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Editorial: Tags should be available to needy

Monday, a Miami judge ordered the state to refund money collected for paid handicapped parking permits because the fee violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

However, with the fee gone, other rules should be put into place so that the privilege of receiving a tag is not abused.

Federal law has prohibited the sale of handicapped tags since 1992. However, Florida continued to charge up to $15 per permit. This is not a large amount of money, but it discouraged some drivers from pursuing tags.

Some drivers cited financial constraints as a reason for not buying tags, but the fee probably also discouraged people lying about their disabilities and others seeking to abuse the system.

Lifting the fee may allow such people to buy a tag who wouldn’t have otherwise tried because of the fee.

One good outcome of this reversal is it will allow older people on limited budgets and Social Security the means to get a tag. This is a privilege and should be treated as such. The price for the tag was minimal and was also a way of showing that the tag is a privilege.

The elderly and disabled deserve a way to both preserve their health and dignity by obtaining the handicapped parking tags, but too often, others who do not deserve them receive tags and ruin a good thing for those who need it.

Already, it is difficult for handicapped people to find parking spaces because of the large number of Floridians who have the tag. Without a fee, the number of handicapped tags may rise from the already high 177,428 that were issued during 1999-00.

The state should take this opportunity to develop a better system for ensuring that recipients of the handicapped tags truly are in need and deserving of them.