Florida Legislature Passes Bill To Address Barriers To Employment

By: Florida House Email
By: Florida House Email

News Release: Florida House

Tallahassee, Fla.—The Florida Legislature today passed reforms aimed at offering a path to reinstatement for Floridians burdened by massive fines due to suspended and revoked driver licenses. A recent Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) report revealed as many as 1.3 million driver licenses were suspended or revoked in the last fiscal year, including 167,000 for non-driving-related infractions. The reforms were included as a part of CS/CS/HB 7005 relating to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

“Too many Floridians are being shut out of employment because they have had their driver license suspended or revoked for non-driving-related offenses,” said House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel). “With the reforms we passed today, we are helping to address generational poverty in Florida and providing these individuals with a realistic and achievable path forward to get back on their feet.”

“A suspended or revoked driver license can impact an individual’s ability to get to and from work, often preventing many Floridians from staying employed. Without a job, these individuals cannot pay the associated fines or provide for their families,” said House Majority Whip Dana Young (R-Tampa), sponsor of the original bill, HB 1181. “These reforms strike the right balance between fairly enforcing the law and providing Floridians with a firm but fair opportunity to re-enter the workforce.”

According to the OPPAGA report "Options Exist to Modify Use of Driver License Suspension for Non-Driving-Related Reasons," driver licenses in Florida are suspended for a variety of non-driving-related reasons, including failure to pay child support, failure to pay court financial obligations, conviction of drug-related offenses, non-compliance with school attendance, failure to appear in court for a worthless check offense, and conviction of theft offenses. The report found the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) issued only 98,000 reinstatements in the last fiscal year to drivers whose licenses had been suspended or revoked for non-driving-related reasons. The OPPAGA report outlined several solutions the Legislature can consider to modify the use of driver license sanctions for non-driving-related reasons.

A recent Tampa Bay Times report confirmed Speaker Weatherford’s link between suspended driver licenses and poverty in certain communities in Florida. The article noted that Miami-Dade County, “the state's most populated county and the area with the highest cost of living in Florida, had 137,000 suspended drivers last year.” Additionally, the article noted “nearly three times as many of them were black as were white (43,000 to 15,000). Most of the remaining drivers were Hispanic.”

CS/CS/HB 7005 modifies Florida’s use of driver license sanctions for non-driving-related offenses. The bill prohibits the court from suspending the driver license of a person for a first offense of failure to appear in court for a worthless check charge. It leaves at the discretion of the court the decision to suspend a driver license for subsequent offenses of failure to appear in court for a worthless check charge and for anyone who is guilty of misdemeanor theft. The bill reduces the length of driver license revocation for drug related convictions from two years to one year and requires the court to determine whether the issuance of a business purposes-only license is appropriate in each case. The bill also authorizes the issuance of a business purpose only driver license for persons who have had their driver license suspended for violations related to selling, giving, or serving alcohol to minors, or for misdemeanor theft. The bill allows a child support obligor to avoid the suspension of his or her driver license by beginning to pay the obligation by income deduction or if extenuating circumstances can be proven.

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