Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Prayer for relief: Bill to abolish Driver Responsibility surcharge

By popular demand, I give you SB 93 by Rodney Ellis to abolish the "Driver Responsibility" surcharge. Several readers have asked me whether abolition legislation had been filed yet, so there you go. It has been referred to the Transportation Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Robert Nichols. Last session, state Rep. Larry Gonzales filed legislation in the House to get rid of the surcharge, but a quick check finds nothing comparable so far. If a senator who represents you is on that committee (find out who represents you at this link if you don't know), you may want to give their office a call and let them know you support Ellis' bill.

Most of the money in the DRP accounts was finally released to trauma centers during the last biennium, I discovered this week, and going forward they can expect about $55 million per year from the surcharge at current (stubbornly, pathetically low) collection rates. The shortest distance between two points would be for the Lege to just pony up that amount for trauma centers from the multi-billion dollar surplus they've got in front of them and get rid of the surcharge in its entirety. That might take more political will than is present; there a lot of new members this session and many of them have never closely considered the surcharge issue, even though it has impacted millions of Texas drivers. Still, it's worth a try.

BTW, if you or someone you know (including clients or folks you've encountered in a professional capacity) have a story to tell about how the Driver Responsibility surcharge has impacted them, go here to share it with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, which will choose the greatest hits for materials to help advocate for abolition of the surcharge.


ReıD said...

Thank you for providing these links. I recently helped my 70% disabled veteran brother attempt to gather all the paperwork required to even attempt to claim indigent (the cut-offs are very low!). All of this is caused from him being unable to afford the [additional!] fees, just to keep his license. His car is barely hanging on, just like him!

Story has been told, mailed in a real letter to his senator, unfortunately not on the committee =|

Anonymous said...

See 708.158 of the Transportation Code to have a Judge in the County where the offense occurred to make an indigency determination and get surcharges wiped out completely. Usually easier than going through DPS and I have heard DPS does a sliding scale and does not wipe them out but I have not confirmed this. This has been opposed in the past by EMS folks that benefit from surcharge money. I think Grits has reported in the past the MADD and the original proponent of surcharges support getting rid of them now as they have not worked as intended. The session this was first introduced it was left out of the budget accidentally and that was the year teachers got screwed and so they weren't going to go back and take more money from teachers as many would have seen it.

Brad Walters said...

I have family members who run staffing agencies. Applicants come in daily and apply for temp to permanent jobs. Many do not qualify because employers need to be sure their employees can get to work and help them on any shift. Their experience tells them if they are dependent upon others for transportation they are no shows more frequently. Because these people cannot afford surcharges to get their licenses back they are chronically unemployed. If you think you are not paying more to support these people than the surcharges bring in to the state you might find that this practice is costing the state more than it brings in due to lost sales tax revenue and welfare payments.

Anonymous said...

Amen Brad Amen

trish said...

My license had been suspended for 4 yrs an I have for kids an can't get a job so I can take care of them. I have to depend on my family to help me get back an forth to Dr appointments an to the store so I can get food. An I am on food stamp. It hurts when u can't work an buy ur kids stuff that they want, an have to depend on other people who have lives too.