As the 2019 New York legislative session draws to a close next week, there’s a mad dash to pass some hotly contested legislation. One of the bills we’re watching is the Toll Payer Protection Act. Since cashless tolls made their New York debut motorists have reported a wide range of problems from excessive, non-negotiable late penalties many times that of the original tolls, not receiving notices, registration suspensions, and refusal of the agencies to offer payment plans. In response State legislators Tom Abinanti (Assembly) and David Carlucci (Senate) proposed a Toll Payer Protection Act, which passed both houses of the legislature last year only to be vetoed by Governor Cuomo just before New Years Eve. Since the complaints are rising statewide, they offered a reworked Toll Payer Protection Act, which is presently in committee.
The new Toll Payer Protection Act:
- Establishes and codifies into law that cashless tolling can be in done in New York. Protecting the state from risk of lawsuits.
- Makes penalties far more reasonable, avoiding the debt spiral many motorists are finding themselves in. After the first violation a person is only responsible for a $5 penalty and a $25 violation after the second penalty.
- Tolling authorities must send the bill in 30 days and the driver is not liable for the payment if they do not receive the notice within 30 days. Not only will a driver be able to dispute a bill but may have a hearing before a judge like any other traffic or parking ticket.
- Images that identify the driver, passengers or contents in the vehicle cannot play any role in toll billing. Additionally, images and videos cannot be made public or used by courts in any action unless it’s specifically related to an unpaid toll bill.
- Tolling authorities will be required to submit an annual report on the Toll by Mail program to the Governor, the Temporary President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the Assembly. The report must include figures like the number of tolls paid, the number of owners charged with a penalty, and the number of owners who disputed a toll bill. The report will be due before June 1st every year and must be posted online.
- Vehicular registrations can no longer be suspended due to failure to pay tolling violations.
- A driver can sign up for email or text alerts about bills incurred.
- Allows for the setup of a monthly payment plan.
- Offers an MTA Amnesty Program lasting at least 5 weeks for drivers who incurred tolls on or after November 1, 2016.
As cashless tolling expands throughout the state and with congestion pricing in Manhattan looming, legislation such as the Toll Payer Protection Act is vital to ensure that due process and protections from unreasonable fines are guaranteed for all New York motorists.