Monday, June 25, 2007

It all depends how you "Phrase" the question...(Update)

The Mason Conservative has a link to a letter from House Speaker Howell regarding the media's "Spin" on the recent laws going into effect concerning abusive drivers.

"IN MONDAY'S lead edi- torial, "Sherwood Forest drive," you did a disservice to your readers by stating as "fact" several mischaracterizations of the fees to be assessed upon drivers who habitually violate Virginia's traffic laws."

The Speakers response was to an editorial written in the Free-Lance Star and looks like it applies to the same one written in the Staunton NewsLeader this past week...

"Of greater concern, your editorial left the impression that good drivers--those not already subject to existing penalties for a high number of driver demerit points on their licenses--would somehow be billed thousands of dollars for the slightest infraction. Such hyperbole, the mainstay of extreme partisans and the stuff of their blogs, is unsuitable for a publication"

A few days ago the Staunton NewsLeader ran another “Opinion Poll” on their website asking about the upcoming changes to the fine\penalty structure for motor vehicle violations. I found the “Phrasing” of the poll question somewhat leading towards their apparent dislike of the higher fines and penalties as compared to raising fuel taxes to finance the needed transportation projects.

Poll Question:
“What would you prefer as a method of funding Virginia’s transportation needs: Astronomically high “Abuser fees” for traffic offenses and a $10 hike in registration fees, or a few cents extra per gallon gas tax at the pump?”

It seems that the NewsLeader would rather see the cost of Transportation projects spread more evenly across the board so that all Virginia, as well as out of state, taxpayers foot this bill.

NewsLeader Editorial:
“Rather than levy a few cents per gallon extra of tax on automotive fuels that would set Virginians — and out-of-state truckers and motorists — back an average of $1.40 to $2 extra at the gas pump at each fill-up, miscreant Virginian drivers will foot the bill for asphalt and bridges.”

It also appears that the NewsLeader may feel that these fines\penalties would unfairly punish the lower income segment of society and just another ploy by the “Evil Republicans” in the General Assembly…

Newsleader editorial:
“After all, most of the people who are habitual offenders don't come from a socio-economic class that has high hundreds or low thousands of dollars to pay for fees. Even the "generous installment terms" offered to those Virginians caught in the General Assembly's little pyramid scheme might tax the wallets of the poor.”

You know maybe the NewsLeader did not come outright and accuse the Republicans in the General Assembly but as posted in a prior post on RightsideVA, I found these comments on a Liberal Virginia blog:

Our friends over at a much more “Liberal” blog that claims to have “Raised” our now Democratic Governor Tim “Kaine” to office has a post about this same topic. It is interesting to see how they present this same story. In fact it appears they may have actually turned this discussion about the safety of our public transportation to a political issue and a call to remove those evil Republicans from office. Several quotes from “comments” posted on their topic: “We're stuck with it unless we toss the jerks”… “More to the point, there's no gubernatorial election this year, but EVERY SINGLE GENERAL ASSEMBLY SEATE is up for grabs”…

The NewsLeader also seems to have a problem with this solution which does not raise taxes as much as they would like. This bill does increase the cost of car registration by $10 a year… Another tax increase…

NewsLeader Editorial:
"No matter; our heroic anti-taxers have saved the day, laying all the burden on the shoulders of Virginians while allowing out-of-state miscreants to run free

I found it very interesting today when I read in the NewsLeader print edition a Associated Press story getting more in depth describing the actual penalty phases and reasoning.

ASSOCIATED Press story:
“Those “Abusive” in state motorists will pay hundreds of dollars - in some cases, thousands - over three years in addition to existing fines, court costs and possible jail time. Drive with a suspended or revoked license and pony up three annual payments of $250 each; reckless driving, three yearly payments of $350 each; driving under the influence, $750 a year for three years. Any vehicle-related felony is $1,000 times three”…

In a sidebar to this article was the following description of the “New Virginia Laws”:

“Hundreds of dollars - in some cases thousands - in “civil remedial fees,” are allowed to be imposed for egregious and persistent dangerous drivers. Fees apply only to Virginia residents.”

Instead of just going ahead and raising taxes straight across the board to help pay for the transportation projects, the General Assembly is looking to raise revenue by sending a message to “egregious and persistent dangerous drivers” that continued motor vehicle violations will not be tolerated. It also looks as if the Judge imposing the actual penalty may have some movement in the severity, “are allowed to be imposed for” of the penalty as imposed. And look at the people these fines are targeted at: Persistent dangerous drivers. Driving while on suspended list. Driving under the influence. Vehicle related felonies. Repeat offenders who do not correct their actions.
These “Motorists” need to learn that their continued and\or dangerous motor vehicle actions are not acceptable and will not be tolerated no matter what the $$$ cost might do to them. The safety of All vehicle operators and passengers must take priority.

A increase in the Virginia fuel tax may still be needed to finance all of the transportation projects on the board, but I applaud the General Assembly in looking for alternate sources of revenue, and their efforts in cost cutting, in dealing with transportation costs.

I guess it really does come down to how you “Phrase” the question…