Texas legislators just cleared a bill on a vote of 75-70. This new legislation will make it easier for poor people to pay traffic tickets if they could not afford it. Before moving to Governor Greg Abbott for approval, the bill needs to be approved by the Senate first.
If approved by the Senate and then the Governor, this piece of legislation will likely prevent thousands of residents in Texas from being imprisoned over simple fines such as traffic tickets. This, in turn, will also save taxpayers a lot of money.
In the Senate Bill 1913, by State Senator Judith Zaffirini, it is stated that if this bill is passed, it would allow courts to ask defendants if they are too poor to pay for simple fines such as traffic tickets.
If the defendants cannot afford to pay the fines, the courts would be allowed to reduce or disregard the amount due. They will offer community service as a suitable alternative option. This would lift a real burden off the shoulders of people who cannot afford to pay.
In a statement to the Texas Tribune, the bill’s House sponsor Representative, Senfronia Thompson, stated: “They’re not getting off scot-free. We’re getting something for something.”
This means that offenders would have to pay back the state in other ways instead of paying a fine and taking money out of their paycheck.
“We are filling our jails up with people who should not be there,” Thompson went on to say.
Supreme Court Chief Justice, Nathan Hecht, who is a huge supporter of the bill stated his opinion about jailing individuals who cannot afford to pay fines in his State of Judiciary speech in February.
“Jailing a person who can’t pay fines and court costs keeps them from jobs, hurts their families, makes them dependent on society and costs the taxpayers money.”
According to a recent report by Texas Appleseed and the Texas Fair Defense Project, a lot of Texas residents are currently facing financial hardships.
The report states that more than 200,000 residents cannot renew their licenses when the time comes to do so.
Roughly 400,000 residents have a hold on their vehicle registrations as a result of their unpaid fines, the report went on to state.
In the case where the punishment was originally just a fine, close to 3 million warrants were issued in 2015.
The report clearly shows that money is huge a problem for these residents. This is also a contributing factor as to why the Texas legislators are trying to pass this bill.
If the bill is successfully passed by the Senate and then by the Governor, this will truly change the lives of thousands of people living in Texas.