Today, Republican leaders in Richmond announced their plans to reform the abusive driver fees law when the legislature convenes in January:
RICHMOND, Aug 23 — The top Republicans in the General Assembly tried to salvage Virginia’s abusive-driver fees Thursday by pledging to overhaul them when the legislature convenes in January, but the nation’s leading motorist advocacy group is warning lawmakers that they may have to act sooner if they want to regain trust.
AAA Mid-Atlantic urged lawmakers to consider a special session this fall to deal with the fees, which also are backed by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D).
“I think motorists are saying they want quick action on this,” said John B. Townsend II, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “The fees have been a lighting rod for criticism from day one, and the chances are they will remain a lighting rod for controversy. I think the motorists of Virginia have said they are outraged.”
Responding to the uproar over the fees, House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) and Senate Majority Leader Walter A. Stosch (R-Henrico) promised to rewrite the abusive-driver law.
Howell and Stosch maintain that the legislature can eradicate the concerns in January.
They said they plan to eliminate the fees for many traffic offenses, such as failing to report an accident or driving without insurance. They also vowed to revamp the state’s reckless-driving law, which can trigger a fee, so that fewer motorists are cited for the offense. Currently, all misdemeanor and felony traffic offenses are subject to the fees. That does not include common speeding infractions, but it does include driving more than 20 mph over the limit.
After the overhaul, the fees would still apply to the most serious traffic offenses, such as driving under the influence and felony reckless driving.
“We are going to concentrate on serious crimes,” Howell said.
Which, of course, leads to the question of where the revenue for the transportation plan is going to come from.