Oklahoma Supreme Court strikes down fees on hybrid, electric vehicles, says
Legislature passed them unconstitutionally
Oct 24, 2017  Barbara Hoberock

Document: Oklahoma Supreme Court rules HB1449 unconstitutional

Justices say they were passed unconstitutionally

[image]  A MiEV, which stands for Mitubishi innovative Electric Vehicle, is
driven during a demonstration of electric cars in downtown Tulsa.  / CORY
YOUNG/Tulsa World file

OKLAHOMA CITY — The fees that lawmakers slapped on sales of electric and
hybrid vehicles last session were thrown out by the Oklahoma Supreme Court
on Tuesday.

House Bill 1449 put a yearly fee of $100 on electric cars and a $30 fee on
hybrid vehicles. It was to take effect Nov. 1.

In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled the measure unconstitutional.

The fees were expected to generate slightly more than $1 million, which
would have been deposited into the State Highway Construction and
Maintenance Fund.

The Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club filed suit on Aug. 7, alleging that
the fees were passed unconstitutionally.

Revenue-raising measures can’t be passed in the last five days of a
legislative session and must receive a supermajority vote in both chambers
or go to a vote of the people.

House Bill 1449, called the Motor Fuels Tax Fee, passed during the last week
of the session without the supermajority.

“It is clear that the principal object of House Bill 1449 is to raise
revenue,” the court’s opinion said.

The justices said the bill did not state a regulatory purpose or intent to
support the state’s claim that it was an equalization measure to make up for
lost gasoline tax revenue.

The court said a tax is levied to provide revenue to support government or
for the payment of public services. A fee, on the other hand, is
compensation for a regulatory service, the court said. Fees should be tied
to the cost of the service, the court said.

The court said there are no regulations in the bill except to prohibit
registration of a vehicle if the fee is not paid.

“A taxpayer who pays the Motor Fuels Tax Fee may never drive on the road, or
may drive only a small fraction of miles each year, making their assessment
effectively higher per mile than gasoline-drive vehicles bringing the
reasonableness of the apportionment into question as well,” the opinion

The court said the Legislature can impose a tax on electric and hybrid
vehicles but would have to follow the constitutional requirements to do so
“because the people have insisted that legislative measures ‘intended to
raise revenue’ — i.e., those whose primary effect is to reach into the
people’s pockets to take more money to fund state government — be
significantly more difficult to enact than other types of legislation.”

Earlier this year the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down Senate Bill 845,
which created a $1.50 smoking-cessation fee. The measure, which was expected
to generate $215 million, was struck down along the same lines as the
current case.

Gov. Mary Fallin said she was disappointed by the court’s ruling, but she
noted that the Legislature is already working on how to adjust from the
shortfall created by the court’s finding on the proposed smoking-cessation

Document: Oklahoma Supreme Court rules HB1449 unconstitutional
House Bill 1449 put a $100 fee on electric-drive motor vehicle registration
and a $30 fee on hybrid-drive motor vehicle registrations. It was …
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