration, or it is not.
Without this method county clerk mail and Internet options would cease to exist.
Multiplied thousands of busy motorists across the state would be forced back into long courthouse lines to simply renew an annual tag.
And why would mail and Internet programs cease if a digital solution is not implemented?
Without a digital method of checking documents received by mail we would not have the opportunity to verify proof.
A document not verifiable could have easily been created with a pc and an inexpensive inkjet printer.
Both counterfeit money and fake driver’s licenses are not uncommon using this technology.
In Tennessee we have proved that a digital enforcement solution to gain emissions test results works.
After an emission test is completed, a compliance report identifying a specific vehicle is transmitted to our offices in a matter of minutes.
In the state of Georgia where vehicle insurance enforcement has been successfully addressed the answer is an electronic solution.
The Georgia counties across the near-by state line in Chattanooga have seen their model system function for more than 10 years.
My neighboring counterparts tell me the cyber-handshake between the Georgia government and the insurance industry is a reality.
Georgia tag officials enter a vehicle identification number into their data system and verification of coverage is confirmed.
In closing, I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to represent Hamilton County and clerk offices state-wide today regarding this important issue.
I urge you to give county clerks, law enforcement, and franchised motor vehicle dealers workable and foolproof tools if an amendment to Tennessee’s Financial Responsibility Law is enacted.