After a lengthy debate, the Texas Senate voted to do away with annual state vehicle inspections.
Lawmakers approved Senate Bill 1588 by a vote of 27-4 – dropping the current mandate for all personal vehicles to undergo annual state safety inspections.
The change, which would take effect in March 2018, changes a statewide policy imposed in 1951.
Commercial vehicles are still required to have them, and cars in 17 counties, including those with air-quality restrictions, would have to pass emissions tests.
“This is a tax cut that Texans will feel,” said state Sen. Don Huffines, a Dallas Republican who authored the measure. “It will save Texans $130 million they’re now having to pay for a procedure that has proven to have no discernible safety benefit to drivers.”
The annual savings from the change for most drivers, if the House approves the bill, will be $7.
Huffines said that more than nine million man-hours are spent on the inspections, affecting more than 50,000 Texans daily.
By the early 1970s, 31 states had mandatory vehicle inspections. After a federal mandate for those inspections ended in 1976, states also began to repeal their requirements.
Huffines said only 15 states, including Texas, require annual vehicle inspections.
Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, was among those who opposed the measure. Amendments he proposed to retain vehicle inspections failed.
“If this bill passes, I’m going to have trouble sleeping knowing there will be thousands of dangerous vehicles on the road,” Lucio told colleagues during an emotional but unsuccessful plea to defeat Huffines’ bill.
Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, echoed the concerns.
“What happens if people can’t maintain their cars at the level they should?” she asked. “I don’t think that’s good for everyday Texans … because you’re setting this up where even more people can get tickets.”
Huffines dismissed the criticism, saying that other states that have repealed their mandatory inspection programs have seen no such problems emerge.
“I look at this as an unnecessary procedure that should be eliminated,” said Huffines, a conservative Republican who favors limited government and less red tape.