AG Schmidt urges Senate to pass Driving for Opportunity Act

Published: Aug. 5, 2020 at 5:28 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Attorney General Derek Schmidt is urging the U.S. Senate to pass the Driving for Opportunity Act to help reduce barriers to success.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt says Congress should support states that choose to make it easier to reinstate driving privileges for low-income Americans.

Schmidt says he is part of a bipartisan coalition of 23 other state attorneys general, that wrote that 40% of all driver’s license suspension in the U.S. are issued for conduct other than improper driving. He says, for example, many licenses are suspended for failure to pay unrelated fines and fees, resulting in millions of Americans being unable to lawfully drive and facing additional obstacles to completing basic household and employment tasks.

Schmidt says in addition, law enforcement can spend hours processing suspension orders, transporting a driver to jail, waiting for tow trucks and other administrative functions when there is no reason to think the driver may pose a threat to motorist safety.

“Without a license or access to a strong system of public transportation, these individuals lack the means to get to their jobs, bring children to child care; and to get groceries, medical care, and other necessities in the most cost-effective way,” the attorneys general wrote. “They end up in the loop of higher expenses and lower-income, and potentially steeper fines.”

According to Schmidt, the attorney’s general urged the passing of the Driving for Opportunity Act, a bipartisan proposal to establish a federal grant under the Byrne JAG program to make additional funding for states that repeal these suspension laws. He says the added funds could be used to defray the costs of reinstating licenses.

Schmidt says almost a dozen states ended the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid fines and fees.

According to the Attorney General, in 2019, the Kansas Criminal Justice Reform Commission recommended similar legislation to the Kansas Legislature aimed at easing the reentry process of inmates back to their communities by making driver’s license reinstatement easier for former inmates.

Schmidt says he serves an ex officio member of the commission and that legislation mirroring the Driving for Opportunity Act was introduced in the Kansas House but failed to advance during the 2020 season.

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