Gov. DeSantis signs bill easing payment plans for court fines
The AHCA finalized 31 actions against managed care plans — to the tune of nearly $10M.

Bag of money with a dollar sign and a judge's hammer on the scales. Concept lobbying for the adoption of a law or a norms, corruption. Payment of fines and penalties. award of compensation for damage
'Making payment plans affordable is a win-win for all Floridians — and for the clerks who rely on collections of fines and fees for their budgets.'

Floridians and tourists caught speeding or otherwise handed a fine or fee by a county court soon must pay $25 per month as part of any payment plan to satisfy the debt, thanks to legislation signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis Monday evening.

Currently, a monthly payment plan can be set up by the courts for those assessed fines or fees of up to 2% of their annual net income, divided by 12. When HB 397, which passed unanimously in each chamber, takes effect July 1, the minimum payment will be $25, if the current formula is less than that. Clerks of the Court can also charge a down payment of $100 or 10% of the amount owed, whichever is less.

“Making payment plans affordable is a win-win for all Floridians — and for the clerks who rely on collections of fines and fees for their budgets,” said Sarah Couture, Florida State Director of the Fines and Fees Justice Center.

A December 2019 study by Couture’s group showed there were nearly 2 million suspended licenses out of 16.6 million. Many of those were because of a failure to pay a civil fine or fees. That penalty imposes a large burden on those trying to get out of a debt cycle — without a vehicle, finding and keeping a job is more difficult, further hindering their ability to pay.

Ideologically opposed groups, such as the ACLU and Americans for Prosperity have advocated for simpler and affordable payment plans or alternative penalties that don’t place further burdens on those facing unaffordable fees.

Florida’s current payment plan law allowed down payments and monthly payments too large for many to be able to pay, those advocates argued. The money is seldom collected, and the future social and economic costs imposed are multiplied.

Another provision in the new law requires the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to work with the clerks to ensure they have the ability to reinstate the driver’s licenses of those who have had theirs suspended for failure to pay fines.

Other parts of the bill require the Florida Clerks of Court Operations Corporation, which oversees the budgets of Florida’s 67 Clerks of the Court, to make recommendations to the Legislature for the distribution of fines and fees; estimate the costs of new judgeships and estimate whether new revenues are needed to cover those costs.

The bill was one of 12 signed by DeSantis on Monday. Here are the other bills:

  • SB 196 – Florida Housing Finance Corporation
  • SB 596 – Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsels
  • SB 598 – Public Records
  • SB 606 – Boating Safety
  • SB 1614 – Public Records
  • SB 1764 – Municipal Solid Waste-to-Energy Program
  • HB 357 – Pharmacies and Pharmacy Benefit Managers
  • HB 967 – Golf Course Best Management Practices Certification
  • HB 1431 – City of Apopka, Orange County
  • HB 1475 – Cleanup of Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances
  • HB 1493 – Alachua County

Gray Rohrer


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