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

drivers license - generic

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.

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at [email protected].


  • Rochelle St. Claire

    January 9, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    Yes, this would be a great opportunity for the less fortune to get back on the road and find work. The bus syst in St Petersburg, Fl. Is one of the worse modes of transportation, for a person trying to support themself. They are always late and also very dirty. I have a eeaken immune system and was always sick. After an accident I had, I was issued tickets and Paid them on time, but couldn’t afford taking a class that was required. I haven’t been able to work and have a hard time getting to doctors appointments. Also, tacking a man license for non payment only makes matters worse to make those payments. At least having a work related license would be a sensible option.option.

  • James C. Walker

    January 9, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    This is good legislation. Suspending a drivers license for the inability to pay fines is the same in today’s society as putting someone in Debtor’s Prison. That is a despicable practice that civilized societies stopped over 100 years ago.

    Every Florida resident should support these bills.

    James C. Walker National Motorists Association

  • Jennifer

    January 9, 2017 at 10:33 pm

    Driving is a right, not a privilege.

    • Carter

      January 14, 2017 at 3:22 pm

      @Jennifer…what a bureaucrat! The average Joe doesn’t need to have a license suspended willy nilly.

  • Sandy Oestreich

    January 10, 2017 at 9:23 am

    Once again, Sen Brandes promotes legislation For the Common Good. How rare!
    I am proud of my Senator.

  • James

    January 12, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    I agree 100% with the exception of those who fail to pay child support. Sometimes this is the only method to force deadbeat parents (like my ex-wife) to pay their court ordered child support in a manner that is quick and effective. If you have to wait on the court’s to take action it takes months if you are lucky and more than a year on average.

Comments are closed.


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