First, it has a motivated senate sponsor. Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire had filed legislation to abolish the surcharge entirely after his committee studied the issue in an interim charge. Since this bill appears to be the only reform the surcharge will see this session, I was glad to see him pick it up after it passed the House as amended on the floor. Second, it has been posted for a hearing tomorrow in the Transportation and Homeland Security Committee Committee, meaning there's plenty of time for it to pass. Other bills related to abolishing the surcharge were all sent to the Finance Committee, a sort of purgatory as an homage to how much money the surcharge brings in. But this bill was better-positioned by senate leadership to move through the process. Finally, the Legislative Budget Board gave it an "insignificant" fiscal note - a rare moment when that particular legislative fiction may benefit reform. For those not steeped in bureaucrat-ese, that means LBB doesn't project significant losses so the Lege won't be required to account for in the budget.
We'll perhaps know more about its prospects after tomorrow's hearing. Of course, I'd rather see them abolish the surcharge entirely, as would Sen. Whitmire. But for now, this innocuous little bill would potentially reduce surcharges for hundreds of thousands of drivers (which is a lot better than nothing if you're one of them), and so far it continues to churn its way through the process. Keep your fingers crossed.
See related Grits posts:
- Amendment tells DPS: Implement incentive rules for Driver Responsibility surcharge
- Hospitals: Driver Responsibility surcharge an unreliable funding source
- Bill to abolish Driver Responsibility surcharge gets hearing Tuesday
- What's the one thing John Whitmire and Leo Berman have in common?
- Declining DWI convictions and the unmitigated failure of the Driver Responsibility surcharge
- Federal suit filed to declare Driver Responsibility surcharge unconstitutional
- DPS Director: No public safety benefit from Driver Responsibility Surcharge
- 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'