Jeff Brandes Archives - Florida Politics

Legislation covering Uber, Lyft filed for 2017

Online car services such as Uber and Lyft got a preliminary win in Florida after favorable legislation was filed Wednesday in the Legislature.

The bills (SB 340 and HB 221), which would apply to ridebooking companies like Uber and Lyft, combine parts of previous measures that have been introduced but not passed over the last few years.

Still, “transportation network companies,” or TNCs, pretty much got what they wanted, including a provision for driver background checks that don’t require fingerprints, which are more expensive for the companies.

Senate sponsor Jeff Brandes, however, says the checks provided for in the bills are still rigorous and comprehensive. He and state Rep. Chris Sprowls, a Pinellas County Republican who filed the House bill, spoke with reporters Wednesday.

Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who advocates for ridebooking and other “disruptive technologies,” mentioned running potential drivers through a national sex offender database and searching their driving history records.

Importantly, the bills also prohibit local governments from trying to regulate TNCs, another bugaboo of the companies.

Lyft spokeswoman Chelsea Harrison called the bills “fair and comprehensive.”

The legislation “establishes common-sense guidelines throughout the state, and allows people in Florida to continue benefitting from Lyft’s affordable, reliable rides,” said Harrison, Lyft’s senior policy communications manager.

“More than two-thirds of states across the country have embraced modern transportation options like Lyft and we are hopeful Florida will soon join them in creating a framework that benefits drivers and passengers,” she added.

Such legislation has been opposed by taxicab and limo interests, and the head of the Florida Taxicab Association called this year’s bills “another attempt by Uber to have legislation written to codify their exact business practice.”

“The goal for policymakers should be what is in the best interest of the public, including drivers, passengers and third parties,” said Roger Chapin, also the executive vice president of Mears Transportation, Central Florida’s largest taxi and hired-car provider.

“A good start,” he added, “would be an appropriate level of insurance for any and all ‘for hire’ drivers that covers the additional risk associated with the more intensive use of the vehicle,” such as “24/7 commercial insurance.”

But the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America came out in support of the bills.

“Many drivers believe their personal auto insurance policy will cover them; this is almost never the case, as the majority of personal auto insurance policies exclude coverage when a vehicle is being used for hire,” association spokeswoman Logan McFaddin said.

“This legislative solution helps to ensure there are safe transportation options that protect drivers, passengers and the public.”

Among other things, the bills require the companies to insure drivers for at least $1 million when they’re giving a ride.

While drivers are on duty but waiting for a ride, they must insure them for death and bodily injury of $50,000 per person, $100,000 for death and bodily injury per incident, and $25,000 for property damage.

Chris Hudson, state director of Americans for Prosperity-Florida, a free market advocacy group, also came out in favor of the bills. He said TNCs “offer economic benefits to the economy by stirring market activity through new good paying jobs consistent with the American Dream.”

Lawmakers “need to strip away the red tape that is crushing innovation and opportunity for Floridians to thrive,” he added. “We will hold elected officials accountable that stand against common sense reforms to expand available services to entrepreneurs and consumers.”

Colin Tooze, an Uber representative, called the legislation “sound and consistent with the emerging national consensus” on regulating ridebooking.

“The bills have very robust safety, insurance, and consumer protection standards,” said Tooze, Uber’s public affairs director. “That’s what our drivers and riders are looking for.”

He also said the pre-emption language, reserving TNC regulation to the state, also was important to save drivers and riders from a “patchwork of regulations that’s very confusing.”

“We think people ought to have certainty and uniformity so that wherever in Florida you are, you can count on a good experience,” Tooze said.

 

 

Jeff Brandes’ legislation would reform why state suspends driver’s licenses

Republican state Senator Jeff Brandes is once again filing a bill that would prevent Floridians from having their driver’s licenses suspended for a reason unrelated to a driving violation.

The legislation would reduce the number of offenses for which license suspension is prescribed and prohibit suspensions for those who show in court an inability to pay fines and fees. St. Petersburg Democrat Daryl Rouson is co-sponsoring.

“Florida suspends hundreds of thousands of licenses each year, often because a person is saddled with debt for fines that may have nothing to do with driving,” Brandes said in a statement.

“With compounding fees and collections costs, the prospect of reinstating a license may seem insurmountable to some of the poorest in our communities,” he added. “This bill provides people with an opportunity to regain mobility, find employment, and get their lives back on track.”

Brandes introduced a similar bill during last year’s session that didn’t make its way out of the the Senate Appropriations Committee. He said he did so after reading reports showing that more than 1.2 million driver’s license suspensions occur annually in Florida.

A study conducted in 2014 said that the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles suspended 1.3 million driver’s licenses in fiscal year 2012-13, and 167,000 were for non-driving reasons, such as failure to pay fines or court fees or child support.

An August, 2015 report in the Miami Herald found that 77 percent of all license suspensions in Florida between 2012 and 2015 occurred because of a failure to pay fees.

A similar bill was proposed in the House last year by Rouson and was co-sponsored by Republicans Dana Young from Tampa and Sarasota’s Greg Steube. All three of those members have moved on to the Senate this year, presupposing there could be support for the bill there.

The bill will likely have a negative impact on local tax collectors and clerks of court who retain a portion of revenues from certain driver’s license sanctions when issuing reinstatements, in addition to other fees retained by them associated with license suspensions and revocations. That was an issue with the bill last year.

Rick Kriseman formally announces he’s running for re-election

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman filed for re-election Thursday.

“I’m asking the citizens of St. Petersburg to continue the progress of the past three years,” the mayor said in a statement. “Working together, we’ve taken on the serious issues and made a positive impact in all corners of our city.”

The announcement comes nearly three years to the day that Kriseman was sworn into office. It had been mostly smooth sailing for the former city councilman and state representative until issues with the town’s sewage system occurred last summer.

That’s led to some of the toughest criticism of his time in office for how his office has handled the situation.

St. Pete was already on the rise when Kriseman defeated Bill Foster by 12 percentage points in November 2013 and has continued to see unprecedented growth over the following three years.

As the Tampa Bay Times wrote in an editorial over the weekend, “No question St. Petersburg is on a roll. Is that because of City Hall or in spite of it?”

The Times also noted the rising cost of the new Pier, the lack of creating jobs in Midtown’s poorer neighborhoods and the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field as issues that voters will need to consider this fall. In his statement issued out by campaign manager Tom Alte, the Kriseman administration is taking credit for moving forward on the issues of the Rays and the Pier.

“Under the leadership of Mayor Kriseman, St. Petersburg has resolved numerous high-profile issues, including resolving the stalemate with the Tampa Bay Rays, moving forward with a community-based plan to build a new pier, hiring a new police chief, and finding the funding needed for construction of a new police station,” it reads.

Since his election, Kriseman has signed legislation allowing for paid parental leave for employees, a higher minimum wage, and second chances for minors.

He’s also elevated the city’s profile through the pursuit of a Cuban consulate, picking up the void left by his friend across the bay, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, after he declined to get involved in that campaign.

“We’ve become the beacon of progress I spoke about on the steps of City Hall more than three years ago — but there is still work to do,” Kriseman said. “We must continue our efforts to combat gun violence and intervene in the lives of our troubled youth. We must do our part to make the sun shine bright on every student in every single public school.

“And we must upgrade our wastewater and stormwater systems as soon as possible if we’re serious about being a true 21st-century City.

“Our residents, business owners, and community groups are interested in action and progress, not politics. They want a mayor who faces challenges head-on and gets things done. I’ve been that mayor,” Kriseman said. “I know that we can solve any issue as long as we work together. I remain optimistic and excited about where the Sunshine City is heading.”

Throughout most of his tenure, the mayor’s poll numbers have been good, with his handling of the sewage system being his only real Achilles’ heel.

While the issues surrounding the Pier and the Rays have yet to be completely solved, they haven’t dented his popularity, which is unlike the case with Foster.

As of today, seemingly the only man in the way of another four years is former Mayor Rick Baker, who led St. Petersburg from 2001-2009. A St. Pete Polls survey conducted last month of 1,100 votes showed Baker with a surprisingly solid lead over Kriseman, 44 percent to 35 percent.

No other person in the poll mentioned — Jeff Brandes, Amy Foster, Steve Kornell or Karl Nurse — came close to defeating Kriseman (None of those lawmakers, it should be noted, have expressed any interest in running for mayor).

Baker has also been circumspect about another run for office. Since leaving City Hall in 2009, Baker declined opportunities to run for Florida’s 13th Congressional District on two separate occasions. Since 2012, he has served as president of The Edwards Group, the umbrella company that oversees all the enterprises of entrepreneur Bill Edwards.

Included in Kriseman’s re-election statement were endorsements from Sen. Bill Nelson and CD 13 Rep. Charlie Crist.

“Our residents, business owners, and community groups are interested in action and progress, not politics,” Kriseman said. “They want a mayor who faces challenges head-on and gets things done. I’ve been that mayor.”

“I know that we can solve any issue as long as we work together,” he added. “I remain optimistic and excited about where the Sunshine City is heading.”

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New Jeff Brandes bill creates program for Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment in Department of Health

Senator Jeff Brandes has filed a new bill, SB 228, that would create a Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) program in the Florida Department of Health.

The POLSTs are documents provided to specify directions on patients with terminal conditions.

Brandes’ bill establishes a laundry list of small rules and regulations to cement the way POLSTs should be used and regulated. Under his bill, the new department created would adopt rules for POLSTs, create a standardized form for one, provide an electronic version online, make sure staff receives updated training on dealing with the forms and implement a statewide process for identifying patients who have the forms and dealing with them properly.

The bill provides that POLST forms may not be treated as prerequisites for receiving treatment at medical care facilities. The new rules would make clear that an absence of a POLST form doesn’t mean medical professionals can withhold resuscitation or care.

At town hall in Ybor City, Darryl Rouson says climate is good for “true” criminal justice reform

At a town-hall meeting in Tampa’s Ybor City, newly-elected Senate District 19 Democrat Darryl Rouson said he feels that, finally, a serious attempt at criminal justice reform is going to take place in the Florida Legislature in 2017.

“It’s my intention to change the Black Caucus this year so that all 28 members … really stand up and do something,” he said when queried by one new constituent, who told him that the only way to stop gun violence was to provide more job opportunities for young men.

“I believe the climate is good this year for true criminal justice reform,” Rouson continued. “And we’re going to work hard.”

The St. Petersburg Democrat added that it was “unfair” for the community to criticize lawmakers like himself for not doing enough regarding urban violence, “as if we’re not sensitive to this issue.”

“These are our families. These are our friends. These are church members who are going through this issue,” he said.

Rouson met with approximately 120 of his new constituents in Tampa, where he was joined by House District 61 Democrat Sean Shaw in a joint meeting hosted by both local legislators. While Shaw represents much of Tampa and other parts of Hillsborough County, Rouson’s district encompasses that area and parts of  downtown and south St. Pete as well, making him the first lawmaker in this hybrid district to come from the Pinellas side in more than two decades. He narrowly defeated former HD 61 Representative Ed Narain by just 75 votes last month to take the seat which has previously been held in the past eight years by Arthenia Joyner.

One audience member questioned how criminal justice reform should move forward with the heavily GOP based Legislature?

“Because certain people are beginning in this phrase ‘smart justice,’ certain people are looking at the economic cost of incarceration and felonization of people to society and they haven’t looked at it like this before,” Rouson explained.

Senate President Joe Negron and St. Petersburg’s Jeff Brandes have spoken about tackling criminal justice reform in the coming year. But whether that happens or not remains to be seen. In the U.S. Senate, Kentucky Republican Rand Paul and New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker introduced the REDEEM Act (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment) in 2014. The bill is focused on helping people who committed non-violent crimes better integrate into the community and find gain full employment to reduce the chance they will commit offenses in the future.

More than two years later, it has not come up for a vote in the U.S. Senate.

The two lawmakers also heard plenty of questions and concerns about issues like restoring ex-felons rights, the Tampa Bay Express project, affordable housing and education.

On the restoration of voting right for ex-felons, Shaw said he intends to prepare a bill that that will deal with that issue “on the front end.”

“I want to limit the categories of people who get their rights taken away up front,” he said.

Lynn Gray, a new Hillsborough County School board member, said she was concerned that the state was going to get “more involved” in school vouchers.

“I support a fully funded high quality public education for every child that fits their need,” Rouson immediately began before adding, “But one size does not fit all.”

He went on to say that parents deserve a choice, referring to how one of his boys who was born with cognitive deficits is struggling with IEP’s (Individualized Education Program) in public schools, because there’s no type of school that handles such kids in his school district.

“I believe that parents deserve choice, but we must require accountability, strict standards, we must lessen the testing that’s going on in public schools, while requiring certain things of our private charters and public charters,” Rouson said. “And there are there are 90,000 kids supported by Step Up and tax credit scholarships.”

Shaw said that the issue of school choice was one of the items that the two lawmakers disagreed on. “Unfortunately, it’s zero sum game to a certain extent, so if we want to fully fund public eduction, we have to do it before we start doing other things,” he said, adding, “I want choices, but as a starting point, we have to fully and adequately fund public education. And we don’t adequately fund public education.”

Rouson, a noted anti-drug hawk, joked that no other senate district was in more support of the medical marijuana constitutional amendment that his SD 19. “So I’m taking a look at this,” he deadpanned.

Both men talked about how reducing gun violence, but admitted they didn’t have all the answers. “That’s one of the reasons why we’re here,” said Shaw. “We need your ideas too.”

Regarding Florida DOT Secretary Jim Boxold comment last week said there was time for a “reset” regarding the troubled Tampa Bay Express project, Shaw said,”I’m going to meet with the secretary and ask what the reset means. Regarding the TBX project itself, Shaw remains resolutely opposed to it.

“I think it’s bad. My district contains the homes that will be torn down, it contains the land that has already been sold. I’m absolutely against it.”

A number of other elected officials were in the room, including newly elected Hillsborough County School board member Tamara Shamburger and Lynn Gray, Tampa City Councilman Frank Reddick and District 70 Representative Wengay Newton, who was put to work passing the microphone to members in the audience who asked questions.

Mitch Perry Report for 12.20.16 – Our driverless future?

Among the 2017 priorities that the Hillsborough County Regional Transit Authority’s government liaison, Cesar Hernandez told board members on Monday, one would be to continue to push for anything that can push autonomous vehicle technology forward in the new year.

In case you’re not familiar with the whole driverless car concept, you should know that the Sunshine State, led by St. Petersburg Republican state Senator Jeff Brandes enthusiasm and advocacy, is in the vanguard of states when it comes to this new form of transportation.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature unanimously passed a bill making Florida the only state that legalized fully autonomous vehicles on public roads without a driver behind the wheel.

Meanwhile, Uber says it will continue to tests its 11 self-driving cars on the streets of San Francisco, despite the threat of legal action from the California Attorney General’s office if the company does not “immediately” remove its test vehicles from public roads.

The Attorney General’s letter, sent late Friday, ordered  Uber to apply for the appropriate permits from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles before continuing to test its cars.  Uber says its self-driving cars don’t require a DMV permit because the systems it is using are no different from current advanced driver-assistance systems that help with parking and collision avoidance, the same systems available in some luxury cars today.

As reported by USA Today, in a Friday afternoon media call, Anthony Levandowski, who runs Uber’s autonomous car programs, said the permitting process doesn’t apply to the company and that “we cannot in good conscience” comply with a regulation that the company doesn’t believe applies to it.

Does that sound familiar to anyone in Tampa?

By the way, have you spoken with an Uber or Lyft driver of late? In Tampa, because there are so many drivers flooding the market, the only way folks can make decent money working for either of these companies is to work for both. And driverless cars could make it even harder for “entrepreneurs” to make money.

But while we’re all moving so fast towards this brave new world of technology, what does the public think?

“In the glorious future, we are assured that driverless cars will save lives, reduce accidents, ease congestion, curb energy consumption and lower harmful emissions. These purported benefits contain elements of truth. But the data is nowhere near complete,” writes Jamie Lincoln Kitman in the op-ed section of Monday’s New York Times. “Even stipulating that all the claimed benefits will one day materialize, the near- and midterm picture from a public-interest perspective is not the same favorable one that industry sees. Legitimate areas of question and concern remain.”

Kidman notes that while the new technology will create some jobs, many others will be lost.

“Millions of truck and taxi drivers will be out of work, and owing to the rise of car-sharing and app-based car services, people may buy fewer vehicles, meaning automakers and their suppliers could be forced to shed jobs,” he writes.

It’s not doom and gloom, and maybe autonomous technology is going to be sensational for all of us going forward. But it’s worth your while to think of some of the possibilities that exist with this technology that may not truly denote progress in our world.

By the way, this will be my last column of 2016. I’m heading out to San Francisco myself tomorrow to celebrate Christmas with friends and family. See you in 2017.

 

 

In other news…

Stephen Bittel may be closer to becoming the next state party chairman 0f the Florida Democratic Party. Of course, he has to win his election for state committeeman in Miami-Dade County tonight against former state legislator Dwight Bullard, but there is precedence for the Democratic party establishment getting who they want in these cases.

At yesterday’s HART meeting, one board member raised strong objections to coming together with PSTA, Pinellas County’s transit agency, in an interlocal agreement.

And our state supervisors of election are hoping for the state legislature to help them with two key issues in 2017, a request made on Friday by Hillsborough County SOE Craig Latimer. 

 

Hillsborough County PTC may be on way out after local delegation approves bill to kill it

The troubled Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission received a terminal diagnosis Friday after members of the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation voted unanimously for a local bill that would eliminate the agency on December 31, 2017.

After that, the County Commission would pick up its regulatory duties.

“The public has lost complete faith in the ability of this agency to regulate credibly, equitably and efficiently,” said bill sponsor James Grant said before the entire delegation vote in support of his bill.

The proposal was similar to a previous bill Grant brought to the local delegation in 2013 that sought to put a stake through the heart of the agency, but with a significant difference.

The local bill approved on Friday gives the county and the PTC a full year to contend with the transition.

“It’s not about moving fast. We want to make sure we avoid any unintended consequences,” Grant said. That was in notable contrast to the 2013 version, which would have killed the agency immediately, making it a bridge too far for other legislators to support, even with noted PTC critics like Dana Young

“I think the plan is to subcontract the regulation out to Uber, isn’t it?” asked Brandon Senator Tom Lee, eliciting the largest round of laughter of the morning.

Although meant for humorous effect, there’s no question that the addition of Uber and Lyft into the county ultimately was the beginning of the end for the PTC, which was already burdened with a toxic reputation well before the emergence of ride-sharing in Hillsborough County.

Among the previous lowlights that had saddled the PTC came in 2010, when Cesar Padilla, then the executive director of the agency, resigned after it was reported that he had been moonlighting as a security guard.

There was also the case of former County Commissioner Kevin White, was busted in 2008 for taking bribes for helping tow company operators to get permits in his role as PTC chair. White ended up serving three years at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta.

The PTC caught the attention of lawmakers like Grant and Jeff Brandes after the PTC went after Uber when it introduced its Uber Black limo service during the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. The PTC shut that effort down quickly.

Those lawmakers became incredibly irritated with the PTC and its (now former) chairman Victor Crist over the past few years, as Uber and Lyft refused to comply with PTC regulations. That led to PTC agents citing those drivers, leading to court actions and more than two years of fighting before an agreement bringing both companies into compliance occurred last month.

At Friday’s meeting, County Commission Chairman Stacy White said, “the county stands prepared to take over regulation of this industry and create a meaningful regulatory framework.”

“I think that those types of things would be able to be implemented by the county with relative ease,” White said. “We do stand prepared to create a lean, regulatory framework.”

The PTC has been funded by fees paid by the taxicab and limousine companies, not directly by taxpayers. Plant City Republican Representative Dan Raulerson asked White if the county would continue to fund their regulatory efforts in the same fashion.

“We certainly do have the ability to charge various permitting fees to offset the costs of the regulatory process,” White said.

“It seems like a good move in broadening out transportation options,” added recently elected Commissioner Pat Kemp.  

“I support it, and I realize that there are 66 other counties in the state of Florida that have figured out how to do this,” said Tea Party activist Sharon Calvert. “Let’s get it done.”

Jeff Brandes backs House lawsuit to make Pitbull contract public

A key state senator on Wednesday endorsed House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s lawsuit seeking to open Visit Florida’s contract with the rapper Pitbull to promote tourism.

“That’s a public record,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes, chairman of the Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development Subcommittee, which oversees Visit Florida.

Corcoran sued in state court Tuesday seeking permission to subject the contract to public committee hearings. His suit named PDR Productions Inc., the rapper’s management company. The company maintains the document contains protected trade secrets.

“I want to understand the contract, and I want to understand the deal-making behind it,” Brandes told reporters following the subcommittee’s first meeting since the elections.

The rapper, born Armando Christian Perez, has released a rap video promoting Florida’s “Sexy Beaches.”

“I’m not against people having bold ideas and executing on them. But I want to make sure that, at the end of the day, that reflects the values of the state of Florida. That’s the major concern here — that dollars were spent in a way that doesn’t represent our values.”

The meeting was a chance for the Departments of Military Affairs, Emergency Management, State and Economic Opportunity to introduce themselves to new members and present their legislative priorities.

That last agency oversees Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, a business-development program supported by Gov. Rick Scott but which Corcoran considers crony capitalism.

Enterprise Florida is supposed to involve a 50:50 match between public and private dollars. It does not, Brandes said.

“The Legislature was very clear that it be a fairly equal match. There hasn’t been an equal match in some time, if ever. We should go back to what the Legislature intended,” he said.

The chairman said he hadn’t met yet with Chris Hart IV, hired in November as Enterprise Florida’s new chief executive officer. Hart had been president and CEO of CareerSource Florida, a jobs development program also operated by the state.

“I haven’t even had a chance to sit down with him yet,” Brandes said. “Once I sit down with him, we are going to develop our vision for what it’s going to look like in the future.”

As for his own top priority, Brandes said it’s affordable housing.

“We’re going to be more tenant-focused in the future, versus developer-focused,” he said. “You’re going to see us spend multiple committee meetings trying to discover the right pathway forward on affordable housing.”

Asked about money the Legislature has shifted in the past from Florida’s affordable housing trust fund to other priorities, Brandes promised a “fundamental shift” in approach.

“People make decisions that really impact their lives when they have the ability to move into market-based rentals that are closer to transportation, closer to their jobs, and that are in better school districts for their kids,” he said.

Jeff Brandes files PIP repeal for 2017

State Sen. Jeff Brandes wants to sound the death knell for Florida’s no-fault auto insurance system.

The St. Petersburg Republican on Tuesday filed a repeal (SB 156) of the personal injury protection, or PIP, requirements under Florida law for motor vehicle insurance.

“PIP is a broken insurance system, and it does not reflect the reality of Florida’s transportation future,” Brandes said in a statement. “PIP fraud impacts every driver in our state, and no proposal is more effective at reducing premiums than a full repeal of PIP.

“It’s time to finally bring substantive reform to the automobile insurance market,” he added.

Lawmakers passed PIP coverage in 1972 to ensure that anyone hurt in an automobile wreck could get medical treatment. Florida is now one of ten “no-fault” states.

The legislation mandated that a driver’s insurance company pay up to $10,000 to cover medical bills and lost wages after an accident – no matter who’s at fault. All Florida drivers are required to carry no-fault insurance.

Over the years, however, fraudsters turned Florida into the top state for staged accidents, especially in the Tampa and Miami-Dade metropolitan areas. That jacked up premiums.

In 2012, lawmakers passed a reform measure (HB 119) to crack down on fraud. But Brandes’ latest bill comes just a few months after a study showed Floridians could save an average $81 per car if the state drops the system.

Yet the reforms also have worked, findings suggest, producing savings on personal-injury claims of 17.5 percent, and reduced premiums by a little more than 15 percent.

Brandes and state Rep. Bill Hager previously have filed PIP repeal legislation but it did not get a hearing. If passed in the next legislative session, it would go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

Background provided by The Associated Press, reprinted with permission. 

Report says 24,000 citizens in Florida have suspended drivers license because of drug offenses

Federal law requires drivers license suspensions for non-payment of child support and drug offenses. However, according to a new report, the majority of states have used a provision in that law that allows them to “opt-out” of these automatic license suspensions while still keeping their highway funding.

Twelve states – including Florida – have not.

A report released this week by the Prison Policy Initiative finds more than 190,000 drivers’ licenses are suspended nationally, including more than 24,000 in Florida alone, because of non-driving drug offenses.

The report finds that low-income communities and communities of color bear the brunt of these suspension laws, with many of those impacted living in areas with poor public transit. The report specifically mentions Palm Bay, where it claims that 93 percent of jobs are not reasonably accessible via public transit for people living in low-income areas.

In the Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater area, only 16 percent of low-income people can “reasonably access” a job with the area’s public transit, the report says, and only 18 percent of middle-income can.

In order to get back on the road, there are reinstatement costs layered on top of other court fines and fees. In Florida, that amounts to $45.

In the past year, Florida legislators have worked to help out those who have lost their license for a variety of transgressions – but not related to drug offenses.

In the 2016 Legislative Session in Tallahassee, St. Petersburg Republican state Senator Jeff Brandes filed legislation (SB 706) that would remove the suspension of drivers licenses for a series of crimes unrelated to driving – such as graffiti by a minor, truancy and failure to pay court fees. However, it died in the Senate Appropriations Committee on the last day of the session.

In January, Tampa Bay area lawmakers Darryl Rouson and Dana Young hosted a “Driver’s License Reinstatement Day,” where applicants who had were guilty of the following violations could be eligible to get their license reinstated: for not driving with a valid driver’s license, collections, failure to appear and outstanding civil traffic citations.

In neither of those cases could a motorist who had his license suspended because of a drug offense get it reinstated.

In fiscal year 2013, there were 1.3 million driver’s license suspensions in Florida. Just over 1 million were for non-payment of fines or process violations related to driving, according to a report by the Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis & Governmental Accountability.

Earlier this year, both Ohio and Massachusetts passed bipartisan legislation repealing their laws. In Ohio, license suspensions for drug offenses are now discretionary rather than mandatory. And in Massachusetts, the Legislature eliminated automatic driver’s license suspensions for all drug offenses with the exception of the trafficking of specified substances. They also repealed the $500 reinstatement fee. Judges now have discretion when adjudicating driving-related drug offenses.

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