BMV to resume late fees on Wednesday

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles is reminding Hoosiers that late fees will resume on Wednesday.

Those with expired driver's licenses, permits, state identification cards, and vehicle registrations need to complete renewal transactions before Wednesday to avoid paying a late fee. Title transactions and new vehicle registrations must also be completed before July 1.

Administrative penalty fees were waived earlier this year to aid Hoosiers and support the state's efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The BMV resumed walk-in service on June 15. Hoosiers can complete all transactions in a branch except driving skills exams. Beginning in early July, individuals who had a driving skill exam canceled due to the health emergency will be contacted to reschedule. The BMV anticipates opening new appointments for driving skills exams in late July.

State regulators deny utilities' bid for virus relief

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana regulators denied Monday a request from utilities to charge ratepayers for revenue the companies expect to lose because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission voted unanimously to deny the request by utilities, who had said they needed to recover millions of dollars in lost revenue over the last few months as businesses closed their doors and factories cut hours and used less electricity.

Duke Energy, NIPSCO, Vectren and other Indiana electric and gas companies had petitioned the commission for permission to recover revenue shortfalls.

"Asking customers to go beyond their obligation and pay for service they did not receive is beyond reasonable utility relief based on the facts before us," the commission said.

The utilities filed a 36-page petition with the IURC in May in which they claimed the effects of the pandemic, including government orders and businesses closing or moving to remote locations, "have resulted in significantly reduced load and revenues for some utilities."

The IURC also ruled Monday that disconnection suspensions across the state should be extended by 45 days past Tuesday's deadline through Aug. 14.

"Temporarily prohibiting disconnections ... is a balanced solution that allows both customers and utilities additional time to enter into reasonable payment arrangements to address any arrearages that may have accumulated and maintain essential utility services for the benefit of all customers, the utilities, and other stakeholders," the order said.

The commission doubled the minimum requirement for extended payment plans by requiring utility companies to offer payment plans of at least six months to all customers.

While customers won't be charged for electricity they didn't use, such as at a closed restaurant or bar, those who struggled to pay their utility bills because of a job loss or reduced income may have to pay more later.

The IURC decided to let utilities track the COVID-19 impacts on the prohibition of disconnections and late fees, "which may be considered for cost recovery in the future."

Virus pandemic spurring rise in RV sales

MUNSTER (AP) — Dealerships in northern Indiana that sell recreational vehicles are seeing a surge in demand for RVs as people eye summer road trips with their families in place of air travel and cruise ships amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Darryl Searer, president of the RV Museum and Hall of Fame, said RV manufacturers in Elkhart and southern Michigan have worked extensively to fulfill orders for customers tired of being stuck at home. He said RV industry saw record sales last month at dealerships in Wisconsin, Missouri, Colorado and Arizona.

"Millennials and young people with families are buying RVs," Searer told The (Northwest Indiana) Times. "We've been cooped up for 60 days and people want to travel with their own food and bed and schedule and be their own boss. You can take a RV to national parks or to tailgate at football games, whatever your passions are."

Inquiries have doubled and sales have increased by at least 50% at Recreation Plantation Inc. in Lynwood, just across the state line in Illinois. The RV dealership, family-owned for the past 33 years, is currently run by Ray, Leann and Brandon Benninger.

With the COVID-19 crisis, people see us as the only way to safely travel," Ray Benninger said.

Pam Argostino, president of Camp-World in Burns Harbor, said business has jumped by at least 10% to 15% from 2019.

"We're seeing a ton of traffic, a ton of people buying, and a ton of people making appointments, which we're doing now for safety," she said. "People are looking to get out to the campgrounds. It's crazy. We can't keep up."

An RV Industry Association survey projects that 46 million Americans will take an RV trip over the next year. About 51% of the survey's participants attributed their heightened interest in RV camping to health concerns.

"As states across America continue to open up, more and more consumers are looking for ways to get outdoors and recreate responsibly," RV Industry Association President Craig Kirby said. "RVs provide a great way for consumers to enjoy vacations with their families, while still adhering to social distancing policies that are likely to remain in place in some fashion moving forward."

Buttigieg to teach, do research at Notre Dame in 2020-21

SOUTH BEND (AP) — The University of Notre Dame has hired former South Bend mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg as a researcher and teacher for the 2020-2021 academic year.

The university announced last week that as a faculty fellow in the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study, Buttigieg will work on two research projects: one that explores how to restore trust in political institutions and another that considers the forces shaping the 2020s.

He joins a group of more than 30 faculty, graduate and undergraduate fellows who will conduct research on the nature of trust, the institute's 2020-2021 research theme, the South Bend Tribune reported.

He also will teach an undergraduate course on the importance of trust in different fields, the university said. The seminar draws on literature, politics, economics and philosophy, with guest experts participating.

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