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New Md. law cuts motorists some slack on unpaid video tolls

When the state moved to cashless tolls during the early days of the pandemic in 2020, the transition had a number of problems, including the wrong toll charges being recorded. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

Motorists subjected to penalties for unpaid video tolls will get some relief under a bill signed into law Monday.

The bill was one of 140 signed by Gov. Larry Hogan during a ceremony in Annapolis. It’s the second such ceremony in five days.

During the early days of the pandemic in 2020, the state expedited its move to cashless tolling. Motorists were encouraged and later required to use E-ZPass or a system that automatically bills based on digital images of license plates.

The system experienced a number of glitches.

In some cases, cars billed by video toll were charged more expensive tolls applied to larger commercial vehicles. A review by the Office of Legislative Audits found 7,700 customers who used the Ft. McHenry Tunnel in 2019 through April 2021 owed more than $84,000.

Others reported malfunctioning E-ZPass transponders.

Adding to the chaos, the agency paused sending bills on video tolls as a new company took over the contract.

Late last year, some motorists began to complain of large bills. In addition to the tolls, the state was tacking on $25 late fees for each unpaid toll. Failure to pay the tolls and fines could result in the suspension of driver’s licenses.

Many motorists complained they were unable to resolve their issues through the state’s website or by calling a customer service number. In February, the authority announced a nine-month grace period for motorists to catch up on tolls and civil penalties.

“Though the E-ZPass debacle has placed an unreasonable financial strain on several constituents for many months, by working together, the legislature has finally provided drivers across Maryland with a restorative solution,” said Sen. Cory McCray, D-Baltimore and sponsor of Senate Bill 59.

McCray’s bill, which takes effect on July 1, requires the authority to waive the civil penalties on video tolls when those tolls are paid. Additionally, the agency must refund those civil penalties already collected. The authority must also notify affected drivers by Oct. 1. A report to the General Assembly on the number of drivers affected is due Dec. 1.

McCray said he believes the bill “will bring forth much needed relief and refunds to all those unfairly impacted by excessive charges and video toll penalties.”

Another bill signed into law Monday will ease the costs of patients who require insulin injections.

House Bill 1397, sponsored by Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk, limits the copay on a 30-day supply of insulin to $30. The mandate is now one of more than four dozen benefits insurers are required to offer in Maryland.

“Maryland has been a national leader in making prescription drugs more accessible and affordable to its residents,” said Peña-Melnyk, D-Prince George’s and chair of the Health and Government Operations Committee. “This legislation is an example of our commitment to protect Marylanders from skyrocketing drug costs.”

The new law takes effect Jan. 1.