CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The signature green and white license plate for state vehicles may turn blue and gold.

That’s one of the changes being proposed at the state Legislature to better keep track of the state fleet.

Keeping track of the fleet has been an ongoing source of frustration at the Capitol, and it was a topic again Sunday during interim legislative meetings.

The Joint Standing Committee on Government Organization heard possible aspects of a bill that may address the state fleet.

The bill remains under development and could be introduced in the regular session next month. A similar bill was considered last year.

One possible change is moving the state code that deals with the fleet out of a section that deals with state purchasing requirements.

Committee counsel Arlie Hubbard said that may, effectively, remove loopholes from agencies that have concluded their purchasing exemptions also provide an exemption to registering vehicles.

“Many have an exemption to purchasing,” Hubbard said. “This would remove that argument.”

Another potential change might standardize how agencies their vehicle titles.

“Vehicle titles are not easy to search,” Hubbard said. “One agency has over 800 ways titled in DMV’s records.”

Another change could mean phasing out the green and white plates that have been standard for state vehicles for years. The phase-out could come as soon as next year.

After that the state vehicle plates would be blue and gold, the state’s colors. They would also have stickers, like regular vehicles, that would be subject to updated registration on an annual or biannual basis.

Gary Howell

“We’re looking at changing the color of the plates because these plates don’t go dead,” committee co-chairman Gary Howell said after today’s meeting. “There’s really no way to handle that.

“In fact, we handed out an eBay listing that’s active right now of a set of state, green license plates. Someone could go out there, buy them right now, put ’em on a car. There’s no sticker that says they ever went dead, and truth of the matter is most law enforcement would look at it, say ‘OK, that’s a state vehicle and not pay any attention to it. And that’s a real problem.”

Ed Gaunch

Senator Ed Gaunch, the committee’s co-chairman, asked what the cost of the proposed changes might be. He also asked if the committee’s counsel had been working with the Fleet Management office.

Hubbard said the Fleet Management office had been in the loop, but not on the most recent draft. He said one aspect of the cooperation has been an attempt to keep down the costs of potential changes.

Keeping track of the state fleet has been an ongoing issue.

The state of West Virginia is unable to fully account for the total number of state-owned passenger vehicles in its fleet, according to a legislative audit released about this time last year.

Auditors noted that they drew the very same conclusions in a 2009 report: “The Legislative Auditor has determined that there is still no single source which can accurately and fully account for the total number of vehicles in the state’s fleet.”

In last year’s report, legislative auditors recommended changing Division of Motor Vehicles practices for titling and registering state-owned vehicles — at a minimal cost to the state.

Doing so would significantly improve the agency’s ability to account for the fleet, auditors told legislators. That step is part of the bill that’s being developed for introduction in the regular session next month.

Auditors drew last year’s conclusions after requesting and receiving inventory data from the three main state agencies that deal with state-owned vehicles: the Fleet Management Office, the Division of Motor Vehicles and the Board of Risk and Insurance Management.

Each of those reported a different size of the state fleet.

 

 

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