State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.
A constituent raised concerns to me about the state Department of Transportation’s (DOT) plans to allow auto repair shops to conduct auto emissions tests. A story about the DOT appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The Journal Sentinel has also reported that repair shops wouldn’t get paid for emissions tests under the state program. That begs the question, what incentive there would be for shops to participate? The door is opened to fraud since the shops wouldn’t be paid, the only way to make money would be to find problems with a vehicle requiring repairs that might be questionable.
Because of the constituent’s concerns, I sent a letter to the DOT Secretary:
July 23, 2008
Wisconsin Department of Transportation
Dear Secretary Busalacchi,
A constituent expresses concern to me about the July 22, 2008, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article revealing that the Department of Transportation (DOT) would allow emissions testing at car repair shops. The constituent explains that New York allows car repair shops to emissions test, and that his son lives at New York and has been complaining about the practice for years. He explains the New York practice as a disaster.
In addition the constituent explains that it is a violation of state law and common sense to allow repair shops to test.
The newspaper article reveals an appeal to the state Department of Administration has blocked final approval of the contract.
Before DOT pursues any further efforts toward testing at car repair shops, I ask that you direct a thorough research of the New York program. Information indicates that this practice may not be in the best interest of Wisconsin residents.
I look forward to your reply. If you have any questions, please contact me.
State Senator Mary Lazich
Copy: Governor James Doyle
I received the following response from Secretary Busalacchi:
August 8, 2008
The Honorable Mary Lazich
Wisconsin State Senator
State Capitol, Room 109S
Madison, WI 53707-7882
Dear Senator Lazich:
I am writing in response to your constituent’s concerns regarding a pending vehicle emissions inspection and maintenance (I/M) program transition. Your constituent had questioned the legality of using a “hybrid” I/M program – in which a network of contractor-owned stations that perform only emissions inspections (no repairs) is augmented with a network of subcontractor-owned private inspection and repair facilities (PIFs) – in Wisconsin, and had cited concerns with such a program in the state of New York.
New York’s vehicle inspection program is not a hybrid program. It is a fully decentralized program; that is, each inspection facility is privately owned and operated and all facilities provide both emissions inspection and repair. We have specifically avoided using a fully decentralized program in Wisconsin because fraud is both more common and more difficult to control than in centralized and hybrid programs.
In our planned new program, Southeastern Wisconsin’s motorists would have the option of using one of twenty-five private repair facilities to obtain their emission test; they would also have the option of continuing to visit a contractor owned emission test only facility if they prefer. The proposed changes to this program are designed to enhance the choices and convenience available to motorists.
The award of a new contract for this program is currently under review by the Wisconsin Department of Administration. During this review by DOA, it is inappropriate for the department to make specific comments regarding our legal arguments, or those of any vendor. I am, however, confident in the analysis of the department’s legal team on this matter.
If you have questions about the department’s contracting procedures, please contact Steve Martinelli in our Purchasing Office at (608) 267-4480. Questions about the existing emission inspection program may be directed to Chuck Rhodes, I/M Unit Supervisor, at (414) 266-1084.
I will be a guest on the Jay Weber program on Newstalk 1130 WISN Wednesday morning at 6:40 to discuss this issue.