Bipartisan bills would forgive $600 million in driver fees

LANSING, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — Michigan’s 300,000-plus residents who owe extra driver “responsibility” fees for certain traffic offenses would see their debt eliminated under bipartisan bills backed by the House speaker and others.

The legislation announced Thursday would forgive more than $600 million in fees that have been assessed.

The measure would replace the 2003 Driver Responsibility Act passed by the Republican-led Legislature and then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

“They were implemented… to wipe out a $1.5 billion budget deficit when the Legislature and then-Gov. Granholm simply were not making the tough decisions. And I believe this was nothing more than a money grab,” said Republican House Speaker Tom Leonard, who is also a former prosecutor.

Michigan already is phasing out all new responsibility fees by October 2019. The bills announced Thursday would accelerate the phase-out to October 2018 and reinstate a community service option for people who can’t pay their fines, but would like to re-earn their license before the forgiveness program takes effect.

Leonard says responsibility fees for driving without insurance and others offenses have cost far too many working people their license and then their job.

“These individuals who are buried with these fees and can’t find a job, those fees or fines are going to go away. So yes, there would be an amnesty program here and we’re going to open the flood gates for individuals to actually obtain a driver’s license and go get jobs,” he said.

The bills could be up for hearings as early as next week.

— 24 Hour News 8 Political Reporter Rick Albin contributed to this report.