Friday, August 06, 2010

Amnesty, Indigence rules for Driver Responsibility surcharge finally published

New rules for Amnesty, Indigence and Incentive program were issued by the Department of Public Safety in today's Texas Register for the Driver Responsibility Program. I'll have much more on this next week heading toward the upcoming House Public Safety Committee meeting on the subject.

The Amnesty program looks about as good as I could have hoped for and I'm really proud of everybody at DPS (and their bosses on the Public Safety Commission) for listening carefully to public criticism and thoughtfully responding to it. This could potentially help out a lot of desperate folks. The Indigence program is also a big improvement, though there's a good chance the truly indigent still won't be able to afford $250. Basically it's the same reduction offered to those under the more general Amnesty program available to everybody.

There is, however, an easily fixed glitch spotted by the talented and indefatigable Amanda Marzullo at the Texas Fair Defense Project: Because the proposed rules fail to waive surcharges for indigent drivers - as courts will be required to do beginning in September 2011 under Rep. Sylvester Turner's amendment -  there's a risk going forward that drivers might choose to seek relief through the courts instead of DPS' administrative program. That would be an unnecessary hassle for the courts and easily rectified by DPS waiving surcharges for indigents to match the relief that courts will be giving. Going forward, if DPS doesn't waive surcharges for indigent drivers, the Legislature will need to somehow reconcile the parallel programs in the courts and at the agency to avoid overburdening county-court judges.

It's disappointing that the incentive program won't be implemented right away, but when the economy bounces back, at least it will be on the books and perhaps the agency can implement it later. For my part I think estimates of large financial losses due to an incentive program - where drivers could pay a smaller lump sum up front instead of spread a larger amount over three years - are likely overstated. After all, so many are able to make their first payment but don't complete the final two in the out years. And since we're going to do something for drivers who defaulted, it's a shame not to also implement the program that benefits folks who played by the rules. But that's who the revenue comes from so DPS apparently decided they couldn't do so and keep their changes revenue neutral.

Perhaps next Spring, if there's not enough support to abolish the DRP entirely, the Lege should simply require DPS to implement the Incentive program, since it will already be on the books in the Administrative Code and vetted by stakeholders. It'd be a bit like a bowler picking up a spare. Who knows? Sure, I'd rather see the DRP abolished and will certainly continue to promote that option. But this program is in flux and there's still a lot of opportunity over the next 12 months to make it significantly more consumer friendly, at the very least, whether or not it's possible to get rid of it entirely during a major budget crunch.


celtictexan said...

Thanks Texas for keeping our roads safe. Its good to see these folks have the well being of all drivers as their formost concern.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Can't tell if you're being sarcastic, Celtic, but in the case of the Public Safety Commission in particular I'd actually second that. They decided public safety is more important than draconian punishment and created a proposal that reflects that.

Anonymous said...

This is great news Scott. Although, I'm still not certain how the proposed amnesty program will work for those, like myself, who have defaulted on their DRP payments. The following is an example of how I see it working for me.

I am currently in default for not making a single payment. Simply because the costs were never within my budget. Although now after saving for many, many months. I plan to begin paying my fees in September, (I simply can't wait eight more months until April to begin driving legally again).

Then this upcoming spring I expect to qualify for the amnesty program. And by that time, all of my prior payments will be greater than the $250 total required to be paid. Thus, effectively ending my financial obligation to the DRP.

Does this example demonstrate how the amnesty program will work? If not what differences should I expect?

Thank you for your help.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

6:49, I'm not a lawyer and I'm guessing here a bit, but if you actually pay enough in September to get your license reinstated, you may not be eligible for Amnesty.

Is it your understanding that if you get on a payment plan your license will be reinstated? If you've never paid anything, they could decide to consider you back in compliance (see here) for a single payment, which might make you ineligible for Amnesty. So tread carefully, but I certainly understand if you need your DL back before next spring.

Anonymous said...

It's a start:)

Anonymous said...

6:49 here again. Thanks for your reply.

Yes, you are right. I do need to begin a payment plan in order to get my suspension lifted and have my license reinstated. Without doing that first. I cannot get my car registered, tagged or have any insurance.

Actually, in reality I'm hoping to qualify for the "Indigency" program. Being that I'm living on Social Security disability income of less than $10,000 per year. I do have enough in savings to pay a part of my surcharge, but only for a few months. However, after that money is spent. I can by no means continue doing that or afford paying it in full.

Although even with that said the proposal states, "eligible individuals "may be" comprised of those currently paying and those not currently paying." Why is this point made so uncertain? It also says " The department may contract with a third-party for the verification of the information submitted. . ." Why is this necessary and how strict will their rules be?

It just seems they are making it very, very difficult for anyone to be approved for the "Indigency" program at all. Which in turn lead me to believe that qualifying for the "Amnesty" program would be a much simpler process. Wrong again I suppose.

Who if anyone can answer my questions? Perhaps Rebekah Hibbs or someone else at the Texas DPS or even the PSC itself? Everything about this is so frustrating. I just need more information and I quite simply don't know where to get it.

As always, any help or advice you can give me will be greatly appreciated, Scott. Thanks again.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

They probably have not worked out every detail yet. This is all happening at the level of agency rulemaking, after which policies, etc., will be established for implementation. Rebekah Hibbs might be your best bet, but some of these questions may not yet have definitive answers.

My sense is the indigence program may still end up being quite workable for you, but can make no promises. I'm sorry I don't have more specifics.

Anonymous said...

This is a law implemented to help politicians rich friends make money collecting the charges. I would ask how much money this company that collects gets to keep, and who owns it. This is a worthless law, the kind of thing that would make our founding fathers roll over in their graves, or revolt.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who has a drug charge. Texas suspended her DL for 6 months. It wasn't a driving offense. She doesn't have a car,a job. goes to probation 6 times a month. Probably has to get a SR 22 and on top of that has to pay DPS surcharge. She can either take the chance to drive with a suspended license or be stuck in a rut. So would amnesty apply to her?

Anonymous said...

I am for the DRP program, some of the money goes to trauma programs at hospitals to recoup some of the cost associated with carrying for DWI crash victims and other motor vehicle crash victims.

The DRP program is punishment for people who BREAK THE LAW. It allows the State to recoup the cost assoctioated with dealing with these law breakers. Examples, DWI, DUI, No Insurane, No Drivers License, Habitual Violators who constantly break the speed laws, cause traffic crashes, and fail to buckle up their children.

Follow the law and your license won't be suspended!

Anonymous said...

It has long puzzled me why the law requires an individual who has several vehicles to have LIABILITY insurance on EACH VEHICLE, when only one can be driven at a time, and the liability does not cover the driver's vehicle, but that of the other person involved in the accident. Is it just me, or are the insurance companies raping the public?
In the same vein, if an individual has an outrageous surcharge that he/she cannot afford to pay, but must use their vehicle to be able to work, we now have one more uninsured driver on the road who, even if he/she were maintaining insurance coverage during the period os license suspension, will not be covered by that insurance because insurance will not cover an unlicensed driver!
Would it not make more sense for there to be a yearly fee attached to one's driver license that gave the DRIVER, not the vehicle, LIABILITY coverage? It would be similar to a "non-owner liability policy" where the driver is covered operating any vehicle. I guess that would make too much sense.

From EJ to law-obiding Anonymous said...

I beleive that this law is rediculous because im not sure of the percentage thats going to highway construction and trauma hospitals but I can tell you this for sure its pennies on the dollar and that adds up when you are unfairly charged to pay 1500 a year for 3 years, now follow this. I was 18 at the time, now I have a kid and a divorce on my hands, im trying to get "right", and I cant afford to. Is this fair? I dont beleive so and im sure the other 2.3 million people(yes this number is accurate) in Texas with license suspensions for non-payment may also feel the same way.