Texas bills cover transportation funds, 'bad driver' fines

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 11/14/2012

Texas lawmakers this week were given the green light to start filing bills for consideration during the upcoming regular session. After a few days of filing, it appears that issues likely to get consideration in the months ahead include transportation funding and fines for certain driving offenses.

Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, filed a measure to rein in diversions from fuel tax revenues for purposes not related to construction and maintenance of roads and bridges in the state.

House Joint Resolution 22 calls for an amendment to the state constitution to limit uses of revenue from vehicle registration fees, fuel taxes and certain federal funds to roadway improvements.

A related effort from Rep. Kyle Larson, R-San Antonio, would also protect transportation revenue. His bill would no longer distribute state highway funds to the Department of Public Safety for patrols.

Instead, HB106 clarifies that money in the state highway fund is to be used solely to improve the state highway system.

OOIDA officials call for the responsible use of taxpayer dollars in statehouses throughout the country and in Washington, DC. Association leadership states in its list of highway funding principles that OOIDA “will continue to support efforts geared toward dedicating a higher percentage of Highway Trust Fund spending toward highway needs.”

Another issue likely to be addressed in the upcoming session is the state’s driver responsibility program.

Since its inception in 2003, drivers who are ticketed for not having insurance are supposed to pay an additional $250 annually for three years. Driving without a license results in an annual $100 extra charge.

Other offenses, such as repeat drunken driving violations, result in additional fines up to $1,500 for three years. Driving with a blood-alcohol content level at least twice the legal limit – 0.08 percent – is a $2,000 annual surcharge.

Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock, has filed a bill – HB104 – to repeal state law that set up the program.

Critics say the program has failed to live up to the goals set by state lawmakers, which include deterring drunk drivers, not carrying insurance, driving without a license and committing other violations.

In previous legislative sessions lawmakers have been reluctant to abandon the program because it raises about $86 million annually in revenue for the state.

The regular session begins Jan. 8.

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