Wicker, Coons Bill Targeting Debt-based Driver’s License Suspension Approved by Key Senate Committee

The Driving for Opportunity Act Advances Through Senate Judiciary Committee

October 28, 2021

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Chris Coons, D-Del., today celebrated committee passage of their Driving For Opportunity Act, legislation which would provide incentives to states that choose to end debt-based driver’s license suspensions. It has been estimated that at least 11 million people nationwide have their driver’s licenses suspended because they cannot pay fines or fees.

In 2017, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (MDPS) changed their policies and stopped suspending driver’s licenses for the nonpayment of fines and fees. In 2018, MDPS restored the driver’s licenses of those who had their licenses suspended because of nonpayment of fines and fees and waived the $100 reinstatement fee.

“Suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid fines and fees is counterproductive,” said Senator Wicker. “Americans need access to vehicles to work and to care for their families. With committee passage of our proposal, we are now one step closer to providing states meaningful incentives to follow Mississippi’s lead and adopt more workable enforcement practices.” 

“Millions of Americans have their driver’s licenses suspended, and in large part simply because they are poor. These debt-based license suspensions are nonsensical and damaging, disproportionately trapping Black and Brown communities in a vicious cycle of debt,” said Sen. Coons. “We cannot expect Americans to pay back debts while taking away the very ability to go to work and pay back their fines and fees. The Driving for Opportunity Act advancing through the Senate Judiciary Committee today outlines the good that comes from bipartisanship and Congress working together to implement meaningful change for Americans and our law enforcement officers, and I’m glad to see this continue on to the Senate and ultimately the President’s desk.” 

Wicker and Coons introduced the legislation in March, which is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., John Boozman, R-Ark., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., James Lankford, R-Okla., and Jon Ossoff, D-Ga.  

The Driving for Opportunity Act is also supported by a broad coalition of groups spanning the political spectrum, including?Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, FreedomWorks, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Fines and Fees Justice Center, ACLU, 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.