Virginia House OKs bill to repeal ‘bad-driver’ fees

| 1/23/2008

Efforts to rid Virginia of so-called bad driver fees are gaining momentum in the statehouse. One bill to repeal the abusive driving fees is halfway through the statehouse.

Virginia lawmakers are revisiting one of the most contentious issues in their state in recent years. The problem stems from fees and fines included in the massive $3 billion transportation bill approved a year ago.

Since the start of the regular session early this month, multiple efforts have been brought before lawmakers to eliminate the fees and fines and provide refunds to those who already paid them or amend the rules to reduce the number of offenses subject to the harsher penalties.

The fees and fines are part of the state’s long-term road-building plan that House and Senate lawmakers approved last March. The transportation package was several years in the making when Gov. Tim Kaine signed it into law. Since the law took effect July 1, public opposition about the fines for certain driving violations has led many lawmakers – including the governor – to call for change.

The fees for violations made by “bad drivers” are payable in three annual payments ranging from $250 to $1,000. They are expected to generate $65 million a year for transportation.

House lawmakers voted 95-2 Tuesday, Jan. 22, to approve a bill that would scrap the fees that have brought in an estimated $4.8 million since they took effect, The Roanoke Times reported. Sponsored by Rep. Clarke Hogan, R-South Boston, the measure – HB649 – now moves to the Senate for further consideration.

Other bills to repeal the abusive driving fees already are drawing discussion in the Senate. One of those efforts is on track for a Senate floor vote early next week.

Nearly a dozen bills offered by senators from both parties to repeal the fees were rolled into one bill by Sen. Edward Houck, D-Spotsylvania. As amended, the measure – SB1 – doesn’t include a refund provision.

Similar bills awaiting consideration in the Senate Finance Committee would require increases in the state’s fuel tax rate to help compensate for the revenue lost because of the repeal. Another bill would require the abusive driver fees already collected to be refunded.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Virginia in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor