Monday, April 05, 2010

Grits comments submitted on Driver Responsibility rules

Today is the deadline for commenting on proposed Department of Public Safety rules to create an indigency program for the Orwellian-named Driver Responsibility surcharge. Find Grits' complete comments and suggested amendments to the proposed rule here. (Special thanks to Amanda Marzullo at the Texas Fair Defense Project for her excellent, stalwart work on the amendment language. UPDATE: See Amanda's written comments on behalf of TFDP.)

I quite enjoyed writing Grits' comments, even sneaking in a quote from Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley declaring, “Regardless how we measure the program, it is a disaster. It is taxation masquerading as a public safety initiative.” On that, he and I couldn't agree more.

The main thrust of the comments, though, was to make an argument that more aggressively affording amnesty would serve both the state's revenue generation and public policy goals, since 1.2 million defaulted surcharge debtors aren't paying anything anyway, and since the state has an interest in getting those drivers relicensed and reinsured.

A public hearing will be held on April 26 at the capitol to discuss the proposal, but a time and room number have yet to be announced.

State Rep. Ruth Jones McLendon submitted comments as well; she offered these additional suggestions, which a staffer forwarded to me via email:
First, establish the DRP indigency level at the same level adopted by the Health and Human Service Commission for Medicaid eligibility, rather than establish a different 125% standard which would require independent verification. In so doing, the Department would eliminate most (if not all) of the need and the expense of contracting independently with a third party to verify the 125% eligibility level. While there might be a need for a DRP applicant to agree to release the records held by HHSC which establish their eligibility for participation in the Medicaid program, those existing governmental records should readily be verifiable without the need for a new and independent review. For those DRP applicants who are not participating in a program where their eligibility already has been established under HHSC program guidelines, the Department could conceivably handle this verification process within the agency by using existing personnel and resources, rather than expending resources on an outside contractor.

Second, the Department should establish a means by which a person who is in a position to pay the reduced fee through use of a credit card could do so. I agree that applicants should be provided up to 90 days to pay the reduced fee, in full, as proposed. However, it would be beneficial to the applicant and also to the Department to expedite payment of the reduced fee, by allowing an applicant who is able to do so to use a valid credit card to pay the relevant fee.


Anonymous said...

I'll sneak one in too:

"unrestrained and uneducated"

John Bradley,
Williamson County DA


Gritsforbreakfast said...

Gee, wonder where you found that quote? It's no secret that JB and I have occasionally expressed unkind opinions of one another, which is why I enjoyed the irony of quoting him approvingly on a matter where we happen to agree.

In practice, though it may not always appear that way, our agendas are not really 180 degrees opposed - more in the 90-degree range - and I've sometimes praised stances he's taken.

Anonymous said...

Hey man--it was a complete joke. Only absolute morons express unilateral and complete disagreement for others on every issue. Never thought you were that sort.

As far as Bradley is concerned, even a broken clock is right twice a day.


Anonymous said...

can you 'splain T11 and T12 to the less informed of us?

Anonymous said...

Only Jackass Da's think anybody that has an opinion other than thier own,need to be restrained.

Don said...

Scott: I teach DWI Education and DWI Intervention programs and my clients ask me about this all the time. So, in your opinion, what is the earliest date that anything will change? For people who are already in the backlog, and those who are just now getting into it? Would that be September 2011, or sometime sooner, that people might start seeing some relief from this idiotic "program".

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Don, here's the best case: After the April 26 public hearing, the PSC amends the rules along the lines suggested at the end of my testimony and there's significant relief by this fall.

Next best case: The PSC demands to improve the rules but DPS staff insists they must be re-published and a second public hearing held because the Amnesty program, etc., is outside the scope of the original rules. That could add several more months' delay.

The disappointing case: The PSC goes with the staff recommendation, refuses to strengthen the rules and approves only what's in front of them. Then people with incomes below 125% MIGHT get relief in the near future, but nobody else.

The worst case: They do nothing, and then only the 125% and below get relief (full-blown waivers of fees) after September 2011. In that unhappy circumstance, nothing would be done at all about the backlog, even for indigents; the reforms would only be prospective.

Of course, between now and the worst case is another legislative session and there's a lot of consensus that the program needs to be reformed, plus its most stalwart advocates (like Diane Delisi) are out of office.

Tx student said...

Is there any hope in changing the amount of money DPS charges for license reinstatement? The idea of indigency programs for those who have surcharges is great, however where is the justice for indigent people who just want their license back?

Anonymous said...

Alot of the people being persecuted under the DRP could not be verified by DHHS as they are precluded from entitlement programs by the legislature by law. Folks with a drug and DWI conviction cannot get food stamps or other help from DHHS. If you are a paroled child molester or a rapist you can, but not with a drug conviction.