- Obama’s regulatory agenda will cost U.S. economy $143B next year: report
- Patriot Act author on James Clapper: Fire, prosecute him
- Russia P.M. Medvedev: No amnesty for political prisoners
- Michigan GOP Senate hopeful reminds government is the ‘servant’
- Christmas, by Congress: Members mull a 15-cent tax on trees
- U.S. unemployment falls to five-year low of 7 percent; 203K jobs added
- World mourns Nelson Mandela and celebrates his life; burial set for Dec. 15
- Bill O’Reilly reminds: Nelson Mandela ‘was a communist’
- John Boehner says GOP should support gay candidates: ‘I do’
- Grass-Whopper: Pan-fried cricket burgers go over big in New York City
Panel OKs bill to end abuser fees
Question of the Day
RICHMOND (AP) — Legislation to end the punitive fees on dangerous drivers cleared its final Senate committee yesterday en route to a floor vote, but reimbursements for those who already have paid them aren’t along for the ride.
The Senate Finance Committee consolidated several bills to end the fees into Sen. R. Edward Houck’s Senate Bill 1, stripping from them provisions to rebate fees collected since the law took effect July 1.
“I think the public of Virginia has cried out and said, ‘foul ball!’ You all did something in the General Assembly — I did it, I confess, I’m as guilty as the next person — that I think we crossed the line on public trust,” said Mr. Houck, Spotsylvania Democrat.
Virginians were outraged last spring when they discovered that fees that can easily top $1,000 over three years would not apply to nonresidents. Chastened legislators immediately clamored for its repeal.
Gov. Tim Kaine had resisted calls for repeal until earlier this month when he conceded that the fees had failed to make state highways safer or come close to generating the forecast $65 million a year in revenue.
The first repeal bill to get a floor vote passed 95-2 Tuesday in the House. Among those who supported it were Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax Republican and sponsor of the abusive-driver legislation passed last year as part of the first comprehensive transportation funding in a generation.
Mr. Albo offered a bill this year to salvage the fees — tightening and better defining the list of offenses to which they apply and subjecting out-of-state drivers to them. It remains alive, but Mr. Albo said yesterday that he has abandoned it because a repeal is now inevitable.
“But with the repeal, they’re going to realize I’m not as stupid as they thought because now they’re looking at a big fat gas tax increase” to supplant lost fee collections, Mr. Albo said in an interview.
Mr. Houck and other Senate patrons of repeal bills agreed on a single, undiluted repeal bill to optimize its chances of passing swiftly. Senators briefly considered adding an “emergency clause,” which would have made the law effective immediately upon Mr. Kaine’s signature. The idea was dropped, however, because emergency legislation requires four-fifths support in both the House and Senate to pass rather than a simple majority.
The abusive-driver fees generated far less revenue than expected. Last year, legislative estimates were that courts would assess about $82 million a year in fees and that about $65 million would be collected. The fees were enacted as civil remedial fees rather than fines so they could be earmarked for highway maintenance. The state Constitution reserves fines for educational purposes.
After six months, however, courts had assessed only about $13 million in abusive driver fees and collected only about $4 million of that.
“Not only have we violated the public trust, but we’ve also created false expectations for ourselves of a revenue stream that’s simply not there,” Mr. Houck said.
Courts are assessing the fees at a much lower frequency than what was projected, said Ashley Colvin, a staff member of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, the investigative arm of the General Assembly.
- Spike in battlefield deaths linked to restrictive rules of engagement
- Activists urge Obama to go rogue, sidestep Congress
- Colorado judge: Bakery owner discriminated against gay couple
- Bill OReilly reminds: Nelson Mandela was a communist
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- PRUDEN: British press horrified as London's new mayor dares to proclaim the truth
- Rush Limbaugh: Obama trying to make Mandela death about himself
- Obamas call to close Vatican embassy is 'slap in the face' to Roman Catholics
- 'Hunger Games' delivers Obama's message on income inequality
- NAPOLITANO: Pope Francis should be saving souls, not pocketbooks
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Find the latest news and happening that effect those in the Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland Metro region.
How does our 50th state view D.C. politics?
Interviews and show reviews from the Los Angeles punk scene past and present. Los Angeles has always been rich in punk rock talent since punk rock was born.
White House pets gone wild!