Search the Community
Showing results for tags 'michigan'.
Found 1 result
Hi guys, this issue is very important to me and so I hope it's acceptable here to make lengthy posts. A new Michigan repeal bill represents the latest and best hope in this unique time to get rid of the D.R.A. I think it's crucial to get as many people as possible to advocate for its repeal and not let this opportunity go to waste. That's why I've written the following essay. It's long, but I feel it is necessary because so few people have ever cared to articulate or examine the D.R.A. in any depth. My essay was written for Michigan, but the fundamentals of it can apply to any state that now has a D.R.A. or any state that will pass them in the future. Currently that means Michigan, Texas, New York, and New Jersey. Thanks for reading. TIME TO END MICHIGAN'S DRIVER "RESPONSIBILITY" CASH GRAB FEES 1 Introduction and History Like any state, driving in Michigan is full of hazards: bad weather, potholes, and endless road construction. But chances are if you're a Michigan citizen you or someone you know is familiar with another type of danger, one that is potentially much more ruinous. That danger is the pernicious threat posed by the Driver Responsibility Act. If you've never heard about the D.R.A. then consider yourself lucky, because once you have encountered its cruel and unusual extortion your very livelihood is held forfeit. What is the Driver Responsibility Act and where did it come from? The first Driver Responsibility law began in New Jersey. Pragmatic lawmakers desperate for cash got a look at the revenue it brought in, setting the example for the nation. Since then New York, Michigan, Texas, and Virgina have also passed essentially similar laws. While other states such as Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island have flirted with ideas for passing their own. (And with nearly every state in need of money you can bet politicians everywhere will be eyeballing its gold filled pinata). Late in 2003 the then Governor Jennifer Granholm was in need of a budget proposal that addressed the massive state debt (which notably has remained). Significant cuts to spending however were apparently considered inconceivable. So Governer Granholm and several (mostly Republican) lawmakers cut a deal to create the Driver Responsibility Act. The bill was Introduced into the Senate by Republican Jud Gilbert- backed by 5 Republicans and 2 democrats- which then sailed with little opposition through both houses and became law. While Governer Granholm and the Democrats are typically assumed responsible for the bills creation, it is clear that both parties should be recognized for taking part in its inception. Michigan's incarnation of its Driver Responsibility Act itself attaches hefty fines to traffic violations that are assessed twice over two years. Most routine incidents fall under its list that will trigger a fine, ranging from lack of proof of insurance, accumulating 7 points for any sum of petty traffic tickets. On the other end of the scale are things like drunk driving and vehicular homicide. The fines for outstanding points on your record alone starts at $100 for 7 points, up to $500 for 15. Fees for other things range from $100 up to several hundred dollars. Once assessed the person has a deadline of 30 days to pay the fees in full or get their license revoked. 2 Purpose of the D.R.A. and Challenging Common Defenses for It As usual the premise of the law is right in its name. The idea being that the eponymous "irresponsible" drivers should be punished financially by paying more. The D.R.A. has been law for 8 long years now and it's high time to question its supposed purpose as well as examine what it has accomplished. There are typically 3 main justifications used in defense of the D.R.A. law. Among those are the suggestions that a D.R.A. protects drivers, makes roads safer by incentivizing compliance with laws, and which supposedly leads to lower car insurance rates. Let's take a look at the first defense, that it protects drivers. Anyone who can read though the brief bill itself can see that the law does nothing to introduce new or unique protections which had been lacking. The Act is a straightforward set of fines for existing traffic violations intended to discourage by financial punishment. All the actual requirements for legal protections arise from basic rights like property laws, and in the case of civil disputes, tort laws. Threats from factually objective danger such as vehicular homicide, fleeing a crime, and drunk or reckless driving are already covered implicitly under basic rights and are already properly enforced by law and police without the D.R.A. At best then the law is redundant, however that is the least of its flaws. Next let's see about the suggestion that a D.R.A. lessens traffic violations in general as well as car insurance costs. Using Michigan's own Senate investigation conducted from 2004-2007 I need only to point out that pertinent rates of offenses rose in nearly every instance in each new year. That includes everything from the serious to the mundane: manslaughter, felonious driving, fleeing the police, driving while impaired, no insurance, or driving with a suspended license, and accumulating 7 violation points. Due to their nature, the serious types of offenses involving death, fleeing police, or felonies are a relatively small portion of violators who by character are more likely to disregard laws to begin with. While looking at the comparatively massive increases in mundane offenses indicates an obvious connection to regular citizens who are either too poor to cope with the ensuing snowball of fines or otherwise are uncharacteristic violators. From 2004-2005 offense rates for accumulating 7 or more points on a license skyrocketed from 7,600 up to 40,000 and have since settled above 36,000. That is five times as many! The rates for persons driving with no insurance rose 26% from 8,000 to 24,000. And driving on a suspended, revoked, or expired license all went up as well. From a combined 60,000 up to 150,000 cases, which is 2.5 times as many violations. Clearly the explosion of petty offenses is linked to an inability to pay fines which trigger withdrawal of licensing and result in the average citizen taking more risks getting to work. Here I'll conclude with the acknowledgement of the report itself by saying: Despite legislators' goal of decreasing violations, Michigan motorists have been committing serious violations at an increasing rate since 2004. Many violations have seen large increases over the last four years, but one of the most notable is the rise in "driving with a suspended license" This rise is likely due in part to the licenses suspended for failure to pay assessed driver responsibility fees. Evidently, the cost of the driver responsibility fee in addition to the reinstatement fee has increased the number of drivers who take their chances driving without a valid license. (Driver Responsibility Fees: A Five Year Checkup by Elliot Wild, page 1) In its wake the D.R.A. has left a severe multiplication of driving offenses. Offenses not by the usual suspects, but by ordinary citizens simply incapable of meeting payments. Thus the D.R.A. creates these new criminals. But has it lowered the rates of car insurance premiums by keeping those nasty "irresponsible" drivers off the road? In 2004 Michigan had an average combined vehicle insurance premium of about $840.00. Back then Michigan ranked as the 13th most expensive in the nation. Today in 2011 those rates have risen about $1,600 up to $2,500 to weigh in as champion with the most expensive car insurance premiums in the U.S. Nearly triple what it once was. It is shamefully clear that the passing of the D.R.A. has at best done nothing at all, and at worst exacerbated problems in every aspect it was supposedly intended to improve. So what then was its actual intended purpose? Beneath the wafer thin venear of posing as a benefit to society, its role is clear: for this state floundering in irresponsible debt to get its hands on your money. Born itself out of bi-partisan budget negotiations between Governer Granholm and lawmakers, it was a way to dole out boatloads of what amount to taxes while pinning it on easy scapegoats; the "irresponsible" drivers. Going back to the Senate's D.R.A. evaluation, the law appears to loot around $60 - $100 million per year, while between 2004 and 2008 it confiscated about $380 million total from the public. Here is the sole reason why an unjust law such as the D.R.A. has remained in force for so long. It is a prized cash cow to milk the masses. Notably at the same time however Michigan's spending and debt have both increased, making even that $100 million a year look like peas. Debt from 2004 into 2009 increased from 61 to 76 billion, and has since become 72 billion in 2011. So much for an attempt at a budget that would make Michigan fiscally tenable. 3 The D.R.A. is Unjust and Wrong So far I have discussed how the law came into being and how it is ineffective, even damaging, as a law. Commonly one of the only arguments you will hear regarding the D.R.A. is that it should be condemned for charging a person twice for a single offense, and punishing the poor the most. Both of these things are true and entirely damning, however it is not enough. As long as that is the only opposition that can be summoned against the D.R.A. it stands little chance of successful repeal. I argue that it is out and outright unjust and wrong. Wrong for the poor, or the rich, or for Michigan, or for the nation, at all period. And because it is wrong in principal it is also wrong in theory and a monstrosity when put into practice. The only function of government is to protect every person's individual rights so that they can be free to consider their choices, and then act to pursue the means of living their life. The so-called Driver "Responsibility" Act like the vast amount of laws existing today does the exact opposite of that. Instead it compels a person against their freely chosen evaluations and planning to pay large and arbitrarily denominated fees so that the State may continue throwing money into it's void. For any person scraping by with barely the means to pay for their basic living expenses any random misfortune or a bad day of driving could result in being fined via the D.R.A. These brand new extortions thrust into their life will now compete for their already scarce time, effort, and money. In a lose-lose situation they must attempt to choose between paying for rent, food, daily costs, and now the impending snowball of fines which threaten to bring their whole livelihood crashing down. The ones who have little choice but to risk putting off the fines will then typically lead to their license being suspended, which will likely lead to yet more fines. In the end the person can't legally drive, and if they can't drive, they can't work. And if they can't work they have to look to either the government or charity to continue living. I'll only indicate the perverted irony of the government demanding cash to sustain its huge amounts of spending on the welfare state, which then breaks and strangles their ability to live, as they helplessly have no option but to turn to that same government welfare. Of course unlike a person who has gone into financial debt of his own accord, government cash grab fines are not purged by a bankruptcy. Even having your life wholly destroyed by the D.R.A. means the fees still remain as a poisonous cloud preventing them from even the opportunity for beginning over. This is the true reality of the maliciousness behind the D.R.A. The example above demonstrates why it hits the poor the hardest. They are usually people who were either born less well off, or the young attempting to financially begin their adult life. But as I suggested the D.R.A.'s wrong approach means that it is impractical and poisonous for everyone regardless of status. Whether a person has $100 to his name or millions it hardly matters. That crucial portion of the person's life, time and energy represented by that saved money is coldly siphoned away by the D.R.A regardless. Since the injustice of the law is directly connected to its impracticality, it's useful to detail what that means for the economics. Officials have noted that fines assessed under the Act only bring in about a 50% actual collection rate.A law like the D.R.A. views the public as a font of walking money to be plundered. It expects people to just cough up results "somehow" magically out of the blue. Nevermind whether you have the money, just pay- or else! But in fact people are not uniform robots who can continue to prosper under any impossible circumstances. The 50% fine collection rate reflects this. For any honest person who understands how the law operates it is an obvious and logical conclusion the D.R.A. not only creates, but it then perpetuates and engenders poverty. (This is the same flawed view that politicians use when they establish high taxes and project it will rake in X amount of revenue, only to be "surprised" when it results in shortcomings due to crippling or driving business away.) While its true that the Act punishes a person unjustly by charging them for the same thing twice, consider that a third punishment is also in play. The forgotten and most important punishment is reality itself. A truly bad driver who chooses to take irresponsible and risky actions while driving will suffer the consequences in due course. The results are a ruined car, injury, higher insurance rates, a law suit, or whatever the particular incident involves. Traffic violations then are the true second punishment, while fines imposed by the D.R.A. are actually a third. If Johnathan Swift were alive perhaps he would propose a fourth punishment by law that introduces new and even more severe fees for failing to pay D.R.A. fees. But let's not give them any ideas. What can be said for a law that is admitted by its own enforcers to not work, ruins lives, inculcates poverty, drives up car insurance prices, and only serves as an enormous tax without having to pronounce the "T" word. It's disgracefulness in action plays out as its massive unpopularity among voters as well. The D.R.A. has come under not one, not two, but four different attempts at its repeal, from Democratic and Republicans alike. To be specific, Democratic Senator John Gleason introduced a repeal in 2007. Followed by Republican Edward Gaffney in 2008. Followed by Bettie C. Scott a Democrat who proposed her own only in 2010. This year Bruce Caswell, a Republican Senator, has presented his own D.R.A. repeal. This most recent attempt has already passed through the Michigan Senate and is now in committee limbo in the House. This Bleeding State Tax Cashgrab must go, and it is long past due for it's repeal. It's very significant to consider Virginia's case of enacting a D.R.A. law. Passed in 2008, Virginia's Law was met with such outrage and opposition from the public that it was repealed completely after only 6 months. The Virginian's saw what a terrible piece of work a D.R.A. represents and took action to throw it out. The lesson is that it has been done before, and we can do it in Michigan. The sad fact is that no one in the media will likely mention it or the D.R.A. That is why I wrote this article. Someone needs to be calling attention to the grotesque injustice and rally for its repeal as soon as possible. Senator Caswell's bill to repeal the D.R.A. is our latest and best shot at rejecting the corrupt law in our state. What must be done is to agitate, insist, and inform the politicians in the Michigan House that we support this repeal. The House representatives need only to pass it. For the moment it is stuck in the traffic committee but with enough prodding and provoking we can remind them we won't let it simply rot and be forgotten to become failed repeal number five. So here I urge you to consider the issue carefully. If you agree like I do that the D.R.A. is a monstrosity then here's how you can help to fight for its repeal. 4 What You Can Do As of this writing bill 0166 to repeal the D.R.A. is under review in the House traffic committee. It could be weeks or months before it is submitted for amendments and put up for a House vote. During the time we now have it is crucial to help build support for its passage. It is true that two of the guiltiest culprits for enacting the D.R.A. are now safely out of the reach of their constituents backlash. In particular, Jennifer Granholm's and Jud Gilbert's terms are at end. However while Jud Gilbert (the D.R.A.'s primary sponsor) is not up for re-election he is still a sitting House member who will have to vote on its repeal. You can contact his office via his congress page here and shame him for helping create such a law. His last rotten shot at redemption is to help get rid of it. Otherwise all you need to do is simply contact your Michigan House Representative and tell them you are urging them to vote for the D.R.A. Repeal bill 0166. Click this link to find your district representative and email them. Please do not assume that if your representative is a Republican that it is good enough to assume all Republicans would support it. Keep in mind how often repeals have been tried and failed in the past. Every ounce of support helps! Even if a representative were convinced you can help give them confidence their voters are behind them and that it is the right and just thing to do. If you would like to view Bruce Caswell's bill to repeal the D.R.A. you can view the PDF document here. Or follow it's progress here. Ideally, I would hope for a D.R.A. repeal like Virginia's which throws the whole law out and refunds the victims. Unfortunately Senator Caswell's repeal does not include refunds, and after modification in the Senate it keeps fines for violent or objectively dangerous violations. However I still think it is the best opportunity presented at this time to reject the majority of this bad law. The content of this writing is entirely my own, so I give anyone free permission to copy, reference, or quote any portion or all of it. So long as it helps to end the D.R.A. Send portions of my article to your friends, or family, or activist groups. To anyone who assists me in this cause I'm grateful for any of your efforts. Thank you.