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Cuccinelli Conducts Phone Town Hall

State Sentator fields questions on abuser fees.

State Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-37) explained his position on the infamous abusive drivers’ fees during a conference call with constituents Tuesday, July 31.

Cuccinelli called several thousand households in his district just before 8 p.m. and invited citizens to join in an hour-long telephone town hall meeting. Participants were allowed to ask the senator questions during this time.

Most of the senator’s time and constituents’ questions during the phone call was dedicated to the abusive driver fees that the General Assembly and Gov. Tim Kaine (D) passed as part of an overall transportation package last spring.

The fees allow the state to charge Virginia drivers over $1,000 for a variety of reckless driving offenses, including taking your car 20 miles above the speed limit. They took effect July 1.

Several state residents have expressed outrage over the new fees, saying that the penalties are too high for many of the crimes. Several people have said they are especially upset that the fees do not apply to out-of-state violators.

Cuccinelli said he is opposed to the fees, even though he voted for the transportation bill that included them one of the two times it came him this spring.

Cuccinelli said he voted in favor of the transportation bill when it initially came before the General Assembly because he thought the securing transportation funding for Northern Virginia was more important than voting against the abuser fees. Had Cuccinelli chosen to vote against the bill, he would have killed the entire transportation package for 2007 because the measure only passed by one vote in the Senate.

"The choice I was faced with was vote for the bill or have no transportation plan at all," he said during the phone conference.

Unhappy with Kaine’s revisions — including one that applied the abuser fees only to Virginians — Cuccinelli opposed the transportation bill during the Senate’s second and final vote on the matter. Most senators voted in favor of the revisions.

Before the 2007 session, Cuccinelli had gone on record as being opposed to the abusive drivers’ fees, he noted. When the fees came were proposed in a bill during the 2006 session, he was one of only six senators to vote against them.

"It is bad policy for the government to get revenue through criminal penalties," he said.

Fines like these are also known to hit poor people harder than others. If a person making $40,000 per year has to pay a $2,500 fine, his whole disposable income for a month is wiped out, said Cuccinelli.

Kaine should call a special session so that the General Assembly can repeal the abusive driver fees and address loop holes in the mental health system that were brought to light by the Virginia Tech shootings, said Cuccinelli.