The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

February 27, 2013

Change being sought for car dealers' licensing

CHARLESTON — What happens when the owner of a car dealership, now in the sunset of his career, no longer can sell a minimum of 18 vehicles in a year to maintain his state-issued license in West Virginia?

By law, the license must be yanked.

A change is in the offing, however, in a bill that Delegate Margaret Staggers, D-Fayette, plans to take up next week in her role as chair of the House Roads and Transportation Committee.

Worked out with the West Virginia Automobile & Truck Dealers Association, the House of Delegates leadership and Division of Motor Vehicles, the bill appears to be one that will generate little, if any, opposition.

Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, said Tuesday the inspiration for it came from one of his constituents, Paul Buege, now living in his ninth decade, who recently told him that selling 18 cars a year is out of the question for him.

“He doesn’t want to break the law, but just wants to continue doing what he’s done pretty much his whole life,” Caputo said.

“We’ve got everybody on board. It just makes sense to do it.”

How the Legislature and DMV ever arrived at 18 as the magic number for selling cars to retain a license is unknown.

“It’s just an arbitrary number that someone chose,” Caputo said.

“There’s no rhyme or reason.”

In recent years, Caputo said the DMV commissioner has been exercising his option to waive the minimum sales. The proposed change would scrap the minimum number of sales required to keep one’s license.

One aspect that makes the law illogical, Staggers and Caputo pointed out, is that dealerships operating along West Virginia’s border can sell vehicles out of state and it’s difficult to say just how many sales occurred.

“If you live in a border county, and most of your sales are in other states, West Virginia doesn’t track those sales,” Caputo said.

“That makes it a logistical nightmare to keep track of them.”

Staggers said she intends to run the bill when her committee convenes a week from today.

“It’s using common sense to make it easier for the citizens,” she said.

“We’re trying to help people.”

All other parts of the law would remain in force, Caputo emphasized, including the need to have a license, a structure and property, and garage, while keeping regular business hours.

“You could sit there at age 89 and sell none, as long as you send the state the money for the license,” he added.

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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