A bill that’d yank the drivers licenses from folks caught a second time driving off without paying for their gas has cleared its final legislative hurdle. The bill passed the Iowa Senate on a 43 to six vote. Senator Brian Schoenjahn, a Democrat from Arlington, says “drive-offs” have become a big problem for rural gas stations in his area. “When you drive off with a tank of gas, you’re not hurting the oil company. They’re going to get paid, but you are hurting the owners of the station,” Senator Bob Brunkhorst, a Republican from Waverly, says losing your drivers license if you fill up but don’t pay up should be a big incentive to pay. Brunkhorst says 24 other states have laws that yank the drivers licenses from folks caught driving away without paying for their gasoline, and those laws have proven effective. But Governor Vilsack vetoed a bill last year that did nearly the same thing by revoking driving privileges after a first offense, but bill backers hope by yanking drivers’ licenses after a second “drive-off” will make Vilsack sign this year’s bill into law. Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames, doubts it because Vilsack says he doesn’t want to tie someone’s loss of driving privileges to the crime of theft. “This governor’s record on this issue is clear. He set his precedent last year. There is no reason to believe that we would get a different outcome,” Quirmbach says. Quirmbach suggested raising the fines for stealing a tank of gas to two-hundred dollars for a first offense, and three-hundred dollars and a couple of days in jail for a second offense. “The price of gasoline, as we all know, has been increasing steeply. That has increased the temptation to steal gasoline,” Quirmbach says. But senators rejected Quirmbach’s call for jail time for gas thieves. Today, if you’re caught driving off without paying for your gas, you’ll be charged with theft, and the fine could be up to 50-dollars. It costs twice that today to fill the gas tanks on some S-U-Vs.
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