Hertzberg Pushes Legislation to Roll Back DL Suspensions
SB 237 makes Gov. Jerry Brown’s change in law retroactive, so Californians who can’t pay traffic fines can get their DLs back
SACRAMENTO – Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, introduced legislation today to roll back driver’s license suspensions for Californians who have been unable to pay their traffic fines and fees.
SB 237 would apply to about 200,000 Californians who did not benefit from Traffic Amnesty Program that ended this spring and who had their licenses suspended before Gov. Jerry Brown changed the law to prevent the practice in a trailer bill attached to the 2017-18 state budget.
“The governor and the Legislature have changed the law, because everyone understands suspending a person’s driver’s license simply because he or she can’t pay the fine for a minor traffic violation is ridiculously harsh and unfair,” Hertzberg said. “We have ended this injustice moving forward and we should end it retroactively, too.”
The new law took effect June 27 when the Legislature passed the 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.
The legislation comes after the Judicial Council released a report last week showing the tremendous success of California’s Traffic Amnesty Program. In 2015, Hertzberg authored SB 405, which, along with a related budget measure from Brown, established the 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.
The Judicial Council report said that 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.
“Amnesty proved the naysayers wrong and showed that many Californians weren’t paying their traffic fines and fees simply because they didn’t have the money to do it, not to thumb their noses at the law,” Hertzberg said. “Amnesty had a huge positive impact on the lives of a quarter million Californians and on the court system, which netted revenue it almost certainly never would have seen without this program.”
SB 237 is sponsored by a coalition of social justice groups that includes the Western Center on Law and Poverty, American Civil Liberties Union of California and East Bay Community Law Center.
“These 200,000 Californians are on a desert island, and it’s not fair,” said Michael Herald, legislative advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “They weren’t helped by the Traffic Amnesty Program and they had their licenses suspended before the law was changed. We need to change the law to end this injustice for everybody.”
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