The following statement can be attributed to Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform:
No one should be denied the ability to drive a car because of an unpaid fine or fee. Denying a person a drivers license because they owe money creates a modern version of the debtors prison – you cannot leave your house until you pay your debts, but you cannot pay your debt if you cannot go to work. This is wrong.
This legislation encourages states to end the practice of debt-based driver’s license suspension by repealing the federal mandate to suspend driver’s licenses for certain non-driving-related offenses, while also authorizing limited grants to states that repeal laws suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid fines and fees. It also offers a modest, limited grant of $100 million over 5 years to states to cover the cost of reinstating driver’s licenses. If states don’t act within the 5 years, the window has closed.
It also does not ask states to repeal laws that suspend driver’s licenses for driver safety related infractions, such as a DUI or reckless driving. It is a simple bill that does not require but encourages states to end the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid fines and fees.
In 35 states, individuals who simply can’t afford to pay court fines and fees imposed on them can have their driver’s license suspended. This occurs regardless of whether the offense was related to driving. This simply penalizes low-income individuals.
You can read the full text of the letter below or by clicking HERE for a pdf version.
April 20, 2021
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
I am writing today to urge your support of the bipartisan Bill H.R.2453 the Driving for Opportunity Act of 2021. This legislation would help reduce debt-based driver license suspensions.
In the United States, 35 States and the District of Columbia currently have laws where if an individual is unable to pay the fees and fines imposed by a court, their driver’s license is suspended. This occurs irrespective to whether the offense had anything to do with driving. It is simply a punishment for being poor.
Access to a vehicle is an access to opportunity. Millions of Americans use their vehicles to access employment, education, and healthcare. Data shows that 76% of Americans workers commute solo to work.
Suspending a driver’s license for no other reason than being unable to pay a court fine is counterintuitive. If an individual is unable to work because they can no longer use reliable transportation, how can they be expected to the generate the income necessary to pay these fees and fines?
Withholding an American’s driver’s license to force payment of fines and fees is combination of debtor’s prison and house arrest.
This legislation would also improve public safety. By reducing the amount of time police have to spend acting as tax collectors, thousands of hours can go towards a better use of time than enforcing these unnecessary suspensions. Further, the legislation does not prevent the suspension of an individual’s license on the basis of road safety – such as accumulating too many strikes or driving while under the influence.
The legislation does not require state to make this change, but simply encourages them to pursue a better policy.
We urge Congress to quickly enact the Driving for Opportunity Act to encourage removal of a counterproductive policy to the benefit of millions of Americans. If you have any questions, please do hesitate to contact me or Americans for Tax Reform Director of Federal Policy, Katie McAuliffe ([email protected]).
Americans for Tax Reform