Friday, August 21, 2009

DPS to propose its own Driver Responsibility "indigency" program alongside (instead of?) citizen petition

I'm headed up this morning for a meeting of the Texas Public Safety Commission to discuss the Driver Responsibility Program and Grits' recently submitted petition for rulemaking during their public comment period. (On good authority, I understand state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso is coming to the meeting to talk to the Commission on the same topic.) I also had a conversation yesterday with DPS General Counsel Stuart Platt, who informed me that the agency would be unveiling its own, alternative Indigency rules today, though he would reveal no details and declined to forward me a draft copy ahead of time. He said the rules would be presented to the Commission during Item C under "Ongoing Business" on the PSC agenda, which is captioned:
Presentation, discussion and possible action regarding the Drivers License Division-Driver Responsibility Program, to include discussion of the Vendor Management HQ-08-37 contract extension; Legislative intent for DRP implementation; possible action to develop an incentive, indigence, and amnesty program for drivers charged with DRP fees; and vendor results for collection under the contract.
Having not seen the alternative proposal I can't say much about it, but it's my hope that Commissioners will go ahead and approve the citizen petitioners' request for a public hearing on the proposed rules, at a minimum putting both proposals in the Texas Register for public comment instead of just the General Counsel's. They can always amend them however they like down the line.

My fear is that DPS will propose only an Indigency program - and a more chincy one than will be mandated by law in 2011 - and ignore their statutory authority to also create real Amnesty and Incentive Programs, which help a lot more people and resolve some of the administrative problems created by a large backlog.

I also fear the staff proposal won't include the suggested rule change to allow drivers to get their license reinstated by getting back on to a surcharge payment plan. Right now if someone defaults and their license is suspended, they must pay the surcharge back in full before reinstatement. We're talking about hundreds of thousands of drivers who find themselves in this financial predicament. Those who can afford to pay, do so. Those who can't often choose just to drive without a license or insurance.

That's why I've often called the name of this surcharge - the "Driver Responsibility Program" - "Orwellian," because it actually promotes driver IR-responsibility on a massive scale and worsens public safety.

That said, I just haven't seen their proposal yet. I'll know more later today.

I'm going to get off the blog and get ready for the meeting, and will report on the results when I get back. In the meantime, see these prior Grits posts on the proposed citizen petition and the Driver (Ir)Responsibility Program:


Poor and Angry said...

go get em

~jackie~ said...

My son literally ended up on SS disability because of these laws. He couldn't work because he couldn't get there legally. He couldn't pay for health insurance because he couldn't work, and he ended up 10 years behind on child support. Who wins in this scenario??

Anonymous said...

Please keep us posted! Also-Anyone interested should look for the petition to sign against this garbage: "Texas DRP" This needs to stop!