Legislation Holds Mobility Over the Heads of the Poor for Municipal Bucks


I’ve been very critical of Mike Araujo and his rhetoric on this site, but he is absolutely correct to object to this bill:

Tuesday night, the House Finance Committee passed a bill (H-6213A) that seeks to expand the denial of vehicle registration to individuals who may have outstanding unpaid interest or penalties on fines owed to a city or town, rather than only revoking it for the amount of the fines themselves owed to the municipality.

Legislation like this, making it easier for people to lose their licenses or registration based on financial debts, has been criticized all over the country for its problematic and counterproductive effects on poor Americans. Driving without a registered vehicle leads to substantial penalties or even a revoked license, which simply worsens the person’s financial issues and hardships. This in itself is challenging since the restrictions would deny the person the ability to drive to work, school, or any other related activity making them less able to meet their monetary obligations.

As an indication of how thoroughly aggressive the legislation is, even in the small details, consider this:  Right now, the legislation requires the city or town to pay the DMV $5 in order to request a registration denial, and that fee “may” be added to the total due from the driver.  This bill waives the up-front payment and says that the $5 “shall” be added to the total.

Where is the public interest in all of this, beyond wanting more money for profligate government?  People need to be mobile to have a shot in the modern world and making it more difficult for them to get right with the regulations for mobility undeniably makes it more likely that they will continue struggling and probably remain dependent on government.

The legislation’s primary sponsor is progressive Democrat Christopher Blazejewski of Providence, who apparently submitted it at the request of the city, but who, in doing so, proved that government always comes first for people in government.  Keeping others dependent on government isn’t exactly contrary to that goal.

  • Mike678

    I understand your point, but why do you feel that the taxpayers should pay the DMV $5 rather than the person who is driving the action?
    Additionally, how else would you suggest a city or town collect fees or fines owed? Assuming it isn’t a bloated, out-of control-city or town, of course. Do you not have to hold at risk something they value? And if they can afford a car, fuel, insurance and registration, is $5 more really asking too much?
    There are many people truly in need, but there also many that play the system. We, in the name of humanity, make it difficult to cut off water if some won’t pay the bill, power, housing and so forth are also put under this umbrella. So, what do some increasingly do? They let those debts pile up with the understanding that there is little the city/town/utilities can do–and the rest of us get to pay their bills.
    Anecdotal case in point: I heard a woman complaining in town hall that her water was being cut off as she was 4 months in arrears. She said she couldn’t afford the $110 cost and that it was inhumane, pointing to her two small children beside her. I felt bad until I saw her Coach handbag and iPhone 6. It often comes down to choices–and making it easy to not pay for what you use isn’t a good strategy.

    • Justin Katz

      Your “assuming it isn’t a bloated, out-of-control city or town” piece captures the key point. Municipalities ought to (1) have less need of money and (2) have fewer things that produce fines. Other than that, I’d rather have a more-direct consequence of a person losing a service related to the fine that he or she owes, rather than this weird indirect thing of taking away registration.