Driven out of town on a rocky road, Virginia’s abusive driver fees have been repealed by the commonwealth’s legislators. House Bill 1243 awaits Gov. Tim Kaine’s signature to become law, WTOP News in Washington reported.

Senate Republicans, who once balked at repealing the measure, voted for its ouster in this session.

Virginia residents were upset when they learned out-of-state drivers didn’t have to pay the civil remedial fee, a minimum of $1,000. The Virginia General Assembly established the tax a year ago to fund transportation -- expecting to generate $65 million a year – and to ensure motorist safety on Virginia’s highways. The Virginian-Pilot reported motorists who have been assessed the fees can petition the courts for a full refund.

“We lost the PR battle," fee supporter Del. David Albo (R-Fairfax) told the Washington Post. "You can't fight the Internet."

The Post went on to say Virginia lawmakers didn’t take into account Virginia has one of the most comprehensive reckless-driving statutes nationwide. Driving 20 mph over the speed limit or failing to use a turn signal -- considered reckless driving – kicked in the $750 abusive-driving fee. Drivers thought that was high.

In January, Kaine conceded that financial forecast failed. And despite the initiative, Virginia highway deaths increased in 2007.

When the Virginia Supreme Court published a document on its web site, listing traffic offenses that would trigger the fees, readers were confused, the Post said. For example, it said someone guilty of driving with an obstructed view could be subjected to the fees. What it didn’t specify was the driver with such obstructed view would have to cause a serious accident before being fined.

The court then revised the document after Albo and House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) said it was deceptive. By then, public disdain was mounting. An Alexandria resident drafted a petition and collected 177,000 signatures in an outcry against the law.

In drafting the measure a year ago, the Post said Albo and other legislators failed to note similar measures in other states weren’t effective. Judges in Michigan and Texas were pushing to repeal similar laws there. In those states, as in Virginia, driver’s licenses are suspended when operators do not pay the fees. In Texas, the abusive-driver fee program is failing because drivers can’t afford the fines. To top it off, a circuit court judge in Michigan e-mailed Virginia's delegates and senators in 2006, explaining the fees there were failing. No Virginia legislator responded, the Post reported.


Bob Battle
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