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Watchdog Wire focuses on waste, fraud, abuse, and general government accountability. This article focuses on abuse – not outrageous and illegal roadside cavity searches by the police, but on every day government abuse that most of us regard as normal.
It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. – Jiddu Krishnamurti
In the 2013 legislative session, Maryland’s General Assembly strengthened an existing law regarding the treatment of those who don’t pay a toll at the toll booth. A vehicle’s registration must be suspended if the owner doesn’t pay or contest the notice of toll due, within 30 days. There is reciprocity with other states, too. The old law was 60 days, suspension was optional, and there was no reciprocity.
Many people react to this by stating that scofflaws deserve this punishment. While this bill may seem insignificant given the laws we have, it’s a great example of just how much control we let government assert, over a relatively insignificant amount of money.
Here’s a summary of the law and its effects:
- Tolls in Maryland range from $.15 – $8
- A civil citation is issued if the toll is not paid within 30 days of the date the notice is mailed
- The civil citation is $50
- The Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) is given orders to suspend a registration
- A “flag” is put on the registration, so the vehicle cannot be sold or transferred
- The flag has to be cleared by the Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA)
- Driving with a suspended registration is subject to a $150 fine (existing law)
There were many articles published last fall on toll scofflaws. The MdTA said it was owed $7,000,000 in unpaid tolls and the reader was lead to believe this was a big problem. Yet the MdTA’s own analysis of its proposed FY14 budget belies that notion:
Toll evasion is a problem that MDTA constantly has to deal with, but in particular, from video tolling, the problem is more telling. From fiscal 2008 to 2012, $19.3 million in video tolls were captured, with $6.7 million of that unpaid. Over that same time period, MDTA collected $5.1 billion in tolls, meaning that outstanding tolls accounted for less than 1.0% of total toll revenue. For perspective, MDTA is expected to collect $612.6 million in toll revenue during fiscal 2014, so the amount of toll revenue uncollected in those five years is just 1.1% of fiscal 2014 revenue. [emphasis mine]
If the issue was truly toll collection, the state would hire a better debt collector. The laws are made to assert control over the People, not to better serve the People.
Did anyone in the General Assembly vote against this bill? No, not one single Delegate or Senator thought it was outrageous that a vehicle registration be suspended and a $50 fine be levied for failure to pay a $3 toll.
A belief that government grants rights and has significant, nearly unlimited powers is pervasive throughout the state capital. One of the fiscal and policy analysts wrote this when analyzing HB 70:
The Maryland Public Information Act grants the public a broad right of access to records that are in the possession of State and local government agencies.
Of course, rights are by nature of our birth/humanity and we the People confer limited, select powers to the government. Government has no rights, therefore it may not grant any. If you already know this, you get a gold star.
To further illustrate the point above, the Department of Legislative Services’ “Legislators’ Handbook” says, on page 6:
The powers of the General Assembly are plenary and generally unrestricted unless specifically limited by the United States Constitution or the Maryland Constitution.
Let that soak in.
The Maryland Constitution’s Declaration of Rights states:
We, the People of the State of Maryland, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberty, and taking into our serious consideration the best means of establishing a good Constitution in this State for the sure foundation and more permanent security thereof, declare:
Article 1. That all Government of right originates from the People, is founded in compact only, and instituted solely for the good of the whole; and they have, at all times, the inalienable right to alter, reform or abolish their Form of Government in such manner as they may deem expedient…
Note that the government was not thanked for our liberty.
Of the many grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence, the one that comes to mind while writing this article:
He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
We need to know our rights and assert them. Until more of us do that, we will be subject to the whims and overreaches of our government’s three branches and their bureaucracies.
The average salary throughout all of MdTA for FY14 for its 1,790.5 positions is $82,102.46.
Tolls range from $.15 on one leg of the Inter-County-Connector to $8 on the Nice bridge.
Are you interested in fighting bad bills, to make sure they don’t become law? Visit Maryland Legislative Watch to see how you can be involved in 2014.
Tags: Declaration of Rights, Department of Legislative Services, Government, Laws, Maryland, Maryland Legislature, Vehicle Laws
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