NJ lawmakers advance amnesty bill to collect driver penalty fees

| Tuesday, December 15, 2009

With time running out on the legislative session in New Jersey, lawmakers are putting on a final push to get several issues through the statehouse. Among the bills in line to benefit is a measure that is intended to help generate much-needed revenue for the state by looking the other way on interest and surcharges for those caught driving without a license or insurance.

The Assembly Transportation Committee voted 10-1 to advance a bill that would offer a 60-day grace period for drivers with outstanding motor vehicle surcharges. They could pay those surcharges without facing interest or collection costs. Anyone who doesn’t participate in the program would be charged an additional 5 percent penalty.

Several lawmakers are pursuing passage of a bill aimed at drivers who have been ticketed for driving without insurance or a valid license, or those with at least six surcharge points for moving violations.

According to the state Motor Vehicle Commission, the proposed amnesty program could generate $17 million in uncollected funds to the state. Drivers owe the state $538 million in uncollected surcharges.

In addition to boosting revenue for the state’s general fund, Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, said there is also a safety benefit to the bill’s passage.

“This bill gives suspended drivers an opportunity to start fresh … and will make our roads safer for all New Jersey drivers by ensuring more people are lawfully behind the wheel,” Ruiz said in a statement.

Drivers convicted of driving under the influence would not be eligible to take advantage of the amnesty period.

The bill – A4155 – and the Senate version – S2903 – are awaiting consideration on the Assembly floor. If approved there, the legislation must clear one final vote in the Senate. All legislation must be approved by both chambers prior to the end of the regular session, which is scheduled for Jan. 11.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.