Republican lawmakers are reviving legislation to ensure drivers don’t have their licenses suspended because of an inability to pay court fees.
Sen. Tom Wright is once again backing the Senate version of the bill (SB 386). Byron Donalds, last year’s House sponsor, is now serving in Congress. Republican Rep. Chip LaMarca is taking over that effort ahead of the 2021 Session (HB 557).
“Far too many Floridians are without the ability to pay their owed fines and fees in full,” Wright said in a Wednesday statement backing the changes.
“Suspending licenses for non-driving related offenses limits the person’s ability to work and earn wages to pay for the fines and fees. I am proud to sponsor this important piece of legislation at such a crucial time for so many of our Florida citizens.”
The measure would not give an exception to individuals with suspended licenses because of dangerous driving or those overdue on child support payments.
“When someone loses their driver’s license, it becomes nearly impossible to maintain employment and support their family,” LaMarca added. “As we build back our economy, we need to look at all options for Floridians and I believe that we should stop suspending licenses due to court debt.”
Around one in eight drivers have had their license suspended at some point for failure to pay court fees, according to statistics cited by the Fines and Fees Justice Center. More than a dozen states have already approved legislation enacting similar changes.
The measures also seek to institute broader reforms for court payment plans. Gone would be monthly service charges, and indigent individuals may have their fines and fees waived entirely.
Both bills last Session moved through the committee process but died just before reaching the House and Senate floors. Several organizations across the ideological spectrum have backed a change, including the ACLU, Americans for Prosperity and numerous businesses,