Lawmakers target abusive driver fees

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Democrats and Republicans are lining up to propose legislation to repeal the Virginia General Assemblys abusive driving fees which were passed last year as part of Virginias transportation package.

House Democratic Caucus Chair, Brian Moran, (D-46) has opposed these fees since they were first proposed. We have said all along that these fees are a Washington-style gimmick that wouldnt stand the test of time. They dont make our roads safer, they fail to generate real money for transportation, and turn our police officers in to tax collectors, said Moran. Its time for their repeal. I hope my Republican colleagues will join my efforts in opposition to these fees.

The report, that was released last week, said that the fees program could lead to 137,000 drivers license suspensions by the end of June 2008 and to 181,000 more in the next fiscal year. Alexandria Commonwealths Attorney S. Randolph Sengel also supports repealing the fees. Basically, these fees were a way of funding needed road projects without raising taxes, Sengel said. I dont think anyone would have objected if the General Assembly had simply raised all of the traffic fines by a small amount and designated those increases for transportation projects.

The way they did it, however, made no sense at all. First of all, it can only be a deterrent if drivers are aware of the fines. Until shortly before July 1, most prosecutors werent even aware that they were going to take affect so how they expected the average driver to know is beyond me.

The other issue is that most people who are going to commit criminal activities arent deterred by laws. They simply dont think they are going to get caught, Sengel said.

Fines under the abusive driver fees are now as high as $3,000 for drunk driving and a similar amount for reckless driving. The fines are also only imposed on offenders from the state of Virginia and not out-of-state drivers, making some challenge the constitutionality of the fines in court. The General Assembly begins the 2008 legislative session in January and is almost certain to repeal the abusive driver fees.

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