Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Back to the Drawing Board: DPS rewriting Driver Responsibility rules

Thanks to Paul Watkins and Rebekah Hibbs for allowing me to participate yesterday in the DPS working group on the Driver Responsibility rules regarding indigency, amnesty and incentive programs. The discussion centered mostly on concepts; they didn't get down to drafting language. But if the rules that ultimately go to the Public Safety Commission (PSC) follow our discussion yesterday, they'll be a dramatic improvement IMO over what was discussed at the public hearing.

Without going into details that would violate the spirit of open participation at such a meeting, there was a consensus on adding amnesty and incentive programs to the indigency program suggested previously, as well as on simplifying the indigency application process modeled on methods commonly used in courts and hospitals.

"Amnesty" won't mean a full-blown waiver of fees, but paying some amount - I hope they settle on $250 with a payment plan option, so it's actually affordable - to allow people to get their driver's license reinstated and become reinsured. Much higher and I suspect you'd significantly lower the participation rate.

There was some discussion regarding whether DWIs should be included in amnesty and incentive programs, and I don't know which way the agency will go. Drunk drivers are unpopular and no politician ever lost an election larding extra punishments onto them. But from a practical perspective, the teaching hospital representative agreed, if that drunk continues to drive anyway, it's better if they're insured so if they're in an accident the hospital costs will be covered. Disallowing drunk drivers from the program would maximize the risk that harms they cause won't be covered by insurance. By contrast, letting them secure amnesty gives drunk drivers incentives for compliance with auto-insurance mandates. We're only talking about a small portion of those affected by the DRP: About 3% of surcharges are for DWI.

Another interesting discussion related to timing. Ms. Hibbs said that most defaulted drivers who pay off their fees do so between February and April each year, when people receive their tax refunds (which is kind of sad, when you think about it). Assuming rewritten rules go to the Public Safety Commission by July, which would be the earliest feasible date, DPS conceivably could roll out these programs by the end of the year. That would be perfect timing to do a public-ed program to market amnesty, in particular, to the 1.2 million defaulted drivers who owe back surcharges just as tax season arrives and they're most likely to pay. The vendor handling collections for DPS already is spending massive sums to contact drivers owing surcharges by mail and phone. If they use those tools to market the amnesty program, the state and trauma hospitals might actually see a significant one-time revenue boost next spring.

It pleased me greatly that hospital reps came to the meeting seemingly cognizant that the program had serious problems and ready to seek solutions. Ironically, enacting these rules could actually save the program if legislators who previously demanded its abolition think the agency fixed its problems. So there's an element of enlightened self-interest going on with their position, but however it came about I'm glad for it. Neither the representative from the Texas Hospital Association nor the teaching hospitals expressed opposition to the direction being discussed for the rules. The THA rep said her group would be taking a formal position on the subject in July.

We may learn more how DPS intends to implement these concepts when staff briefs the commission at their meeting later this week (see the agenda). My sense from yesterday's discussion was that revised rules will likely go back to the PSC sometime this summer.


John said...

I am one of those drunk drivers. I have paid my debts to society, exept for these DPS surcharges and it will stay that way until it becomes more affordable. I understand that DWI is a major offence and should not be taken lightly, but I have been sober for four years now and I need a way to become legal again. I owe 7500 in back surcharges and my min payment is 500+ Dollars a month. I make 30,000 a year with two kids and a wife. Its just not in the budget. I pray everyday that this nightmare will end soon.

Anonymous said...

I pray with you John. I also pray for the death of those who created this.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Uh, that's a little over the top, 2:10 ... as we ask for a little Christian forgiveness from the Public Safety Commission, perhaps it'd be a good idea to also exhibit some.

Anonymous said...

Once again Scott, thank you for keeping us updated. The coverage about this subject in the mainstream media is scant and pitiful at best.

And although I am hopeful a more complete plan to fix this problem will finally be resolved in the near future. What happens with the currently proposed indigency rules before the PSC (it's taken far too long to get to this point already)? Can't they adopt these rules and roll them out as they are now. Then as needed add more sweeping revisions at a later date?

It seemed their plan was to help the needy and less fortunate first. Rightfully so since the indigent are most likely to never afford paying these fees anyway. Why not just put an end this financial nightmare now?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

We're asking that the indigency program also be revised, in particular to make the application process use current information and avoid delays and added bureaucracy. They could move forward on indigence only, but they still need to be updated from what was published in the Register.

Anonymous said...

Great work here as always Scott!

With your expert knowledge of the DRP and ongoing work within the PSC perhaps you provide me with some much needed answers that I cannot find anywhere else.

My situation is this - I have one DWI conviction from Dec. 2003 and have not driven since. I never entered/defaulted on any payment plan, because I simply could not afford it. Now I am considered "indigent" under HHSC guidelines while living on social security disability for over the past year.

Will any of the proposed changes or rewriting of the "Driver Responsibility rules" affect me? What if any changes will be retroactive to past offenders?

Even HB 2730 that will waive surcharges for indigents after September 1, 2011 does not appear to be helpful either. I thought if I were to afford entering a payment plan now. That by Sept. '11 the rest of the debt would be forgiven.

However, it seems that outside of a very forgiving Amnesty Plan that there will be no financial relief for anyone anytime soon. Although I do hope that I am wrong about this.

Thanks for any information you can provide me.

Anonymous said...

well it finely happened ,i have over ten thousand in surcharges and now i can not pay the 1100 i owe marble falls , Ive been paying the state thousands of dollars a year. but cannot afford the minimum payments of surcharges , so after trying and trying i'm giving up on paying the ticket fines , so there will be a warrant out for my arrest soon , but they will never Get me because i will NEVER leave my house!!!!!!!

i am moving in with my mother , i can no longer afford to support myself working minimum wage.

I'm almost sick with fear and hate , I don't want to live like this anymore a slave to the greedy state. Ive been pulled over 3 times in six months and will not Try and drive to WORK anymore. I plan to quit my job , move in with my mother and quit trying anything. Probably drink myself to death , i hope that's a lot better then ending up in a mental ward or prison. And to think all this came from one no insurance ticket THAT'S IT!!!!!!! I am so angry , anything i might say could be taken as a threat , so i just say you wont have to worry about this Person anymore , he will soon be off your Books as DEAD , drank himself to death in his depression and self pity ! i give up this has been a 7 year HELL and my 140 IQ will not save me in this situation

John said...

Whoa! Hey 11:00am. Slow down a bit. This John I posted earlier about being a drunk driver and I can certianly understand your pain. Before you completly give up, you can always default on court payments and go like that until you get warrants. Then turn yourself in. Sit out the fines and get straight with the Texas Justice System. Fuck the DRP! Once you get straight with the TJS you are back to square one just like me (exept for the DRP). By then, Hopfully they will have fixed this P.O.S. program and you can get on with your life. I am sure you have people that care for you, right?

Innervoid said...

TO john

Thanks john Those are helpful words. I just like a lot of people living my life paycheck to paycheck. I am Leaving my girlfriend and moving in with my mother , Just so i can pay my fines for DWLI and no insurance. But i still will drive everyday 6 miles to work , and i;m sure i will get pulled over again , so no its never going to stop. I have to drive to make money , i can't walk 7 miles with heart problems. so maybe i need to lay off my drinking and anger , but really its not the problem in my life , I feel for you with a DWI on your record. Ive never been convected of anything more then a class c mister-minor. Ive always tried to be a good person. But this program really does Turn good people into crooks. I wish only bad for myself
, Ive suffered form depression for years and years , its gets better in time , but i just do not have the will to fight while I'm caught up in myself. SO i push the problems further and ask for pain. Sure my mom and family loves me , can't stand me but they love me and all have tried to help me for the 29 years of my life. But none of them can help me with this , i just hope i can scrape enough money to move to Austin and ride the evil bus system. I can only hope it works out.

STOP filling our prisons for economic Crimes! I guess my next step is to move from Texas and to the last state that repealed There Driver surcharges .

Perry is a dictator , We had a bill that would not allow the police to arrest us for class c crimes and he VETOED IT!!!! not just once but twice!!!

Texas is a State of slavery , ester your a slave in a profit prison , or your stuck working for a large company through a Temp service performing college level jobs for less the 8 bucks an hour.

i was born here and have no pride or respect for this Hell

Anonymous said...

I have been trying to take care of tickets over the last year and have knocked most of them out. These tickets go back 5 years. I'm guessing I've knocked out about 3000.00 in tickets. I did jail time because I refuse to pay a ticket off and then get sur- charged for it again. Jail sucks but it beats slaving my life away to pay off this greedy state. For one 875.00 ticket,I did 24 hours jail time and then did 3 days of working 21 hours total cleaning the visitation section of the jail. And I cleared those tickets. Now I worry that in order to get my drivers license back,they're gonna stick me with thousands of dollars in surcharges.I'm trying to get my life organized and I don't see a light at the end of the tunnel.