Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Friday joined Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) on their bipartisan legislation, the Driving for Opportunity Act, to encourage states to stop debt-based driver’s license suspensions.
“Driver’s licenses are particularly important for folks who live in rural parts of the country as families need to access grocery stores, pharmacies, child care and employment. This legislation provides a positive incentive for people to continue to work to pay off debts instead of placing roadblocks to their ability to pay them off. I’m glad to support this bill that targets people who have committed minor offenses unrelated to driving and show no public safety risk,” Grassley said.
“We are pleased to have the growing support of our Senate colleagues in working to end a practice that has punished poverty and strained police-community relations for too long,” Coons said. “Suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid fines and fees makes it harder for Americans to hold down a job and care for their families, and places an undue burden on our police officers. The widespread, bipartisan support for this bill underscores the need to end this counterproductive policy once and for all.”
“I am glad that more of my colleagues are recognizing the value of the Driving for Opportunity Act. Suspending drivers’ licenses for unpaid fines and fees is a counterproductive penalty for Americans who need a car to earn a living and take care of their family,” Wicker said. “My home state of Mississippi banned the practice in 2018, and other states should be encouraged to follow our lead.”
Nationwide, at least 11 million people have their driver’s licenses suspended because they cannot pay fines or fees, not for any public safety reasons. This makes it harder for Americans to go to work to pay off their debts and places an unnecessary burden on police to enforce suspensions, expending resources that should go to public safety, increasing hostilities in the communities they serve, and putting officers and citizens at increased risk of infection during a pandemic.
Since the Driving for Opportunity Act was introduced earlier this month, it has continued to garner support from a variety of organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National District Attorneys Association, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National Urban League, and Instacart.