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The Source: Is Change Coming To Drivers’ Responsibility Surcharge Program?

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Ryan Loyd
/
TPR News

After years of criticism over its Byzantine structure and the fact that funds collected are often diverted to other state needs, the Texas Drivers' Responsibility Surcharge Program may be ready for either a refurbish or the discard bin.

First passed 12 years ago, the program was intended to net drunk drivers, those without insurance or valid licenses. It would keep them on the hook for years, paying fees that would be channeled to Texas trauma centers.

Fees totaling more than a billion dollars have been collected since the surcharge's  inception. Haf is supposed to go to trauma centers and the rest to the states general fund. Unfortunately the funds aren't all making it to hospitals, according to a 2011 Houston Chronicle article citing an official with a trauma hospital.

Despite those diverted, the funds that do make it to trauma care are vital, according to hospital representatives. The loss of funds could mean a contraction of care. 

The Source has looked at the program before and listeners from across the city have lamented what they characterize as a confusing, unfocused, and predatory program. According to recent testimony at the legislature, 75 percent of the surcharge payments come only after someone has lost their license, and most licenses are revoked not for the moving violation, but for nonpayment of surcharges fees.

Reforms of the program have passed before, but critics sat it hasn't gone far enough. This session a bill from Rep. Sefronia Thompson (D-Houston) would enact new reforms that prevent license revocations. Another from Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) would abolish it alltogether. 

What should we do about the Drivers' Responsibility Surcharge Program?

Guests:

  • Ana Correa, Executive Director Texas Criminal Justice Coalition
  • John Hawkins, Sr. Vice President for Public Policy and Government Relations for the Texas Hospital Association 
Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive