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Rules for disabled parking placards in California about to get tougher

An undercover DMV officer at the Glendale Galleria. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
An undercover DMV officer at the Glendale Galleria. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Months after an audit found widespread problems with the program providing disabled parking placards in California, Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday approved legislation aimed at preventing fraud.

"We must make sure the drivers who need this important program have access to the benefits it provides — and block scofflaws and fraudsters from gaming the system," Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), who authored the bill, said after the governor's action.

A state audit in April found the California Department of Motor Vehicles isn't making sure that people issued placards for disabled parking should actually have them. The agency hasn't canceled tens of thousands of the permits issued to people who have died, which has allowed some placards to be misused by family members, the audit concluded.

The legislation Brown signed requires the DMV to annually compare its record of disabled placards against the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File as well as state databases of the deceased.

The measure, Senate Bill 611, also requires quarterly audits of applications for placards that will cross check them with medical records, and mandates that those applying provide proof of their true full name and date of birth.

Hill's legislation also prohibits the DMV from issuing replacement placards to the same individual more than four times in a two-year period. Those who apply more than four times in two years must submit a new certificate of disability.

Those issued permanent placards will have to renew the permit every six years.

The state has 2.9 million placards and disabled license plates in service that allow motorists with medical disabilities to park in disabled parking spots and curbside in metered areas.

Auditors found most applications they reviewed "did not include sufficient medical information to demonstrate that the applicant qualified."

As a result, up to 1.1 million applications may have been issued from July 2013 through June 2016 without sufficient information to demonstrate that the applicant was qualified for a permit, the audit concluded.

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