Mercury News

Opinion: Legislation can fix ‘paying more for being poor’ in traffic fines

Legislature should pass Sen. Hertzberg's SB 185

September 11, 2017

By EMMETT D. CARSON and KIMBERLY THOMAS RAPP

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a historic law this summer ending driver license suspensions for failure to pay traffic fines. Going forward, license suspensions are more likely to be about traffic safety than punishing people for not having money. Thousands of Californians will no longer risk losing their jobs for lack of a driver’s license.

But that change is only the first step. Despite the new law, the Department of Motor Vehicles has left 200,000 low-income Californians stranded: It won’t give them back their licenses even though the legal authority for those suspensions was repealed.

Unless the Legislature and governor act now to pass and sign SB 237, those 200,000 people could be arrested just for driving to work without a license, because the DMV won’t follow a law designed to help those drivers.

The California Legislature must pass SB 185 and other bills to bring fairness and common sense to the state’s traffic fees and fines.

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