Legislation clarifying that motor vehicle registration in Alabama happens at the county level wasn’t passed into law in the previous session.

The bill passed the Senate but died in the House. The legislation states that centralized motor vehicle registration is prohibited and it is the legislative intent that motor vehicle registration shall remain at the county level.

“During the debate over the bill, our Association and legislators were assured multiple times that Revenue has no desire to seize motor vehicle registrations or create a system that would ultimately pressure local officials into using a centralized system,” Tallapoosa County Probate Judge Talmadge East told 1819 News recently. “I believe that the Department of Revenue's previous actions have been inconsistent with this rhetoric, as did others in our Association, hence the support of this legislation. I cannot speak for the future actions of the Alabama Probate Judges Association on this issue, but I fully intend to personally monitor any future action by the Department of Revenue and hold them accountable for statements and assurances made while this legislation was being debated."

"If they were being completely honest about their intentions, I see no issue and look forward to working with them in the future to ensure that Alabama's localized motor vehicle registration system is as efficient as possible," he added.

State Sen. April Weaver (R-Brierfield) said at a Senate County and Municipal Government Committee meeting in April her legislation "confirms and clarifies the code that makes motor vehicle registration and the related system used to actually register a motor vehicle the responsibility of the applicable county officials."

"The purpose of this bill is not to cause problems with essential statewide services just strictly focus on the motor vehicle registration being the responsibility of the county," Weaver said in April. "To give you a little bit of history on this…during the 2022 legislative session, SB 211 calling for the titling of vessels, the boat titling that you may remember from last year in Alabama that was passed…the Department of Revenue then issued an RFP in August of last year that only partially related to that act. This RFP was titled Vessel Titling System but very significant and unrelated requirements were added including a state-sponsored Alabama Motor Vehicle Registration System that was not desired by the applicable county officials."

Mary Martin Mitchell, Alabama Department of Revenue executive counsel, told the committee in April, "The product that was secured through that RFP, it's an off-the-shelf product that is then customized and configured to whatever jurisdiction." 

"This vendor over the last ten years has done this type of software in 17 jurisdictions," Mitchell said in April. "That was offered to locals if they would like to consider that at the local level. They can choose it or they can stick with their custom product that is probably tailored to their services. We would assume that would be the choice that would avail every time. There are some underserved communities that may need a choice, and it is already paid for because we need this product for the titling. That is some of the backstory on the solicitation of registration."

A spokesperson for the Department of Revenue told 1819 News on Thursday, “[O]ur position remains the same, the department agrees with and supports the current law that the registration of motor vehicles should remain in the hands of the local officials.”

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.

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