People who have had their driver’s license suspended for failing to pay certain fees to the state have a chance to settle up for just a fraction of what they owe.Regrettably, DPS tells me it has no funds available to notify the 650,000 drivers who're eligible for amnesty. I find that stance frustrating because the vendor who runs the program - Municipal Services Bureau - already sends dunning notices and followup phone calls to delinquent surcharge owers. Why not just have the vendor change the messaging in the ongoing collections communication they're already doing to notify eligible drivers of Amnesty opportunities? I don't think it would cost more, it would just require crafting messages in ongoing communications to reflect recent DPS rule changes. For whatever reason, though, that's not going to happen.
The Texas Department of Public Safety has launched an amnesty initiative for the state’s Driver Responsibility Program. It requires people convicted of certain driving violations to pay an annual surcharge to maintain their driver’s license.
People who qualify for amnesty will only have to pay 10 percent of the surcharges they owe, up to a maximum of $250, said DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange. Any previous payments people have made will count toward the new total, meaning some will have the slate wiped clean as soon as they apply, she said.
Statewide, about 650,000 people are eligible for amnesty, Mange said. Between them, they have about 3 million instances of unpaid surcharges, she said.
“We want them to become legal, licensed drivers,” Mange said. “It’s important for people to be licensed and to be able to purchase insurance because we all have to drive with them.”
To be eligible for the program, people must be delinquent on one or more surcharges assessed between Sept. 30, 2004, and Dec. 31, 2008. That period was chosen because it accounts for the bulk of unpaid surcharges, Mange said.
In any event, please help spread the word, Grits readers, in any venue available to you: Amnesty applications can be filled out at www.txsurchargeonline.com or by calling 877-207-3170.
Indeed, that goes double for bloggers and newspaper, radio and TV reporters and editors reading Grits: If DPS is not going to publicize the amnesty programs beyond a press release or two, please consider performing the same public service as the Trib for those 650,000 Texans (or at least the subset among your viewership - we're talking about 4% of drivers) who would benefit from applying for Amnesty.
Grits along with the Texas Fair Defense Project and other allies fought for more than a year to convince DPS to offer this Amnesty opportunity, and they may not do it again any time soon. It'd be a shame if participation rates were low because word just never gets out about the program.
Of course, in an ideal world all of that would be moot if Rep. Leo Berman's HB 299 passed and abolished the DRP program altogether. Until that happy day, though, the amnesty program, not to mention the indigency program which will follow it, are a tremendous boon to Texas drivers owing surcharges who heretofore couldn't afford to get street legal. All I can say to them is: Please, for heaven's sake, after all the effort it took to get the rules changed, take advantage of the opportunity!
See related Grits posts:
- DPS announces amnesty, indigence programs for Driver Responsibility surcharge
- Declining DWI convictions and the unmitigated failure of the Driver Responsibility surcharge
- Federal suit filed to declare Driver Responsibility surcharge unconstitutional
- Does DRP amnesty punish those who play by the rules?
- Finally! Indigence, Amnesty rules approved for Driver Responsibility Program
- DPS Director: No public safety benefit from Driver Responsibility Surcharge
- Amnesty, Indigency rules for Driver Responsibility Program finally published
- Prosecutors altering charging decisions to avoid Driver Responsibility surcharge
- Driver surcharge boosting Texas joblessness
- Unexplored costs from DPS surcharge harm safety, the economy
- Driver Responsibility surcharge 'devastating' for court system
- Bill author says 'overly punitive' Driver Responsibility surcharge a 'mistake'
- Grits' petition for new Driver Responsibility rules filed today