State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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House member links Pa. website contract to transportation bill

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Nov 24, 2013 10:29 PM
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Photo by G.R. Wilson

One state representative is warning that one part of the approved $2.3 billion transportation plan solidifies something that should trouble his fellow lawmakers.

Embedded in the transportation bill - the section about fees - is one cost increase that's left Rep. Rob Matzie (D-Beaver) a bit bothered: the fee for copies of information on a driver, a vehicle title or registration, and a security interest goes from $5 to $10. But Matzie took to the House floor Thursday evening, the night the chamber passed a final concurrence vote to send the bill to the governor, and said a $2 portion of the fee increase has been assessed since last year under a no-bid contract for website services with NIC USA and its subsidiary, Pennsylvania Interactive, which handles the website, as well as electronic requests for driver information.

Matzie objected to the contract earlier this year, and said last week that making it permanent with statute is wrong.

"Now this bill codifies that this one specific fee can occur," Matzie said. "Thankfully, nowhere in this bill do I see where this company can assess other fees."

A spokesman for PennDOT confirmed that the legislation set to be signed by Gov. Corbett this week does, in fact, allow the state to charge an additional $2 fee for each online request of driver information handled by NIC USA (referred to in the bill as a hypothetical "third party"). Earlier this year, Matzie pointed out a work order associated with the same contract that authorized the commonwealth to pay $2 to NICUSA for every online request of driver information. He objected at the time, arguing that only the Legislature should be able to raise fees.

The transportation funding bill also allows those who request copies of driver information to sell it for profit.

"Lots of people are being asked to pay for this measure," Matzie said last week, referring perhaps to the slew of other motorist fees being raised in the legislation, or the phased-in removal of the cap on a gas tax paid by wholesale distributors. "However, there is only one type of company that is getting something for free, and that's the people who sell driver-vehicle data."

Matzie's objection to the contract began when costs to the commonwealth surfaced for the NICUSA website services, after the contract had earlier been touted as costing the state nothing. In June, the state treasurer halted payments of more than $3 million to the contractor, citing concerns about the execution of the deal and ordered payments.

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