New legislation set to correct disabled parking laws

fili@samoanews.com

In an effort to deter individuals from unlawfully parking in parking spaces designated for the disabled, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has submitted to the Fono a measure to amend current law and effectively enforce parking laws for the disabled.

“Currently, parking for the disabled is abused,” the governor wrote to the Fono leaders. And the governor points out that the bill seeks to deter this abuse by giving enforcement officers the ability to issue citations to either the driver or registered owner of the car that is parked illegally in spaces reserved for disabled parking.

“And if the vehicle is unoccupied, the citation notice is placed on the front windshield of the vehicle,” according to the language of the bill.

Additionally, the bill allows authorized employees from the Office of Protection and Advocacy for the Disabled (OPAD) to issue citations to violators.

According to the governor, these two provisions, in additional to increasing fine amounts “will help curb abuse and allow our disabled citizens the ability to use parking spaces designated to them.”

The preamble of the bill, introduced last Thursday in the Fono, echoes many police complaints lodged with the government, lawmakers as well as the local media over the years, and that is — “at times it is difficult to readily find drivers who unlawfully park in disabled parking stalls.”

“Enforcement is lacking because of weak and unclear statutes and lacking manpower,” the preamble says, adding that parking stalls designated for disabled individuals are required by law and a crucial benefit to facilitate access to public spaces.

Current law states that a person who parks illegally at designated parking spaces for the disable without a disabled person’s sticker issued by OPAD is guilty of a class C misdemeanor. Under the bill from administration, this provision is deleted.

And the bill outlined “mandatory” fines for violators. For example, first offense is $100; second offense at $200; and third offense at $300.

In additional to police officers, the bill says that the OPAD director may authorize his employees to issue citations provided that any person has the training and experience necessary to perform the job as determined in consultation with the Attorney General.

With the Fono currently concentrating its efforts on the fiscal year 2017 budget hearings, it’s unclear when lawmakers will review this bill but it’s probably going to happen after budget hearings end on Sept. 13.

The issue of cars — including at times ASG vehicles — parked in parking stalls designated for the disabled has been a long standing problem in American Samoa and there have been questions raised over the years as to who enforces this law.

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