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

| 2/11/2008

The Virginia Senate unanimously approved an effort to rid the state of so-called bad driver fees. It now moves to the House where a similar bill also was approved.

The bill received final passage in the chamber after senators were able to resolve how to rebate most fees that courts already imposed. An amendment was added on the Senate floor that not only would repeal the surcharges applied solely to Virginia drivers but also would set up a process to refund fees already collected. Payments still due would be waived.

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.

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. However, only $4 million had been collected in the first six months.

Sponsored by Sen. Edward Houck, D-Spotsylvania, the bill – SB1 – is awaiting consideration in the House Transportation Committee. The panel can take up the measure after Tuesday, Feb. 12 – the deadline for each chamber to advance its own bills.

If the bill advances from the General Assembly, it would move to the governor’s desk for his signature. It would take effect immediately.

The House approved a similar bill to repeal the fees. That bill – HB1243 – doesn’t include the refund provision.

Although lawmakers in both chambers have been busy trying to void the fees, no one has been able to come up with a solution for replacing the revenue that was expected to be generated. Some Senate Democrats are touting an increase in the state’s fuel tax rate. House Republicans, however, have ruled out more taxes.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor