A number of state representatives are working to remove the $20 penalty for Ohio residents who are late in renewing their vehicle registrations.

A number of state representatives are working to remove the $20 penalty for Ohio residents who are late in renewing their vehicle registrations.

Rep. Jay Hottinger (R-Newark), who is co-sponsoring legislation by Rep. Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster), said he plans to introduce legislation at a nonvoting session of the House this week.

He said he thinks the late fee, which was implemented after the Ohio House and Senate passed the governor's biennium budget last summer, should be removed because it is hurting Ohio residents during a tough economic time.

Previously, drivers were not fined unless they were caught driving with expired registrations, he said.

"I have spoken to people ... who feel like they have been victimized by this," Hottinger said. "They are pretty irate about it."

Hottinger said he thinks the fee is like a tax increase.

"They (lawmakers) are trying to do it and say, 'Hey, it's not a tax increase,'" he said.

According to Hottinger, the state collected $6.6-million in vehicle-registration late fees in the last three months of 2009, when the new fee was implemented.

He said more than 330,000 people were affected.

Rep. Nancy Garland (D-New Albany) said she and another group of representatives have been working on similar legislation. She said they have formed a group to study the issue and figure out what the best move is for Ohioans.

"I think we need to look at what we are going to do for those people who have already been assessed," Garland said. "Those are the kinds of things that need to be addressed in any legislation. Those are the issues that we are going to be discussing."

She said although drivers should renew their vehicle registrations on time, she thinks the $20 is too high and would like to see it be discontinued entirely.

"I think we are going to say that it could be done away with," Garland said.

Hottinger agreed.

"My take on it was, this is an extra tough economy. There are a great number of people who $20 means a lot to them today, and for the state of Ohio to penalize them with a $20 late fee, I just don't think that's acceptable at this point in time," he said. "It is coming out of the hands and pockets all across the state of Ohio."

He said the fine was created under the guise of safety.

"I think this is not about keeping our roads safe but a way for our government to try to extract more money from our citizens," Hottinger said. "We are just trying to get to a situation where government is being responsive and responsible, and I don't think this is the way to do it."

gmartineau@thisweeknews.com