Michigan drivers more than likely will get a break from some of the state’s driver responsibility fees come next October, after the state House of Representatives last week passed a measure phasing out some of the added charges.
Driver responsibility fees are added monetary penalties imposed on motorists who accumulate a certain number of points on their licenses or who commit certain offenses.
The legislation was introduced by state Sen. Bruce Caswell (R-Fawn River) in February. Both the state Senate and the state House passed their versions of the legislation unanimously.
“There has been a great deal of public unhappiness with driver responsibility fees,” said state Sen. David Robertson (R-Waterford). “I opposed this when I was in the House and it was enacted a few years ago, and now I support the repeal. These were more of a revenue enhancer than changing driver behavior and people are fined twice for the same offense. It’s not good public policy.”
If enacted, Senate Bill (SB) 166 would eliminate the $150 per-year fee for two consecutive years for operating a motor vehicle with an expired or invalid license, having more than one license, or failing to surrender licenses from another state.
The bill would also do away with the $200 fee for two consecutive years for those charged with a civil infraction for failing to have insurance, and violations for failing to produce proof of insurance or knowingly providing false evidence of insurance.
In July, the upper chamber passed its version that also calls for specifically eliminating responsibly fees for those who have accumulated seven or more points on their driving records.
The fees that are expected to remain in place include the $1,000 per-year fee for two consecutive years for a variety of serious offenses such as manslaughter or negligent homicide resulting from operating a motor vehicle; the $500 per-year fee for two consecutive years for a variety of alcohol-related and controlled substance violations and reckless driving; and the $500 per-year fee for two consecutive years for the misdemeanor offense of failing to have required insurance coverage.
“The issue came back last session and seems to be one we’ve been dealing with on and off for years,” said state Rep. Bill Rogers (R-Milford). “The only heartburn is finding the money now, but it’s still the right thing to do. People can’t make the payments.”
Rogers said the state is only collecting 56 percent of the fees annually.
“We need to attack this another way,” Rogers said. “Ultimately the goal is to get people insured and licensed. We’re not encouraging people to drive without a license, but they need to get to work to pay the initial fees. Double-assessing them isn’t working.”
The bill would also reroute the first $8.5 million collected to the state’s fire protection fund, with the remaining dollars deposited into the state’s General Fund. It’s expected to reduce General Fund revenue by over $23.6 million annually.
The proposed legislation must now return to the state Senate for final approval.