By MATT WALTERS
Capital News Service
LANSING – Some lawmakers want the Secretary of State to block license renewals for drivers with three or more unpaid parking tickets – half the current six-ticket threshold.
The change would encourage scofflaws to pay their tickets sooner and pump money faster into municipal coffers.
Now, drivers with at least six unpaid parking tickets cannot get their licenses renewed until they pay the fines and late fees, plus a $45 driver’s license clearance fee.
Ed Kettle, senior legislative aide for the lead House sponsor, Rep. Roy Schmidt, D-Grand Rapids, said that lowering the cut-off would mean more money for local governments.
For example, he estimated that the measure would bring in close to $300,000 more a year for the city of Grand Rapids.
“Nobody likes parking tickets, but the laws are there for a reason,” Kettle said.
He said that opponents of the proposal argue that it would unfairly target people in financial trouble and put more unlicensed drivers on the road.
But Kettle said those drivers could get assistance paying their overdue tickets. He added that the measure would also keep their number of unpaid tickets from getting out of hand.
“The system wouldn’t change. If someone is having trouble paying their parking tickets, the Secretary of State and the local courts will help them get on a payment plan,” Kettle said.
Albert Mooney, the Grand Rapids city treasurer, said he favors the bill.
“This measure would provide much-needed revenue for cash-strapped cities around the state,” Mooney said.
According to Mooney, Grand Rapids was owed more than $3.5 million in unpaid parking fines of August 2009, the most recent statistics available.
“In 2008, the city had to write off more than $500,000 in unpaid fines,” Mooney said.
Mooney said there were 5,394 drivers with fewer than six parking tickets from the city who had yet to pay up as of 2009. That added up to almost $900,000 in lost revenue.
He said that those numbers have increased since then.
“Some people may have had one or two unpaid tickets then but now have three or more,” Mooney said.
Andy Schor, assistant director of state affairs at the Michigan Municipal League in Ann Arbor, said the bill would help local governments collect money they’re due from violators.
“These people are breaking the law and this measure would make it easier to enforce the law,” Schor said.
“If communities can collect the fines more quickly, they can get what they’re due, and right now, every little bit counts,” Schor said.
The bill is in the House Judiciary Committee. Co-sponsors are Reps. Brandon Dillon, D-Grand Rapids, and Harold Haugh, D-Roseville.
A similar bill was introduced to the Senate and is being reviewed by the Senate Transportation Committee. Its sponsor is David Hildenbrand, R-Grand Rapids.
© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.