Public Safety Commission Meeting
April 26, 2010, 3:00 p. m. – 7:00 p.m.
Senate Committee Hearing Room E1.028, and Room E1.016 for overflow
State Capitol Extension Bldg.
Austin , TX 78701
The Public Safety Commission will convene as posted to receive and consider public comment from all interested persons regarding adoption of proposed new 37 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) §15.163 and repeal of existing 37 TAC§15.163 regarding the Driver Responsibility Amnesty, Incentive and Indigence Program. The proposals are made under the authority of Texas Transportation Code, §708.157. The proposals were published in the March 5, 2010, issue of the Texas Register (35 TexReg 1940).
The hearing will be structured for the receipt of oral or written comments by interested persons. Individuals may present oral statements when called upon in order of registration. Each individual will be allotted 5 minutes for an oral statement. Those speaking may also turn in written comments. There will be no open discussion during the hearing. No formal action will be taken in this meeting.
Persons with disabilities who plan to attend this meeting and who may need auxiliary aids or services such as interpreters for persons who are deaf or hearing impaired, readers, large print, Braille, are requested to contact Rebekah Hibbs at (512) 424-2953, three work days prior to the meeting so that appropriate arrangements can be made.
So mark it on your calendar if you want to attend, and I'd encourage anyyone who cares about this subject to do so. Note that written comments not submitted during the comment period may still be submitted at the hearing along with oral testimony.
I realize most folks affected by this can't attend a hearing at the capitol for the same reason it's difficult to pay the surcharge: They have to earn a living. But this bad law has cost 1.2 million Texans their drivers' licenses, and if there's a chance to create a path to legality for a large number of those folks, it's worth taking the time to come tell your story.
Regular readers know that DPS staff proposed what I consider a rather chincy, minimalist reform to the Orwellian-named Driver Responsibility program instead of using the authority given them by the Legislature to fix the DRP's biggest flaws. In Grits' comments to the PSC on these rules was suggested a set of proposed amendments developed in collaboration with Amanda Marzullo at the Texas Fair Defense Project to improve the rules in four key ways, what we'll call (for lack of a better name) the "Texas Driver Redemption Amendments":
- Create an Amnesty program to clear up noncompliance backlog
- Use accurate documentation for the indigency application process
- Make language comply with 2011 statute waiving surcharges for indigents
- Create incentives to encourage compliance for other low-income drivers
These changes wouldn't solve all the program's problems, but they'd make a good faith stab at muting the most off-key elements of its performance. Personally I'd prefer the DRP were abolished, but the Public Safety Commission doesn't have authority to do that. These amendments instead ask the PSC to go as far as they're able, within the limits of existing legal and budget strictures, to fix the worst problems associated with the surcharge.
More to come on this topic between now and the April 26 hearing, less than two short weeks away.
RELATED: Somebody forwarded me a link to a MySpace page devoted to opposing the Texas Driver Responsibility surcharge. Page creator Mary Moody had paid her fines, then four years later her license was suspended because she'd never paid a "surcharge" she said she'd never heard about. In a YouTube video she holds up her paperwork in frustration and confusion, saying she'd paid all fines and penalties related to her offense. Needing her license, she acquiesced. But after getting on a payment plan, a late payment got her license suspended again. There's little doubt Mary's story has played out similarly for hundreds of thousands of Texas drivers. April 26 is their chance to tell somebody about it.
Also, Tamara Shippy's e-petition to repeal the DRP had 4,135 signatures at last count; add yours if you haven't signed it.
See related, Grits posts:
- Driver surcharge boosting Texas joblessness
- Grits comments submitted on Driver Responsibility rules
- Unexplored costs from DPS surcharge harm safety, the economy
- Comments due soon on Driver Responsibility rules
- Bill author says 'overly punitive' Driver responsibility surcharge a 'mistake'
- Indigency rules for Driver Responsibility surcharge published in Texas Register
- New Driver Responsibility rules unveiled today at DPS
- Some Texans want an end to Driver Responsibility program, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
- Lawmaker seeks to repeal DPS surcharge on certain traffic tickets, KVUE-Austin
- Critics: Law puts drivers on road to ruin, Houston Chronicle
- Driven to Repeal, The Texas Tribune
- State lawmakers consider repeal of Driver Responsibility Act, Fox34-News Lubbock
- Hefty surcharges for Texas drivers with violations to mostly uncollected, Dallas News