Illinois Emissions Tests—And Reminders—Are Back Again

By: Bridget Clerkin June 13, 2016
Emissions testing requirements have been reinstated in Illinois.
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Need to renew your registration in Illinois? You’ll have to get in line—and it may take a while.

Illinois drivers are now required to have an emissions test performed on their vehicle before they can renew their registration.

It sounds like a routine regulation, but it’s the second time this year the Prairie State has made an about-face on the issue. And drivers scrambling to meet the new requirement have flocked to the state’s testing centers, setting off a series of traffic jams in Chicago and surrounding suburbs earlier this month.

The problem stems from a different type of gridlock: the one going on in the Illinois statehouse.

An ongoing scuffle over budget issues culminated late last year in the decision to save money by having the state’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stop mailing notices about vehicle emissions testing requirements to residents with a renewal on the horizon.

To help even the playing field, the Secretary of State’s office declared in March a temporary halt to the pre-renewal emissions testing requirement. That halt was itself put to a stop on June 1, once the Illinois EPA convinced emissions testing company Applus Technologies, Inc. to begin mailing the notices instead.

But it’s not the first time the state’s monetary problems have resulted in havoc for vehicle owners. A budget-minded move last September to cease mailing registration renewal reminders reportedly helped save the state $450,000 per month.

The idea ended up being doubly beneficial for ailing Illinois coffers—but not nearly as helpful for vehicle owners—as more than 100,000 residents missed their renewal deadlines after the mailers were stopped, and the resulting fees poured in, to the tune of $3.5 million in the first four months of 2016.

For their part, the IL Secretary of State’s office has denounced the ill-gotten gains and encouraged residents to sign up for digital reminders instead—advice that nearly 2.1 million Illinois citizens have taken. Meanwhile, state lawmakers have introduced a bill that would suspend the fines until reminder mailing resumed. Despite unanimous support from government officials, the bill has moved slowly through the statehouse and has yet to be passed.

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