Published 6:52 pm Saturday, May 6, 2017

The yearly trip to the mechanic for a vehicle safety inspection would go away under a bill approved by the Senate on Thursday.   “Let me be abundantly clear, vehicle inspections do not make our roads safer,” said Dallas Senator Don Huffines. “The chore is a waste of time for Texas drivers, and it’s a waste of their money.” His bill, SB 1588, would end the requirement for annual safety inspections in Texas.

Huffines cited studies showing that vehicle safety inspections don’t actually reduce accidents, injuries and road fatalities. Texas is one of only 15 states that still require annual safety inspections, and Huffines said that drivers spend $130 million each year on inspections. “Texas is one of the last states to recognize the uselessness of mandatory vehicle inspections,” he said. “The data is conclusive these inspections have no discernable safety benefit to Texas drivers.”

Currently the annual safety inspection costs a driver $14.50 every year, split between a $7 charge paid to the station at the time of inspection and another $7.50 added onto vehicle registration. Huffines’ bill would replace that with a safety fee added on to registrations: $9.75 for currently unregistered or new cars, $20 for commercial vehicles, and $5.50 for registration renewals. That money will go to pay for road safety improvements like guardrails and street lights. The bill leaves intact current emissions testing standards, so drivers will still have to have that annual check to ensure their car meets state and federal emissions standards.

The Senate also approved on Thursday a bill aimed at bail bond reform. Senator John Whitmire of Houston offered a bill, SB 1338, that would require that a risk assessment is performed before bail is set for a defendant, to determine how much of a risk to flee or danger to the community he or she is. This assessment would be conducted by the judge’s staff at no cost to the defendant, and must be completed within 24 hours for misdemeanor cases and 48 hours for felonies. Judges would be required to consider the results of an assessment, but still leaves them their full discretion to set a bail amount.

Bail reform was one of the issues identified in Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht’s biannual State of the Judiciary report in February. Too often, he said, non-violent offenders languish in jail because of unreasonably high bail amounts. He called on the Legislature to implement risk assessments statewide. “Courts in five counties use readily available risk assessment tools to determine that the overwhelming majority of people charged with non-violent crimes can be released on their personal recognizance without danger to the public or risk of flight and at less cost to the taxpayers,” said Hecht.   “The Judicial Council recommends that this be standard practice throughout the state. Liberty, and common sense, demand reform.”

Both Huffines’ SB 1588 and Whitmire’s SB 1338 now head to the House for consideration.

The Senate will reconvene Monday, May 8 at 11 a.m.