"Hey, Texplainer: Do I still have to get my car inspected every year?" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
A bill that would stop requiring Texans to take their cars for inspections every year died during the 85th Texas Legislature — but might come back during next month’s special session.
Senate Bill 1588 was approved by the Texas Senate in May but never made it to the House floor. Now, the bill's author, Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, says he wants to file a similar version of the legislation during the special session and is asking Gov. Greg Abbott to add vehicle inspections to the list of topics lawmakers will consider when they return July 18.
"I'm committed to getting rid of the safety inspections for vehicles. It's a ripoff of our time and our money," Huffines said Thursday, arguing that there are no definitive studies proving that vehicle inspections improve safety.
What is the vehicle inspections bill?
All vehicles registered in Texas have to be inspected annually to ensure they are working properly and complying with safety standards.
Under SB 1588, safety inspections would no longer be required for personal vehicles but would still be mandatory for commercial vehicles. Personal vehicles would still have to undergo an emissions test in 17 counties: Brazoria, Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, El Paso, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Johnson, Kaufman, Montgomery, Parker, Rockwall, Tarrant, Travis and Williamson.
Under Huffines’ legislation, Texans would save the $7 a year they currently pay for safety inspections — which comes to about $140 million per year statewide — but they would still have to pay $7.50 when they register their vehicle.
Huffines says the legislation would put Texas in line with 34 other states that don’t require safety inspections. The federal government stopped requiring them in 1976.
Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, one of the bill’s biggest opponents, cited a study published by the Senate Transportation Committee in November 2016 that concluded: “Vehicle safety inspections should continue to be implemented in order to keep driving conditions safe, until the inspections impact could be proven otherwise.”
According to the study, 292,361 vehicles failed the test in 2014 and 252,299 failed in 2015.
Vehicle inspections also mean jobs for a large number of mechanics, Lucio said.
“These men and women are the first line of defense against fatal vehicle accidents across the state of Texas,” he told The Texas Tribune on Friday. “Because of them, we know that every vehicle that is on Texas roads has working brakes among other vital features, including insurance at the point of inspection.”
What happened to the bill in the regular legislative session?
The Senate approved Huffines’ bill in a 27 to 4 vote. Democrats were torn on the issue: Seven voted in favor of the bill, while four voted against it.
The House Transportation Committee approved SB 1588 on May 17, but the bill didn't get to the House floor for a vote before the session's end on May 29.
Will lawmakers get a chance to vote on it during the special session?
Vehicle inspections legislation was not on the list of 20 items that Abbott gave lawmakers to address during the special session, so even if Huffines files a new bill, the Legislature wouldn't be allowed to consider it without action by the governor.
Huffines said he has asked the governor's legislative team to include vehicle inspections in the special session call.
"It's very popular legislation, and I think it's a matter of convincing the governor's team that it's a worthy issue to put on the call," Huffines said.
Do I still have to take my car to have a safety inspection every year?
Yes, personal vehicles in Texas still have to receive safety inspections every year to make sure they comply with safety standards. The inspection costs $7 in most cases and can be done at locations licensed by the Department of Public Safety.
For more information on safety inspections, visit the DPS website.
Correction: A previous version of this story included the incorrect bill number. The correct bill number is Senate Bill 1588.