A N A C T
RELATING TO MOTOR VEHICLES -- PARKING FACILITIES AND PRIVILEGES
Introduced By: Representatives Cambio, Ginaitt, Cicilline, Benson and Coelho
It is enacted by the General Assembly as follows:
SECTION 1. Section 31-28-7 of the General Laws in Chapter 31-28 entitled "Parking Facilities and Privileges" is hereby amended to read as follows:
31-28-7. Motor vehicle plates for persons with disabilities -- Entitlement -- Designated parking spaces - Violations. -- (a) As used in this section:
(1) "Disabled" or "disability" means a permanent or long-term impairment which prevents or impedes walking, including but not limited to an impairment which prevents walking and requires use of a wheelchair; an impairment which involuntarily causes difficulty or insecurity in walking or climbing stairs with or without the need to use braces, crutches, canes or artificial support; an impairment caused by amputation, arthritis, blindness (including legal blindness), or orthopedic condition; or an impairment in respiratory, circulatory, or neurological health which limits a person's walking ability. Persons with disabilities may be capable of working or may be presently working.
(2) "Long-term disability" means an impairment as described in subdivision (a)(1) of this section, which is potentially reversible or may improve with appropriate medical treatment. At the time of application and or renewal of disability designation with the division of motor vehicles, the impairment should not be expected to improve prior to the expiration of disability certification to a point where the individual then would not meet the criteria of subdivision (a)(1).
(3) "Permanent disability" means an impairment as described in subdivision (a)(1) of this section which is non-reversible.
(4) "Temporary impairment" means an impairment as described in subdivision (a)(1) of this section, which is expected to improve to a point where the individual does not meet the criteria of subdivision (a)(1) within two (2) years of the application.
(b) (1) Upon a person's application to the division of motor vehicles and proof of a permanent or long-term disability as defined in subsection (a), the division shall issue one motor vehicle disability parking privilege placard, or in the case of a motorcycle one motor vehicle sticker, on which shall be imprinted on a blue background with the white international symbol of access, certificate number, the words "Rhode Island disability parking permit" and shall bear the expiration date upon its face. A placard or motorcycle sticker issued to a person whose disability is temporary shall be substantially similar to that issued to a person with a permanent or long term disability. The temporary placard shall be printed on a red background with a white international symbol of access, certificate number, the words "Rhode Island disability parking permit" and shall bear the expiration date upon its face. Persons issued a placard or motorcycle sticker pursuant to this section shall be entitled to the immunities of sections 31-28-4 and 31-28-6. These placards shall conform to the uniform parking system for disabled drivers standard issued by the United States department of transportation. If an application for a placard or motorcycle sticker is denied, the division of motor vehicles shall promptly notify the applicant in writing, stating the specific reason(s) for this denial
. ,and advising the applicant of the procedures for requesting a hearing to appeal the denial. Prior to the appeal hearing, the applicant shall be provided with any and all documents relied upon by the division in denying the application. If an application contains a physician certification that the applicant is sufficiently disabled to require a placard or motorcycle sticker, and the division has not provided specific reasons in its denial letter to the applicant, the hearing officer shall summarily order that a placard or motorcycle sticker be provided to the applicant. At all other hearings of application denials where a physician certification has been provided, the division shall bear the burden of proof that the individual is not entitled to a placard or motorcycle sticker pursuant to this chapter.
(2) A placard issued pursuant to this section shall be portable and used only when the person with a disability is operating a motor vehicle or being transported in one. The placard is to be hung from the rear view mirror so as to be seen through the front or rear windshield of the motor vehicle. A placard may be issued to a person with a disability who does not own a motor vehicle, to be used only when that person is being transported. A motorcycle sticker issued pursuant to this section shall not be portable and shall be affixed to the rear plate of the motorcycle.
(3) (i) The certificate of entitlement to the placard or motorcycle sticker shall be renewed every three (3) years for individuals with a long-term disability, and three (3) years for individuals with a permanent disability, in accordance with a schedule prepared by the division of motor vehicles that uses the last name of an individual to determine the month of renewal. The renewal application shall require a physician's certification that the person's condition has not improved since the previous approval to an extent that the criteria of subsection (a) are no longer met. If an application or subsequent renewal is accompanied by a physician's certification that the applicant's condition is a chronic, permanent impairment and that application is approved, then any subsequent renewal shall be authorized upon receipt of an affidavit that this condition has not changed since the previous approval.
(ii) The certificate of entitlement to the placard or motorcycle sticker shall be covered with plastic or similar material. Upon timely renewal, the applicant shall receive a sticker bearing the expiration date of the certificate of entitlement to be affixed across the expiration date of the disability parking privilege placard. In the case of a motorcycle the applicant shall receive a new motorcycle sticker. The division of motor vehicles shall establish rules and regulations allowing for the renewal of the certificates of entitlement by mail.
(iii) Whenever the division of motor vehicles proposes to suspend, revoke, or fail to renew the certificate of entitlement for noncompliance with the requirements of subsection (b) or for violation of subsection (a) of this section, the individual shall first be entitled to a hearing before the division to contest the proposed action. At the hearing, the division shall bear the burden of proof that the individual is not entitled to the placard or motorcycle sticker pursuant to this chapter. There shall be no renewal fee charged for the placard or motorcycle sticker. The division of motor vehicles is authorized to issue a temporary disability parking privilege placard or motorcycle sticker immediately upon receipt of an application from individuals with a temporary impairment, as defined in subdivision (a)(4) of this section. A temporary placard or motorcycle sticker shall be valid for sixty (60) days from the date of issuance. If the disability persists, temporary placards or motorcycle stickers may be renewed for a period of one year or less, as determined upon review of a person's application by the medical advisory board. The division of motor vehicles shall subsequently review the applications in accordance with procedures for reviewing applications from persons whose disability is long term. Any issuance found in review to be inappropriate shall be revoked, and notice of revocation shall be sent to the applicant.
(4) A person other than a person with a disability who uses a disability parking privilege placard other than to transport a person with a disability shall be fined one hundred dollars ($100) for each violation. A person issued a special placard who uses the placard after expiration, or who allows unauthorized use of the disability parking placard or sticker, is subject to revocation of the placard by the division, and is subject to a fine of one hundred dollars ($100).
(c) Disability parking spaces shall be designated and identified by the posting of signs above ground level, with the international symbol of access, and the words "handicapped parking", "disability parking", "disabled parking", or "reserved parking" printed in white on a blue background.
(d) (1) Other than a person issued a special placard or motorcycle sticker pursuant to this section, any person who parks a vehicle in a parking space designated for persons with disabilities shall be fined seventy-five dollars ($75.00) for a first violation, one hundred fifty dollars ($150) for a second violation, and three hundred dollars ($300) for a third or subsequent violation. The vehicle may be subject to towing at the owner's expense. It is not unlawful for a person to park a vehicle in a space designated for person with disabilities if that person is transporting another person who has been issued a special placard which is properly displayed on the vehicle.
(2) The parking provisions of this section shall be enforced by the local or state authorities on public or private property when the parking spaces are located within the purview of the state building code.
(e) The department of administration shall inform each licensed driver of the certificate procedures and parking restrictions of this section and sections 31-28-4 and 31-28-6. A facsimile of the portable placard and motorcycle sticker issued under this section shall be sent to the enforcing authority of each state, and each enforcing authority shall be informed of the parking restrictions of this section and sections 31-28-4 and 31-28-6. Disability parking privilege placards and disability motorcycle stickers when initially issued shall be accompanied by instructions for their use and details of the penalties for their misuse.
(f) Any person who makes, manufactures, offers for sale, or knowingly uses a counterfeit parking privilege placard shall be fined up to five hundred dollars ($500) and/or forty (40) hours of community service.
SECTION 2. Section 42-92-2 of the General Laws in Chapter 42-92 entitled "Equal Access to Justice for Small Businesses and Individuals" is hereby amended to read as follows:
42-92-2. Definitions. -- As used in this chapter:
(1) "Adjudicative officer" means the deciding official, without regard to whether the official is designated as an administrative law judge, a hearing officer or examiner, or otherwise, who presided at the adversary adjudication.
(2) "Adjudicatory proceedings" means any proceeding conducted by or on behalf of the state administratively or quasi-judicially which may result in the loss of benefits, the imposition of a fine, the adjustment of a tax assessment, the denial, suspension, or revocation of a license
, or permit, or which may result in the compulsion or restriction of the activities of a party. Any agency charged by statute with investigating complaints shall be deemed to have substantial justification for the investigation and for the proceedings subsequent to the investigation.
(3) "Agency" means any state and/or municipal board, commission, council, department, or officer, other than the legislature or the courts, authorized by law to make rules or to determine contested cases, to bring any action at law or in equity, including, but not limited to, injunctive and other relief, or to initiate criminal proceedings. This shall include contract boards of appeal, tax proceedings, and employment security administrative proceedings.
(4) "Municipality" means the individual cities and towns in the state of Rhode Island and including, but not limited to, any city or town housing authority, fire, water, sewer district, local or regional school district, public building authority or other municipal financed agency or department.
(5) "Party" means any individual whose net worth is less than five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) at the time the adversary adjudication was initiated; and, any individual, partnership, corporation, association, or private organization doing business and located in the state, which is independently owned and operated, not dominant in its field, and which employs one hundred (100) or fewer persons at the time the adversary adjudication was initiated.
(6) "Reasonable litigation expenses" means those expenses which were reasonably incurred by a party in adjudicatory proceedings, including, but not limited to, attorney's fees, witness fees of all necessary witnesses, and other costs and expenses as were reasonably incurred, except that:
(i) The award of attorney's fees may not exceed
seventy-five dollars ($75.00) one hundred and twenty-five dollars ($125.00) per hour ,unless the court determines that special factors justify a higher fee;
(ii) No expert witness may be compensated at a rate in excess of the highest rate of compensation for experts paid by this state.
(7) "Substantial justification" means that the initial position of the agency, as well as the agency's position in the proceedings, has a reasonable basis in law and fact.
SECTION 3. This act shall take effect upon passage.