I tried to find the thread about the 40 million owed in parking tickets, but I was either to lazy or not too smart.

Bill takes aim at unpaid parking fines
$40 million owed in Dallas cited; official says he'll file next year

08:54 PM CST on Tuesday, March 21, 2006
By DAVE LEVINTHAL / The Dallas Morning News

You try to re-register your vehicle with your county tax office, as you do every year.

But this go-around, your bill comes to $400 instead of the $70 or so it usually is, and the folks there won't let you get your sticker until you pay up.

That's not necessarily fantasy. Government officials could slap motorists with registration holds until they settle any unpaid parking tickets charged to their vehicle, under a bill state Rep. Tony Goolsby, R-Dallas, says he will file next year.

Although a similar bill he filed in 1999 never mustered much support, Mr. Goolsby says a Dallas Morning News report last month, revealing that companies and private motorists owed Dallas City Hall more than $40 million in outstanding parking tickets, will spark interest in his proposal.

As city officials increase efforts to collect parking ticket fines, one of their primary gripes is the lack of legal collection tools available to them. Other states, including California, use registration holds to pry parking fines from people's pocketbooks.

In Dallas and many other Texas municipalities, parking ticket fines are civil matters that aren't punishable criminally. Driving an unregistered vehicle is a criminal offense, however.

Mr. Goolsby's 1999 registration-hold bill applied to vehicles that accumulated $100 or more in unpaid parking tickets.

"People often say, 'I'm not going to pay because they're not going to come after me,' " said Mr. Goolsby, who is running for re-election in November against Dallas Democrat Harriet Miller. "You'd sure have people coming in and paying tickets if they couldn't register their car."

Said Dallas Assistant City Manager Tommy Gonzalez: "There's certainly a higher return on your collection rate with more tools than less."

The Dallas City Council is ultimately responsible for deciding whether to lobby the Legislature for such a change, noted Mr. Gonzalez, who is leading a month-old City Hall task force charged with finding solutions to Dallas' parking ticket woes. His task force will present its recommendations, which he declined to discuss, to the council's transportation and environment committee next month.

"We want to give the council as many options as possible," Mr. Gonzalez said.

Eagerly awaiting those options is council member Linda Koop, the committee's chairwoman. If registration holds are the best suggestion among those presented to the council, she said, "that's the one we'll go forward with, that's the one we'll talk to Austin about.

"There's just no incentive to pay your tickets right now."

One criticism Mr. Goolsby recalls is that a registration-hold law would disproportionately affect poor citizens. It didn't dissuade him then, he said, and it won't now.

"If I'm poor, I still have an obligation to follow the law," Mr. Goolsby said. "Forty million dollars in one city is a lot of money. And other cities San Antonio, Houston, Denton, Fort Worth, El Paso have money owed to them, too. This law will help cities."