Friday, May 22, 2015

Still a chance for surcharge reform bills in home stretch

With not much time to spare, CSSB 93, which in its revised form would make Texas DPS stop suspending driver licenses for unpaid Driver Responsibility surcharges, passed the senate yesterday on a 28-3 vote. See MSM coverage here, here, and here. This would be the most significant Driver Responsibility reform which has so far passed either chamber this year. The bill has been received from the senate and would need a referral today and a near-instant hearing in the House and a lot of luck to make it all the way through the process. UPDATE: This bill unanimously passed out of House Transportation committee Saturday; there's still time, but barely.

Meanwhile, SB 1056, which passed this week out of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, includes some of the reformist tweaks to the surcharge system which had been in bills which died last week on the House calendar. The version going to the floor, Chairman Larry Phillips proudly conveyed to me, includes an increase of the indigence thresholds for having DPS waive surcharges by rule from 125 percent of poverty to 175 percent. Of the two, this more modest proposal faces much better odds of passage, mainly because of the amount of time left.

Neither option is as good as abolition, but as my Dad likes to say, both are better than a sharp stick in the eye. For a moment last week I feared we may not see even incremental reform legislation on surcharges. Now there appears to be a decent chance.

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