By on November 16, 2009

Will common sense prevail?

The Judiciary Committee of the Michigan House of Representatives is expected this week to consider repealing the state’s Driver Responsibility Act (DRA). Since 2004, Michigan has used this law to impose a tax of $300 to $2000 on certain driving offenses, plus an annual tax of $100 to $500 a year for anyone with more than seven points on his license. State Representative Bettie Cook Scott (D-Detroit) introduced a bill that would repeal the this law by the end of the year. “The DRA is not a law to promote justice and safety on the roads,” Scott testified in an earlier hearing on her bill. “It’s a law that generates money… If the industrial and manufacturing revenues to the state have dropped, the state should not shift the loss of revenue on to its lowest wage earners. It must focus on attracting and creating new business that can create revenue.”

Last year, the tax generated $114.2 million in revenue for the state. Since 2004, drivers have been billed a total of $800 million, but only $400 million has actually been collected as thousands have been unable to make the steep payments required.

“If you were forced to choose between keeping your lights on or paying for DRA fees, which one would you choose?” Scott asked. “So what happens? The state charges them extra money by charging two years of DRA fees. Because they do not have extra money and have not paid fees they have their driver’s license suspended or allow their auto insurance to lapse.”

According to state data, the number of license suspensions and unlicensed drivers has skyrocketed since the law took effect. There were 39,465 assessments for driving on a suspended license in 2004, a figure which jumped 42 percent to 56,183 in 2008. The number of those caught driving without insurance jumped from 2063 to 89,202 in the same period.

Under House Bill 4098, drivers with payments due before the end of the year would have their tax cut in half. The state of Virginia last year eliminated its short-lived “abuser fee” program in response to vocal public opposition.

A copy of the bill is available in a 35k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File House Bill 4098 (Michigan State Legislature, 11/16/2009)


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20 Comments on “Michigan Considers Repeal of “Driver Responsibility Tax”...”

  • avatar

    “The DRA is not a law to promote justice and safety on the roads,” Scott testified in an earlier hearing on her bill. “It’s a law that generates money…”

    +1 for being honest enough to call ’em like she sees ’em.

  • avatar

    Thank god, this law can’t be repealed soon enough. Its been used as nothing but a ploy to stalk and extort people who have gotten DUI’s. It never ends, you keep paying, they keep asking for more, once your in the system they never let you go. Most people end up not being able to pay. I’ve known people who’ve simply moved out of state to avoid the DRT Gestapo. None of us condone drunk driving, but this isn’t justice its a desperate act to drum up revenue by the old school liberal tax-and-spend administration of a failing state.

  • avatar

    >>”It [the state of Michigan] must focus on attracting and creating new business that can create revenue”

    This lady gets it. Sadly, the remainder of Michigan government seems to be more effective in sending business out of the state.

  • avatar

    What I don’t understand is that people elect politicians and are then stunned and angered when they do exactly what they’ve proposed.
    BTW, how close is Michigan to being a one party state?

  • avatar

    Unfortunately for poor people, cops and politicians just pull that card or badge out of their wallet and presto! Thats why cops, who make a good sized percentage of our population never lose their licences. The laws only apply to the sheep. Imagine if they got points and surcharges.

  • avatar

    This law is totally outside – the law. 

    Let’s be honest.  Instead of increasing the penalties legally, within the law, they simply added a tax on people who’d already paid their penalties.   Tell me please, where this would be allowed under the United States or Michigan Constitution?  It is called “double jeopardy”.  Then adding annual “fees” onto people is obviously triple jeopardy.

    It was and is simply revenue generation. 

    However, having said that, I will say that Michigan drivers are absolutely abysmal.

    In the news this morning, a local accident was reported.  Someone (yet again, still) drove through a stop sign and hit some innocent motorist so hard that it tipped their vehicle over and they essentially were ejected from the car (which of course, means they were not wearing seat belts themselves…. but as I say Michigan drivers suck). 

    A few years ago, after yet another (thank God) safe driving year, my auto insurance was increased 30%.  I called the insurance company to enquire and was informed that Michigan drivers sucked and that that’s why rates went up.  I said, yes, I know Michigan drivers suck – raise THEIR rates, not mine – I’m accident free.  Nope.  Yours get raised too.

    So I fired them and hired a mutual insurance company which cost me less and has a stellar reputation for paying off claims (wow, what a novel idea!!!) plus I get a dividend check once a year for my house and once a year for my car, and a multiple discount.  Put life insurance with them, too.  Amica Mutual, Rhode Island.  Generally #1 or #2 in Consumer Reports for insurance companies year after year after year. 

    (No I don’t work for them).

  • avatar

    With the exception of L. Brooks Patterson, it’s very difficult to name a Michigan Republican anywhere near “effective” on the ratings scale.

  • avatar

    joe_thousandaire, I don’t think so buddy.  Liberals may want to raise more revenue, but they would have done it by progressively raising taxes.  This kind of stuff is the work of conservatives who are against taxes but want to be tough on crime.  And don’t care about the cruelty.

  • avatar

    According to state data, the number of license suspensions and unlicensed drivers has skyrocketed since the law took effect.

    That’s a feature, not a bug. The driver responsibility free on driving with a suspended license ticket is $500/yr for two years. The more people with suspended licenses, the more people they can ding $1000 to get their licenses back.
    What’s happened is Lansing has helped create a situation where people are in a vicious cycle and can never restore their licenses, making getting to work a problem. Lansing is helping to drive the working poor deeper into poverty.  So people drive completely illegal cars – no driver’s license, no insurance, no registration, and stolen plates. My friends who live on the other side of Eight Mile call them “ghetto getters”. They never leave the city limits of Detroit because the suburban cops will confiscate the cars if you get pulled over.
    The DRA takes any discretion out of the judge’s hands. Why bother with a judge if Lansing is going to automatically ding you?  A typical DWSL ticket will cost you $150-$250 in court depending on your record, how contrite you are, and how the judge/magistrate is feeling that day. Why should a judge quibble over $100 when the state’s going to jack you for another grand?

  • avatar

    The repeal should be retroactive and instead of a 50% break on outstanding fees, all outstanding fees, even from previous years, should be null and void.

  • avatar

    If this was to pass, I’d seriously consider moving back to Michigan…if I had any hope of finding a job there.
    Another positive point:  Michigan still doesn’t require a front license plate.

  • avatar

    As if we needed another reason not to move to Detroit.

  • avatar

    These laws are happening all over the country.  States/local governments are doing *anything* to avoid shrinking during the recession.

  • avatar

    seabrjim: Politicians and cops getting points and surcharges? The horror… :-)

  • avatar

    liechter: There is no perfect correlation between liberals and Democrats on the one hand, and conservatives and Republicans on the other, particularly in a Midwestern state like Michigan.  Sadly, there are plenty of conservative Democrats. 

    Governor Granholm is not a conservative by any stretch of the imagination, so that excuse won’t wash. And here in Pennsylvania liberals have been just as happy to advocate this type of measure.

  • avatar

    This law is nothing but extortion and punishes people three times for the same offense. On the other hand, angry teabaggers please get your facts straight.

    MI driver’s responsibility law was introduced by Sen. Jud Gilbert (R) on May 21, 2003.

    One of the chief architect of the VA driver’s responsibility law was David Albo (R), conveniently, who is also a lawyer that specializes in traffic laws.

    Despite what republicans like to tell commoners, they also like to tax the shit out of you, and then place all the blame on the democrats.

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