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June 13--LANSING -- Driver responsibility fees, ranging from $100 to $2,000, would be phased out under legislation that received final passage by the Legislature Thursday and was sent to Gov. Rick Snyder.
The fees were passed in 2004 to help fill a budget hole created when Michigan's economy faltered. And they did fill a hole, raising between $99 million and $115 million a year, mostly for the state's general fund.
The fees ranged from $100 for having seven or more points on your license, to $500 for two years for drunken-driving offenses, and a $1,000 fee for each of two years for the most serious driving offenses of causing an injury or death while driving. Those fees were on top of normal fines and court costs imposed by judges.
Judges, drivers and lawmakers hated the fees, saying they punished drivers twice for the same offense.
The bills would reduce the two-year assessment of the fees to one year and phase out the fees entirely by Oct. 1, 2018, and remove any reference to driver responsibility fees on enhanced licenses used as an alternative to a passport.
Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw Township, said this week during a committee hearing that he didn't like the bills because of the loss of revenue to the general fund, as well as the morality of taking away the fees for drivers who have killed while driving drunk or under the influence of drugs. But he wasn't on the floor of the Senate when the vote was taken.
Also passed unanimously was a bill that would allow drivers who were assessed fees -- which were eliminated last year -- on charges of driving without a license or without proof of insurance, to perform community service instead.
"If they can't pay the fees, it provides them the opportunity to pay off those and get out from under the debt," said Sen. Bruce Caswell, R-Hillsdale, who sponsored the bill and said the accumulated debt from tickets handed out for those minor offenses is $100 million.
That community service bill now goes to the House for consideration. Snyder is expected to sign the phase out for the driver responsibility fees, said his spokeswoman Sara Wurfel, noting "we've found the balance that responsibly phases out the fees while still allowing local judges to make appropriate sentencing determinations."
Contact Kathleen Gray: 517-372-8661, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @michpoligal.
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