Along with a slew of anti-illegal immigration bills and measures meant to limit federal involvement in Texas, Berman on Tuesday filed HB 299, which would repeal the 2003 law that created the program, which requires drivers to pay expensive annual surcharges for certain moving violations.
"I thought it was not only double jeopardy … but I thought it was triple and quadruple jeopardy as well," Berman says.
The program was started to raise revenue for roads and trauma centers statewide when legislators were in a $10 billion budget bind. Under the program, state surcharges are attached to citations like speeding, driving without insurance, driving without a license and driving while intoxicated. In addition to paying the fines and court costs associated with the initial ticket, drivers must pay an annual surcharge ranging from $100 to $2,000 or their license is suspended. Since 2004, trauma centers have gotten more than $380 million from the program. But the program has also been roundly criticized for failing to collect more than $1 billion in surcharges and for causing some 1.2 million drivers to lose their licenses for failing to pay.
Berman says he has received many complaints, especially from young drivers, and he thinks the program puts Texans in double jeopardy. Once drivers pay the fine, he says, they should be allowed to move on instead of forced to pay hundreds of dollars more over the course of three years. And he says it makes no sense to issue a ticket to drivers who can't afford auto insurance or a driver's license and then require them to shell out more money they can't afford for surcharges.
The Department of Public Safety, which administers the surcharge program, adopted changes scheduled to take effect next year that it hopes will make it easier for people to pay the fines, but Berman says those aren't enough. The surcharges, he says, just need to end.
"It’s the wrong thing to do," Berman says. "It's not fair."