State may end second fine for expired licenses

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Capital News Service
LANSING—Motorists who are caught driving with an expired license or no proof of insurance may soon catch a financial break.
Right now people get hit with a double whammy, said Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan.
Motorists driving with expired licenses, no proof of insurance or no-fault insurance get ticketed for the violations. But each of the next two years they also are fined a driver responsibility fee – $150 for an expired license and $200 for no proof of insurance or lack of no-fault insurance.
The fees were implemented in 2004 to help balance the budget deficit, Emmons said.
Now lawmakers want to cut the driver responsibility fees, said Fred Woodhams, communications representative for Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. The fines associated with ticket would remain in place.
The bill was recently passed unanimously by the House and Senate, and likely will be signed by the governor.
Critics say people cannot afford the fees and often don’t pay them.
“(The fees) are very, very harmful to our citizens,” said Sen. Bruce Caswell, R-Hillsdale, the bill sponsor.
Only 56 percent of the fees actually get paid, Caswell said. Often, people don’t pay them and lose their licenses. That increases the number of people driving without a license and insurance.
In 2010, more than 17,700 people were caught driving with an expired license, more than 82,600 failed to provide proof of insurance and more than 8,500 lacked no-fault insurance, according to state officials.
Eliminating those fees – if all of them were collected – would account for a $23.6 million loss in revenue, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency.
“That’s their best guess should people actually pay the fees,” Emmons said.
But Emmons said the revenue that was generated did not match expectations.
“In fact, it just created more hardship for folks who couldn’t come up with the money in the first place,” she said.
The revenue that was collected went into Michigan’s General Fund and the Fire Protection Fund, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency.
The bill won’t change how officers do their job, said Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma.
“Whether the fine is $10 or $10,000 should not be the motivator for the officer to enforce the law that has been violated,” he said.
If Snyder signs it, the law will go into effect Oct. 1, 2012.
Secretary of State Ruth Johnson believes it’s a good first step, Woodhams said.
The Secretary of State will still collect revenue from some of the larger fines, like drunken driving, he said. The ones lawmakers aim to eliminate are considered the smaller fines.
© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Nonmembers cannot reproduce CNS articles without written permission.

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