Will the Driver Responsibility Program be Repealed
Today I would like to talk about the driver responsibility program in Texas. But before I dive into that topic, I think it might be best if we were all on a level playing field and understood the process this bill is currently going through. Look at that, I got a bit ahead of myself. Allow me to explain. There is a bill out there right now on the governor’s desk. It has made it past the Senate and the House, and to this day, has not been signed, nor vetoed yet. The bill, also known as HB 2048, is out to save the thousands trapped in the steel grip of the driver responsibility program. I speak from experience, I myself have been caught in the program for going on about 6 years now. But I want to take a few steps back to help us understand what this whole process really looks like.
A bill is first introduced to both the House and Senate. It is referred to the respective committees where it may be amended. If it passes through committee, it goes to the calendar committee where it is scheduled for the House floor for debate. The Senate is a bit trickier, it has to pass committee, and pass a 3/5 vote to make an appearance on the Senate floor for debate. The bill may be further amended during this step. If the bill passes by majority vote, it is sent to the House and Senate respectively. Once the House and Senate pass the bill, it is then sent to the governor’s office. The governor has three options:
- He can sign the bill into law
- Allow the bill to become law without his signature
- Veto the bill
A veto can be overridden by a 2/3 vote by the Senate and the House. You can check the status of HB 2048, or any bill at that, at capitol.texas.gov. The bill was signed in the House on May 26, signed in the Senate on May 27, and sent to the governor’s office on May 29. If you check the governor’s office for legislative news updates, you can see that the bill has yet to be signed. But it hasn’t been vetoed either. There’s many out there holding hope. The governor has 10 days, before he has to take any action, if any. He can just ignore the bill and allow it to go into law with his signature. Which seems to me the likely case if I may speculate myself. Today is June 3, which means it’s been on the governors desk for 4 days now. Only 6 more days before we get some peace on the subject. If the bill is passed into law, it will completely eliminate any current surcharges owed by drivers and reinstate their suspended licenses.
Suspended Drivers License
If you’re not familiar with the driver responsibility program, you may be wondering, “well, what’s so bad about that”? Sure, the driver responsibility program does help fund things like state trauma hospitals, but at the cost of the people caught in it’s vicious cycle. The fee’s seem to be never ending, if you receive mere traffic ticket while on the program, it can effect your fees and how long you receive an annual surcharge. The annual surcharge can range from $100 for just a traffic ticket to $2000 for driving while intoxicated. When you don’t pay the fee’s your driver’s license becomes suspended until you pay again. So you’re forced to make the payments even if one can’t afford it. For the lower working class, one simple mistake can slowly snowball into a huge mess. Texas has one of the highest number of suspended driver’s license out there, and most of them are because of the inability to pay some of these outrageous surcharges.
The only downside to this bill that will affect those that aren’t concerned about the driver responsibility program, is the increase in traffic fines. There is a $2 yearly increase to state insurance fees and a slight increase to state traffic fines. The proportion of funding received from any ticket was raised as well. The fees are to compensate the loss of funding to the state trauma hospitals, since a lot of their funding came from the driver responsibility program. It also increases the potential DWI fine by a whopping $6000. Not that those fees weren’t high enough already, Texas doesn’t mess around with drinking and driving.
The program is going to restore approximately 1.4 million suspended licenses in Texas. All the surcharges are going to be cancelled, which for some is likely in the hundred’s, if not thousands. They tend to stack up on people, if you don’t pay your surcharge, it never goes away, and another one is given to you the next year on top of that. So if you neglect it, or can’t afford it for a few years, it can turn into a snowball effect. For some, that could be years of $2000 surcharges racked up. You start trying to do the right thing and pay it, but you have two or three surcharges to pay to just to keep your license from being suspended. There’s many people out there that agree, the program being repealed is a great win for the state of Texas. For those of you paying close attention to this bill, as I’m sure it likely affects you, you can keep a close watch on the governor’s office, to see if any action has been made yet. We have 6 more days ahead of us!