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Senate Vote on easing DWI surcharge

According to an article in the Dallas Morning News, the Senate voted to revamp the troubled Texas Driver Responsibility Program, under which more that 1 million Texans have been unable to unwilling to pay stiff surcharges on top of their regular fines for driving violations.

Compromise legislation sent to the House would give judges discretion to lower the surcharges--which can run as high as $3,000 for a single DWI conviction--and also bar the state from assessing surcharges against students and the indigent.

Senator Eliot Shapleigh's bill would also allow drivers who are slapped with a surcharge to get credit for each year that they have no violations.  It was approved 23-5.  Shapleigh said, "This is a terrible program that used punitive fines to plug holes in the state budget."

"Our founders never intended for debtors' prisons to substitute for an adequate tax system."  36% of the unpaid surcharges were those convicted of DWI.

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