Driver Responsibility Program reform moves out of Senate committee

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(Austin, TX) // Yesterday, the Texas Senate Committee on Transportation passed SB 93 by an 8 to 0 vote, legislation to reform and improve the broken Driver Responsibility Program (DRP). Specifically, the committee substitute will prevent drivers licenses from being suspended as a result of failure to pay a DRP surcharge. Since 2003, over 2 million licenses have been suspended, and currently more than 1.2 million licenses are suspended due to the program.

“It’s time to give hardworking Texas families relief from this broken double jeopardy program that is doing more harm than good,” said Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), author of SB 93. “I want to thank all of the senators, but especially Senators Bob Hall and Don Huffines for their determination and assistance in getting the bill out of committee.”

Senator Ellis continued: “I fully recognize how late it is in session, and passing this bill will clearly be an uphill climb. But I will push to get the bill through the Senate so that we can get a record vote and create momentum moving forward.”

“I am glad to see the legislature recognizing when things do not work out the way they were intended and having a willingness to rectify it,” said Senator Bob Hall (R-Edgewood). “This is a good first step in that direction.”

“The Driver Responsibility Program has created more problems than it has solved,” said Senator Don Huffines (R-Dallas). “Instead of helping people or increasing safety, punitive DRP fees are a heavy burden on low and middle income Texans. It’s past time to eliminate this hurtful and unnecessary program, which is a modern day debtor’s prison.”

The DRP was created in 2003 to help fill a budget shortfall and requires drivers convicted of certain traffic offenses to pay annual surcharges to maintain their drivers’ licenses. If a person fails to pay the surcharge, which is assessed on top of court fines and criminal penalties, it results in an automatic license suspension.

Since 2003, it’s clear that the DRP has created more problems than it has solved. The program has generated far less revenue than anticipated, has not improved public safety, and has increased financial hardships for low-income families. This program has created backlogs in our courts and passed on undue costs to our counties. What’s worse, the DRP has led to more uninsured and unlicensed drivers on the road.

The committee substitute passed yesterday by the Transportation Committee strikes the majority of the language in the original bill and replaces it with a repeal of Section 708.152 of the Transportation Code, which deals with license suspension for failure to pay.

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