Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Incentive program for Driver Responsibility surcharge up in Senate committee tomorrow

Three pieces of good news about HB 588, which would require the Texas Department of Public Safety to implement its "incentive" rules for the Driver Responsibility surcharge - rules that long-time readers will recall are already in the Administrative Code but have not yet been implemented.

First, it has a motivated senate sponsor. Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire had filed legislation to abolish the surcharge entirely after his committee studied the issue in an interim charge. Since this bill appears to be the only reform the surcharge will see this session, I was glad to see him pick it up after it passed the House as amended on the floor. Second, it has been posted for a hearing tomorrow in the Transportation and Homeland Security Committee Committee, meaning there's plenty of time for it to pass. Other bills related to abolishing the surcharge were all sent to the Finance Committee, a sort of purgatory as an homage to how much money the surcharge brings in. But this bill was better-positioned by senate leadership to move through the process. Finally, the Legislative Budget Board gave it an "insignificant" fiscal note - a rare moment when that particular legislative fiction may benefit reform. For those not steeped in bureaucrat-ese, that means LBB doesn't project significant losses so the Lege won't be required to account for in the budget.

We'll perhaps know more about its prospects after tomorrow's hearing. Of course, I'd rather see them abolish the surcharge entirely, as would Sen. Whitmire. But for now, this innocuous little bill would potentially reduce surcharges for hundreds of thousands of drivers (which is a lot better than nothing if you're one of them), and so far it continues to churn its way through the process. Keep your fingers crossed.

See related Grits posts:


Old Cop said...

Thanks Scott for the update. This program ('Driver Responsibility' surcharge) needs to be killed for the ineffective and chaos creating beast that it has become to courts, prosecutors, defense counsel, and the motoring public who are caught up in its far reaching tenacles. John Whitmire is on the right track! Keep 'em flying.

Prison Doc said...

Just goes to show how hard it is to get rid of even an unpopular law once it is on the books.


Anonymous said...

The upfront payment option is good for situations where families are able and willing to afford getting the surcharges out from under the table. Unfortunately, many who got caught in the cycle started with a single conviction. Individuals who could not pay the surcharges now have amounts that adds up into the $1000's range. Someone earning $8.00 - $12.00 per hour will not be able to pay the surcharges. What we have is 1,800,000 drivers who licenses are suspended; THESE PEOPLE CAN NOT BUY INSURANCE!! At least our politicians are starting to notice this.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to let you know that I found an application for the indigence program online Monday. Better late than never.