The number of handicapped-accessible parking placards issued in Kentucky has skyrocketed over the last few years, and one state lawmaker wants to crack down on issuing the permits.
Senate Bill 61, which would limit one parking placard per person, passed unanimously in the Senate Thursday.
The state issued just under 33,000 handicapped-accessible parking permits in 2008, and that number skyrocketed to almost 294,000 in 2016, according to the bill’s sponsor Sen. Ernie Harris.
“So it was obvious there was a lot of fraud and abuse in the system, and it just had to be brought under control,” Harris said. “Because everyone of us has been to a parking lot, and seen some able-bodied person get out of a car in a handicap area, and walk unencumbered to a store or restaurant.”
Gisela Davis, 74, and her 78-year-old husband, Gordan, use handicapped-accessible parking.
Gisela said she supports the bill’s effort to reduce the issuing of handicapped-accessible parking permits to those who do not truly need them.
"Those people need to be punished because there are a lot of people out here who do need it,” she said.
The bill would also require a $10 fee for handicapped-accessible parking placards, and placards would be assigned to the individual, not the vehicle.
“I think some of the abuse was the fact if someone has two or three vehicles, they would get two or three cards,” Harris said.
If enacted, the bill would require applicants to provide validation from a medical professional.
“A medical professional -- whether it’s a doctor, chiropractor, physical therapist -- someone with medical training has to validate that this person is either permanently or temporarily disabled,” Harris said.
Current permit holders, even those who are permanently disabled, have to renew every two years. This bill would do away with that, Harris said, and placards would be effective for six years.
Harris said the bill would also help facilities that transport disabled people to obtain handicapped-accessible parking placards for their vehicles.
“It’s just trying to tighten the rules down, because to go from 33,000 to 290,000 in just a few years is just obviously rampant fraud and abuse of the system,” Harris said.
A parent or guardian of a minor can obtain a placard with a doctor’s statement and proof of guardianship.
The bill will go to the House in the coming weeks for consideration, Harris said.
Regardless of the bill passing, the Davis’ said they will still do their part to help those in need.
"It's harder for us to walk, but we still try to leave it open for those who really need it,” Gordan said.