It was only a matter of time before life imitated art in Texas politics. With a month left in the legislative session, the 84th Texas Legislature is looking more and more like a season of House of Cards.
From strange political bedfellows to threats of hurricanes, the debate over the Driver Responsibility Program is tailor made for Frank Underwood and his cast of characters.
The DRP collects fines and penalties from irresponsible drivers — intoxicated drivers and drivers who accumulate multiple speeding tickets or fail to renew their licenses when they should. These are repeat offenders who put the lives of every Texan at risk when they get behind the wheel.
Personal responsibility and accountability are cornerstones of the DRP. Which is why it is so strange that the Legislature is trying to dismantle it.
Created in 2003, the DRP was intended to hold irresponsible drivers accountable. Lawmakers recognized that irresponsible drivers cause accidents — accidents that require immediate, specialized and often expensive trauma care. So the DRP distributes some of what it collects to the state’s 284 designated trauma facilities to partially offset their unpaid trauma costs. The rest of what is collected goes to the state.
Unpaid trauma care in Texas hospitals exceeds $290 million annually.
Despite the need for the DRP, Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, introduced Senate Bill 93 to repeal it even before the legislative session began. With a committee hearing this week, the bill got new life when it garnered the support of several tea party Republican senators, including Sen. Bob Hall and Sen. Don Huffines.
Ironically, the end of the legislative session and the start of hurricane season coincide on the calendar on June 1. This could make the consequences of the loss of the DRP for the Houston area immediately apparent if a hurricane or major tropical storm puts the region in its sights.
DRP repeal without funding replacement is irresponsible, and it would put the lives of thousands of Texans at risk. We don’t need a hurricane to prove it.