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Driver’s license suspension bill awaits decision in final days of session

BY HEATHER GANN, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A bill that would allow a larger grace period between unpaid traffic tickets and driver’s license suspensions has passed the Senate, but its future in the House is uncertain in the last week of the legislative session.

Senate Bill 117 has been moving through the legislature since the session began in January. It was approved by the Senate in a 30-0 vote in February.

Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office confirmed to Alabama Daily News on Monday it is opposed to the legislation.  The office did not comment on why.

Leah Nelson, research director for the Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, remains a firm advocate for the changes this bill proposes.

She said the bill is a “no-brainer” because around the state there are vacant jobs and people who want to work but can’t without licenses.

“I can’t think of any reason to vote against this (bill),” Nelson said.

Bill sponsor Sen. Will Barfoot, R-Pike Road, expressed the need for grace toward Alabamians who have a record of paying their fees on time but may miss one or two payments due to life circumstances. Barfoot explained that licenses may still be suspended if someone misses six or more payments within the first year of a payment plan and if someone fails to attend a court appearance, warrants can still go out without automatically suspending their license.

“This is about second chances, not infinite chances,” Nelson said.

When asked about the possibility of SB117 appearing on the floor in the session’s final possible four days, Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, did not offer any certainty.

“Many bills are currently in position for passage,” he said. “As a leader, I work to ensure the democratic legislative process works as it was intended.  The sponsors of the bills must continue to work their bills and gather the votes necessary to secure final passage.”

Nelson also drew attention to the recent revelations regarding the Alabama town of Brookside and the extortion of their citizens through traffic fines.

“Brookside is why it’s so important to give people second chances because we know now there are courts and police departments out there that prey on people and make it hard for them to comply and Brookside is not the only Brookside,” Nelson said.

Workers Drive Alabama, a campaign led by Appleseed, focuses specifically on the issue of driver license suspension and how it impacts individuals across the state.

Among these people with suspended licenses, 5% were suspended due to reckless driving while the other 95% were due to unpaid traffic fines, according to a 2018 survey by the campaign.

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