Michigan Secretary of State lauds phase out of Driver Responsibility Fees

Michigan Secretary of State lauds phase out of Driver Responsibility Fees

From the Oakland Press

Michigan’s Driver Responsibility Fees, assessed for traffic violations committed in the state, essentially penalized drivers twice for the same offense, and Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said she’s happy the fees are being phased out and replaced with a community service option.

Johnson, seeking a second and final four-year term on the Nov. 4 ballot, met with The Oakland Press Tuesday morning to talk about the fees, which she calls punitive, and the changes and improvements to her office in her first term.

“It really is a double fine for people,” Johnson said. “They’re already paying the ticket, which is not a small amount, and they’re already having their insurance rates go up.

“I felt that was like double indemnity,” Johnson said.

Michigan lawmakers enacted the fees in 2003 to improve traffic safety, but the fees instead created a finanical burden for people, Johnson said.

Beginning in January, legislation takes effect that creates a community service option in lieu of paying the fees.

Drivers may complete 10 hours of community service instead of paying fees for each violation that qualifies. The service must be completed within 45 days.

Qualified violations are no proof of insurance, driving without proper license/endorsement/vehicle group designator; driving while license expired, and driving while unlicensed or license not valid. Excluded are more serious offenses, such as drunken driving.

The fees for new violations will be reduced by 25 percent beginning Oct. 1, 2015 until they are phased out in 2019.

Johnson, 59, from Groveland Township, is a former Oakland County commissioner, county clerk and state lawmaker.

Her opponent in this year’s election is Democrat Godfrey Dillard from Detroit.

Michigan’s secretary of state office is responsible for license plates, vehicle registrations and driver licenses, and oversees state elections.

Johnson said her goal has been to reduce or eliminate time spent standing in line at any of the state’s 131 branch offices by expanding online and mobile services.