A coalition of lawmakers and activists rallied in the state capital on Tuesday, calling for the passage of a bill designed to reduce the number of driver’s license suspensions for unpaid fines and fees. The rally, led by the Fines and Fees Justice Center (FFJC), held a press conference at the capitol Tuesday supporting HB903 and SB1328.
Ashley Thomas, the state director for the Fines and Fees Justice Center was joined by State Representative Byron Donalds, State Senator Tom Wright, and State Representative Bob Rommel.
“Florida businesses are being harmed by this ineffective policy,” said Thomas. “Businesses across the state rely on employees to dependably get to work every day and many jobs require driving. Florida’s practice of suspending a person’s driver’s license for unpaid fines and fees is counterproductive and needs to end.”
The group says the bill would reduce the number of driver’s license suspensions for unpaid fines and fees in criminal cases and would create a standardized process for individuals who owe fines or fees to apply for and obtain an affordable payment plan. The bill will not change suspensions based on dangerous driving (DUI, accrued points, etc.) it also won’t change driver’s license suspensions relating to overdue child support.
“The current drivers license suspension system places too many Floridians in a downward spiral. HB 903 allows individuals who owe fines and fees to get back on the road, safely and legally, return to work, and to provide for their families,” said Donalds, one of the bill’s Republican sponsors. “This conservative solution is what we should be advocating for to help all Floridians.”
“This piece of legislation will provide many of our Floridians owing fines and fees an outlet to keeping or reinstating their drivers’ license,” said Wright. “I am proud to be working alongside Representative Donalds on a proactive approach to keep people working in this state while lessening their financial burdens over time.”
According to the Fines and Fees Justice Center, unjust fines and fees have the potential to distort justice:
Our goal is to eliminate fees in the justice system and to ensure that fines are equitably imposed and enforced. The center works in states to achieve comprehensive reform. Working with directly impacted communities, FFJC is building broad-based coalitions from across the political spectrum including grassroots organizations, judges, public defenders, prosecutors, legislators, law enforcement, and faith-based and advocacy organizations.
Florida is not alone in reducing or eliminating driver’s license suspensions for unpaid fines and fees, in the past 2 years, Virginia, Texas, Mississippi, Idaho, Montana, California, and the District of Columbia have all passed legislation ending debt-based suspension.
Last month, the Tampa City Council and Hillsborough County Commission each approved resolutions in support of this legislation. Americans for Prosperity, The Florida Retail Federation, Florida Truckers Association, Institute for Justice, UBER, Lyft and other groups have signed on in support.