Anti-toll groups ask Abbott to suspend tolls, penalties during crisis
(March 30, 2020 — Austin, Texas) Today, Texans for Toll-free Highways and Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) call on Governor Greg Abbott to suspend the collection of tolls during the state of emergency due to the COVID-19 crisis. Abbott has already suspended penalties for late vehicle registrations and drivers license renewals during the COVID-19 state of emergency, and the Texas Supreme Court has blocked residents from being evicted from their homes. In addition, power companies and public utilities have been blocked from shutting off power and water to homes during the crisis. So the anti-toll groups contend the same should be granted to drivers with unpaid toll bills so people don’t have their vehicles impounded and lose their ability to get to work.
The groups are asking the Governor to:
1) Suspend tolls during the state of emergency.
2) Suspend the imposition of fines and criminal penalties for unpaid toll bills (which includes fines, blocking one’s vehicle registration, and impounding vehicles).
Suspending tolls, fines, and criminal penalties will expedite the ability of trucks and essential workers to get goods and people to where they need to be using the fastest possible route. Many healthcare workers cannot work if they have a criminal record. Since an unpaid toll bill is considered a criminal misdemeanor (Section 372.110(b), 372.111, 372.112, see here) in Texas, this imperils healthcare workers’ ability to stay on the job in some health systems.
“This is not the time for state or local toll authorities to impose criminal misdemeanor charges against people with unpaid toll bills. A misdemeanor can prevent healthcare workers from keeping their jobs and possibly other essential workers like truckers and emergency responders. We cannot afford to lose any of our essential workers during a public health crisis,” advocates Terri Hall, Founder/Director of TURF and Texans for Toll-free Highways.
“With the financial stress of many workers losing their jobs and families facing uncertain financial situations, having an unpaid toll bill that piles on penalties and late fees during this state of emergency and public health crisis is unreasonable, especially when work restrictions are in place,” Hall points out.