Anyone who has dealt with the world of low-level traffic offenses knows the consequences of the Texas Driver Responsibility Program. The DRP imposed surcharges on driver license renewals for certain traffic offenses and suspended legal driving privileges for those who didn't make the payments.
Then, when those same drivers picked up new moving violations their licenses were suspended (again) and more surcharges were imposed. The entire program became a downward spiral that left many motorists with no way to ever regain their legal driving privileges.
Now it appears that relief might be on the way in the form of HB104 - a proposed bill that would place a two-year moratorium on the imposition and collection of surcharges under the DRP.
The DRP was created in 2003 partially as a funding mechanism for trauma centers in the state. The promise was that folks who drove without insurance or on suspended licenses would cough up some money that the state would collect and distribute (hmm, sounds like a tax to me). Over the years, however, the program has not generated the funds lawmakers had expected.
Being that most folks ticketed for driving without insurance or on suspended licenses tend to be on the poorer end of the spectrum, the state has only collected about 40% of the surcharges levied on motorists. So, not only did the program not generate the amount of revenue expected - it couldn't even collect half the surcharges levied.
The bill would allow the DPS to begin imposing and collecting surcharges after September 1, 2013 provided the state had not yet found a mechanism to fund trauma centers at the level they are currently funded. Whether this will encourage lawmakers to come up with a new funding mechanism or just sit on the hands has yet to be determined.
For way too long the state legislature (and governor) have resisted devising equitable mechanisms to fund this state. The sales tax is regressive. The lottery is a scam directed at the poor. The DRP is yet another attempt to impose higher taxes on the poor while reducing the tax burden on the wealthy.
Imposing a moratorium on the DRP rather than abolishing the whole thing may be a baby step - but at least it's a step in the right direction.