Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 2453, the Driving for Opportunity Act of 2021 by a vote of 23-17. The legislation now heads to the House floor for a vote by the full House of Representatives. The Driving for Opportunity Act of 2021, introduced by Congresswoman Scanlon (PA-05), would repeal the federal mandate to suspend driver’s licenses for certain drug convictions, so states can determine their own policies. The bill would also provide targeted grants to help states move away from the practice of suspending, revoking, or refusing to renew a driver's license on the account of a failure to pay a civil or criminal fee or fine.
"The Driving for Opportunity Act has the potential to make a difference for millions of Americans who have had their driver’s licenses suspended for unpaid fines and fees — unrelated to safety," said Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA). "Suspending driver's licenses for unpaid fines and fees has not worked as an enforcement tool, and we need to recognize that. The practice makes it harder for Americans to get to work to pay off their debts and diverts law enforcement resources that could be better used elsewhere. I’m proud this bill has broad support across the ideological spectrum — both in Congress and from external organizations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the ACLU, and transportation safety experts."
"I’m proud the Committee passed the Driving for Opportunity Act, which promotes the end of one of the most widespread and harmful consequences of nonpayment of fees and fines — driver’s license suspension," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). "This bipartisan, bicameral legislation will help states — many of which saw declining revenues during the pandemic — by covering the cost of reinstating previously suspended driver’s licenses and incentivizing them to end the practice. I thank Representative Mary Gay Scanlon, the sponsor of the Driving for Opportunity Act, for her vision and her leadership in promoting a more equitable criminal justice system that does not criminalize poverty."
"The vast majority of low-level fines are traffic citations, such as speeding and parking tickets, and most fines are imposed with no consideration for the defendant’s ability to pay, which has led to an undue burden on low-income individuals and billions of dollars of unpaid court debt in the United States," said Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Chairwoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX). "Those who cannot afford immediately to pay the full amount charged face additional fees, license suspensions, loss of voting rights, and, sometimes, arrest and jail. And even worse, the issuance of warrants for driving with suspended licenses due to unpaid fines leads to unnecessary traffic stops that too often end in tragic outcomes for African Americans and other persons of color."
The legislation is supported by a broad coalition of groups spanning the political spectrum, including civil rights and civil liberties advocates, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and defense lawyers. These groups include the Fines and Fees Justice Center, ACLU, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, FreedomWorks, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National District Attorneys Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, Major County Sheriffs of America, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, Prison Fellowship, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Civil Rights Corps, Due Process Institute, Fair & Just Prosecution, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Vision Zero Network, SPLC Action, The Libre Initiative, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, and Digital Library.
A copy of the bill can be found here.