Michigan could soon give ‘bad drivers’ reprieve

| Monday, November 07, 2011

A bill on the move at the Michigan statehouse would repeal parts of an eight-year-old law that imposes extra fees on drivers for certain traffic offenses.

Since 2003, Michigan’s habitually bad drivers have faced fees of up to $1,000 a year to keep their driving privileges. The law is intended to crack down on repeat driving offenders and increase revenue for the state by adding fees above and beyond the normal fines imposed for traffic violations.

The House Transportation Committee approved an amended version of a bill to partially repeal the driver responsibility fee program. The bill – SB166 – now moves to the House floor. If approved there, it would need to get a final Senate endorsement before advancing to the governor.

Targeted in the bill are “bad driver” fees. The fees would end for such offenses as driving without insurance or a valid license, or driving with an expired license. Fees for the worst violations, such as drunken driving, fleeing police, and reckless driving, would continue to be collected.

Since the program’s passage nearly a decade ago nearly 2.5 million people have had their licenses suspended for nonpayment.

Some lawmakers have called the program unfair. They said the penalties are too harsh, especially for low-income motorists. Even supporters of the law said they recognize it has done more harm than good. However, the revenue the fee generates for the state has made it difficult for lawmakers to simply get rid of it.

According to an amended fiscal note on the bill, the state would lose as much as $9.45 million of the estimated $220 million in fees assessed each year. But the hit to the state would actually be far less. The state collects only about 56 percent of the charged fees.

Sen. Bruce Caswell, R-Hillsdale, said his bill is the first step in outright eliminating the fee program.

“This program was created as an alleged ‘quick and easy’ fix to the state’s budget problems, but it failed to generate the money promised,” Caswell said in a previous statement.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Michigan, click here.

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