Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Keel stops draconian license-suspension policy

I've been giving Austin Rep. Terry Keel a hard time lately about criminalizing camera phones in movie theaters, but I sure was glad to hear he shot down HB 1081 by Driver yesterday on the House floor. That legislation would have suspended the drivers license for people who failed to appear before a magistrate after receiving a traffic ticket.

Since most people charged with failure to appear simply didn't have the money to pay their tickets, HB 1081 would disproportionately affect the poor, piling additional hardships on top of an already obviously unbearable financial burden.

ACLU and other civil rights groups missed the bill as it made its way through committee, where it passed without opposition, but Keel stepped up from out of nowhere, I'm told, to expertly argue it down. It was postponed until May 4 -- not technically dead, but not likely to move this session, either.

Since I've been critical about his committee's passage of new penalty enhancements, it behooves me to offer a hearty "thank you" to Chairman Keel when he's fighting the good fight. In this case, he did the state a great mitzvah.

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