Hertzberg Asks Governor to Roll Back Driver’s License Suspensions
Driver’s licenses are no longer suspended solely for failing to pay traffic tickets; the law should be made retroactive to help 200,000 Californians
SACRAMENTO – Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, has asked Gov. Jerry Brown to lift the suspension of driver’s licenses for 200,000 Californians who are struggling to pay traffic ticket fines and fees.
In a letter sent to Brown this week, Hertzberg said it is common sense to extend a change in law that took place on June 27 to drivers who already have had their licenses suspended, instead of applying only to Californians after that date.
“We all agree – a person should not lose their license simply because they are poor,” Hertzberg wrote. “With a simple administrative action, 200,000 people can receive the relief that other Californians have already gotten.”
The new law took effect June 27 when the Legislature passed a budget trailer bill. In his budget proposal, Brown noted that there didn’t appear to be a connection between suspending people’s driver’s licenses and collecting their fines yet the suspension could have serious negative consequences, such as preventing people from getting to work or taking their kids to school.
“We all know this issue well: California had made a practice of suspending driver’s licenses for FTP (Failure To Pay) violations,” Hertzberg wrote. “Data from the Department of Finance, the DMV, and others showed that the impacts on low-income communities were severe.”
In 2015, Hertzberg authored SB 405, which, along with a related budget measure from Brown, established a traffic amnesty program for traffic offenses prior to 2013. From Oct. 1, 2015 through April 3 of this year, Californians with longstanding unpaid traffic fines or fees could talk to a judge to lower the fine and lift the suspensions on their driver’s licenses if they signed up for a payment plan.
According to the Judicial Council, more than 255,000 Californians had their debts reduced, more than 246,000 received their driver’s licenses back and the court system netted $31.5 million in revenue.
Hertzberg followed up the legislation with SB 185 this year, which sought to permanently end the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for people who are unable to pay traffic tickets and set traffic fines at levels violators could pay, based on their income. The legislation passed the Senate and is presently in the Assembly.
In his budget proposal for 2017-18, Brown agreed to end the suspension of driver’s licenses going forward for people who couldn’t pay their traffic tickets. But while the change took effect in June, it left an estimated 200,000 Californians in the lurch who did not qualify for the traffic amnesty program but had had their licenses suspended prior to the new law.
“That we have corrected the law for most Californians is an excellent outcome, and I am grateful that Finance and DMV have been willing partners in our efforts over the last three years,” Hertzberg wrote. “I now urge you to take the final step, and lift the suspension retroactively and eliminate any uncertainty.”
"This is an easy fix,” Hertzberg said on Sept. 14. “It's an administrative fix. It doesn't require (changing) the law. There are 200,000 folks whose lives are turned upside down. Give them back their driver's licenses! Thank you."
Bob Hertzberg, chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water, represents nearly 1 million San Fernando Valley residents of Senate District 18, which includes part of Burbank and the following communities in Los Angeles: Arleta, Granada Hills, Hansen Dam, Lake View Terrace, Mission Hills, North Hills, North Hollywood, part of Northridge, Pacoima, Panorama City, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, part of Sun Valley, Sylmar, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Valley Village, Van Nuys, the City of San Fernando and Universal City. See a district map at http://sd18.senate.ca.gov/district. After serving in the Assembly from 1996-2002, including two years as Speaker, Hertzberg invested in solar, wind and electric-car projects; and worked for structural changes in government through the Think Long Committee of California. Learn more at www.senate.ca.gov/hertzberg.
MEDIA CONTACT: Andrew LaMar
Senator Robert M. Hertzberg
Capitol Building, Room 4038
Sacramento, CA 95814