Driver Responsibility Program reform passes Texas Senate

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(Austin, TX) // Today, the Texas Senate passed SB 93, legislation to reform and improve the broken Driver Responsibility Program (DRP). The bill now moves to the House for consideration. Specifically, the bill 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 hope that by ending the threat of license suspension we can dismantle this program piece by piece and return some sanity to how we fund trauma care in our state.”

Senator Ellis continued: “The Senate’s vote today is a testament to the fact that the end of the DRP as we know it is near. The program has harmed millions of families, preventing hardworking Texans from driving to work or taking their children to school.”

“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.”

Former Representative Mike Krusee, who passed the bill that created the DRP, recently spoke out in a letter to Senator Ellis and called for full repeal of the program. In part, the letter reads:

 I believe the numerous problems with the DRP and its detrimental impact on millions of Texans fair outweigh any benefits. It is past time to repeal it. The program was never intended to cause as much harm as it has to Texas families.

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 bill passed by the Senate today repeals language in the Transportation Code that provides for the suspension of a driver’s license for failure to pay a surcharge.

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