News Roundup: Bill To End The State’s Driver Responsibility Program Headed To The Governor’s Desk

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelMay 16, 2019 2:14 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

The state legislature is poised to end a controversial program that critics say traps low-income Texans in a cycle of debt.

The Driver Responsibility Program charges drivers with additional yearly fees for certain traffic violations and suspends their licenses if they fail to pay those fines. The funds generated through this program help pay for trauma care throughout the state. The bill creates several new sources of funding to support hospitals, such as raising traffic citation minimum fines from $30 to $50.

Lawmakers have been trying to get rid of the program for years and now that goal is in sight. A bill to repeal the D-R-P already passed the Texas House – and Wednesday, HB 2048 got unanimous approval in the Senate.

State Sen. Joan Huffman is the bill’s sponsor in the upper chamber. Huffman, a Republican from Houston, said if this bill is signed into law, people will have their driver’s licenses reinstated.

“Unless they have other reasons for suspension, and ya know, I think if you dig through there are going to be many who have other problems – maybe no insurance – but the ones that have strictly been suspended because of their participation in this program, they will be reinstated,” Huffman said.

As of January 2018, 1.4 million drivers had suspended licenses as a result of this program. The bill now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott.

The Texas Senate gave initial approval Wednesday to a bill that would prevent the government from penalizing people or businesses over their religious affiliation.

KUT’s Ben Philpott reports the bill was filed in response to San Antonio banning Chick-fil-A from the city’s airport.

Republican leaders in Texas spent plenty of time criticizing the City of San Antonio for dropping Chick-fil-A from the airport. Those criticisms led to this bill that could block similar actions. Mineola Republican Sen. Bryan Hughes wrote the bill debated Wednesday. He amended it in an effort to narrow its scope to protecting only people and businesses that donate money to or affiliate with a religious organization.

“There’s no reference to sincerely held religious belief,” Hughes said. “There is no reference to marriage. The only thing the bill will affect is your affiliation with, contribution to a religious organization.”

An earlier version of the bill was blocked on a procedural technicality. That version specifically focused on protecting people for their views on marriage. LGBTQ organizations criticize both bills as an attempt to legalize discrimination based on religious beliefs.

A bill lifting a state ban on brass knuckles, plastic kitty keychains and other self-defense items is headed to Gov. Abbott’s desk.

House Bill 446 passed the lower chamber last month.

Wednesday, state senators made quick work of passing the measure too.

State Rep. Joe Moody authored the bill. The El Paso Democrat told The Dallas Morning News this is a step toward getting rid of  “antiquated laws regarding weapons.”