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House passes "crash tax" ban

While the state has had no problem passing plenty of its own fines and fees (surcharges? taxes?) this session, legislators on Friday voted to ban cities and counties from charging fees to drivers who get into accidents on their roads, putting up a roadblock for the so-called "crash tax."

The proposal by Rep. Nick Thompson, R-Fort Myers, cleared the House 102-15, and it would prohibit cities from billing drivers for accident clean up.

A similar proposal by Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, passed the Senate earlier this week, and the bill now heads to the governor.

In recent years, more cash-strapped counties and cities have turned to the fees -- or "cost recovery programs" to use the local government term -- to recoup the costs of fire-rescue accident calls, particularly for crashes caused by non-residents who don't already pay taxes for local public safety services. The fees have been particularly popular in municipalities with many major roads within their borders.

But supporters of the crash tax ban say the fees are simply a "hidden tax." And lawmakers in Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Tennessee have already banned the fees.

"What this bill says is this is not the right way to raise revenue," Thompson said.