Gibbons signs a fee increase

Gov. Jim Gibbons signed a fee increase bill yesterday, despite his stated policy of opposition to increased taxes and fees.

Assembly Bill 407 passed the Legislature on April 29 and was among a batch of bills signed by Gibbons on Wednesday afternoon, according to his staff. The bill's description, as listed on the legislative Web site: "Increases the fee for reinstatement of a driver's license or commercial driver's license."

Under the bill, the fee for reinstatement of a driver's license suspended, revoked or canceled for DUI goes from $40 to $75 in some circumstances, and $65 to $120 in others.

Commercial license reinstatement fees also are increased.

"I know it says it's a fee, but we clearly view it as a penalty," Gibbons spokesman Daniel Burns said in explaining the move.

He said it's part of the punishment for committing a crime and thus acceptable under the governor's philosophy.

It appears to be the first fee increase signed by the governor in the current legislative session, although Burns has said Gibbons plans to sign another bill, Senate Bill 14, that increases marriage license fees by $5 to fund domestic violence programs.

In that case, Burns said, it's a small price to pay for a very important function.

"For $5, we can keep these domestic violence programs going," he said. "If you only get married once in your lifetime, it will only cost you $5. It's a serious matter, sometimes a matter of life or death, so the governor will sign it."

The bill hasn't yet reached the governor's desk since being passed by the Legislature on Monday, he said.

Burns said the logic behind the marriage license fee signing should not be extended to presume that Gibbons might sign other taxes or fees as long as they funded important enough government services.

"Don't take too broad a view of this," he said. "Our logic is very simple: It's $5 on a marriage license."

The sponsor of AB407, Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, was glad to hear the bill had been signed. He said the governor's position on fees is hard to predict on a case-by-case basis.

"The question we always have around here, looking at every bill, we're wondering how do we parse his position," Bobzien said. "It seems that however you slice and dice it, you come up with a different answer. We get to the point where we don't worry about it. We just do what's right and see what comes out at the other end."

Bobzien said there are criminal penalties for DUI elsewhere in statute, but the charges levied by AB407 are fees, not fines.