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Change this legislation

Published 10:19pm Friday, March 22, 2013

Gov. Bob McDonnell is being asked to use the power of the line-item veto to change legislation that would have a major impact on the burgeoning motor scooter industry in Virginia and on the people who buy scooters as alternatives to regular vehicles.

The General Assembly left Richmond earlier this year having put together a new 24-page law governing mopeds. But in the process of doing something that makes a lot of sense and could potentially save lives, the commonwealth’s governing body inadvertently also set rules that could effectively shut down sales of many mopeds and make them far less attractive to people hoping to save money.

Among the positive changes on tap under the new law — which awaits Gov. McDonnell’s signature, his veto or his tinkering — are requirements intended to improve the safety of motor scooters. Riders would be required to wear helmets and eye protection and carry photo identification (though they’d still not be required to be licensed or insured). Scooters also would have to be titled and registered beginning July 1, 2014.

The registration requirement is the one that carried some unintended consequences. When the new moped law interacts with the new transportation law, which is also awaiting a decision by McDonnell, the result is that electric mopeds — and possibly even Segways or foot scooters — would be subject to the transportation law’s proposed $100 annual fee for hybrids and other alternative-fuel vehicles. With many electric scooters selling for well under $1,000, the cost of the annual fee could be prohibitive.

Mopeds of all sizes have exploded in popularity as gas prices have risen and paychecks have shrunk during the past few years. In many places, they have become a realistic alternative to owning a car or a full-powered motorcycle. It’s important to bring the rules governing them in line with other vehicles using the state roads, and next year legislators should probably even consider requiring them to be insured.

Meanwhile, though, Gov. McDonnell should amend the legislation before him to remove the requirement that these vehicles pay an annual fee equivalent to 10 percent or more of their value just to be registered.

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