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DMV giving back money? Some basin residents eligible

Emily Aughinbaugh, Tribune staff writer

South Shore residents who applied for Smog Impact Fee refunds will soon be receiving checks from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

The first batch of Smog Impact Fee refunds was mailed last week.

The refunds are part of a Senate bill that requires the DMV to reimburse all persons who paid the Smog Impact Fee on or after Oct. 1, 1990. In addition to the $300 fee, vehicle owners will be refunded any late penalty paid to the DMV and interest on the total amount.



The Smog Impact Fee was collected on vehicles that did not meet California emission control standards and were previously registered in another state or country and then registered in California.

A California Appeals Court ruled the fee unconstitutional in 1999, and Governor Gray Davis signed Senate Bill 215 and Assembly Bill 809 in June, authorizing the DMV to return $665 million to vehicle owners who paid the smog fee.




“By law, this money does not belong to the state,” Davis said when he signed the legislation. “Giving it back is not only the right thing to do, it’s the only thing to do.”

Auto service station owners said customers who come in for inspections are usually aware of the refunds and are relieved the impact fee was overturned.

“Most people seem to be fairly educated,” said Jeff Flowers, owner of Tahoe Test and Tune.

John Runnels, owner of Runnels Automotive located near the “Y,” said most of his customers seem to be in the know.

“Every now and then we get a few people coming in thinking they still have to pay the fee, and we set them straight that it was overturned,” Runnels said. “Hopefully we will never see it again. It was a rip-off.”

The first wave of 200,000 refunds has already been paid, DMV spokesman Evan Nossoff said. He said the DMV will have all of the reimbursements paid in three years.

Up to 1.7 million vehicle owners are eligible for refunds. The DMV began mailing notices of eligibility in July and will mail all notices by the first week of September, according to the DMV Web site.

Breakout Box:

Refund applications can be picked up at the DMV branch office in South Lake Tahoe. Vehicle owners can check their eligibility for a refund on the Department of Motor Vehicles Web site, http://www.dmv.ca.gov/online/smogging/index.html


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