The House Ways and Means Committee, a seldom-used panel often utilized by House leadership to quickly kill or pass controversial or important legislation, introduced a plan to increase the costs of sea tbelt restraint violations.
Rep. Richard Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, pitched the plan to lawmakers on the committee and outlined the distribution formula for the fee. Wills said the formula is "unlike any the courts have seen before." The plan would add a total of $41.50 to the $10 violators already pay for the ticket. The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) would receive $5 for advertising programs to encourage voluntarily seat belt usage, $10 would go to court costs, and $26.50 would go into the catastrophic fund. That fund is utilized to offset the costs of medical expenses incurred by citizens who cannot pay for their own medical care.
Wills said that in 2009, Idaho drivers were ticketed more than 17,000 times for not wearing seat belts and paid no court costs in associations with violations. If the rate of violations stays steady from year to year, Wills' plan could generate approximately $705,000. ITD disagrees with that number, saying approximately 25,000 seat belt tickets are processed each year. If the ITD number is correct, Wills' plan could bring in more than $1,037,000 in new revenue.
According to ITD's Molly McCarty, the seat belt violation is the only infraction in the state that does not charge court costs in conjunction with the fine assessed, but that only applies to adults. Minors in Idaho are charged the $41.50 court costs fee, as well as the $10 fine for the ticket.
The move by legislative leaders on the committee should please some legislators. Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, a staunch advocate for stricter seat belt laws, told IdahoReporter.com in a previous interview that she would like to see the fine itself raised to $25, with the additional $15 going into the catastrophic fund.
Not all legislators shared King's enthusiasm for the increased fines. Rep. JoAn Wood, R-Rigby, said, also in a previous interview, that she is worried that the fee increases would lead to more federal funding coming to the state, which would result in “all-the-time enforcement.” Wood is the chairmen of the House Transportation and Defense Committee, where the bill will be debated further.
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