Justice Dept. opinion could resolve dispute over electronic marbete
By The Star Staff
An opinion from the island Justice secretary could resolve the controversy that has arisen as to whether the implementation of the electronic inspection tag (marbete) should be legislated before it comes into full force this summer.
Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP) Secretary Eileen Vélez Vega rejected House Bill 1125 on Wednesday, noting that the intention of the measure is already being addressed with a start date in the summer of 2022.
“The law requires me to add this type of technology because what it asks for is an electronic marbete and that is what we are doing -- adding technology to the label, but we are not eliminating it,” Vélez Vega said in an aside with the press. “We have been working since September 2021 with PRITS, with the Police and the State Department and our team from DTOP and DISCO for an electronic tag.”
“There will be a consultation with the Department of Justice so that they can agree on whether or not an amendment to the law is needed,” she added.
Vélez Vega insisted in a public hearing of the Transportation Committee that her objective is for all vehicles to receive an electronic tag when their registrations are renewed starting in July. The field tests on the program are scheduled to start in April, and the implementation process is estimated to end in June 2023.
“We believe that no legislation is necessary to implement the electronic tag,” she said.
That is because the Vehicle and Traffic Law (Law 22-2000) empowers the DTOP secretary to enter into all those agreements or alliances that are necessary to modernize, streamline and improve DTOP services.
Popular Democratic Party Rep. Ángel Matos García believes legislation is needed.
“I cannot concur with the appreciation that is presented in her presentation that we can paste a stamp without the legal figure of that stamp not being in the Traffic Law,” said Matos García, who authored the legislation. “The Traffic Law is not only law, but also affects federal funding formulas that your agency and the Puerto Rico Police receive.”
“When this comes to a vote, I am going to persuade my colleagues of the importance of amending the law to receive the technological label,” he added. “This is not the label of Ángel Matos, it is the label of the country. And for the country to be under law and order, I insist that the law must be amended.”
DTOP also opposed the proposal to impose an additional cost of $15 per electronic tag and $10 for the duplicate. However, when asked by Matos García, the agency acknowledged that there is a future possibility that the driver will be charged for replacing the new tag.
Currently, the average cost of a car tag is $180, while the maximum replacement cost is $5. Both DTOP and the Puerto Rico Innovation and Technology Service (PRITS) reported that they are still “analyzing” the alternative of implementing the replacement cost.