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New amendment may reinstate driver's licenses for more than half a million Virginians, governor says

Gov. Ralph Northam announced an amendment to restore driving privileges for more than 627,000 Virginians with suspended licenses who could not pay court fines and costs

RICHMOND, Va. —

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced an amendment to the state’s budget on Monday eliminating the suspension of driver’s licenses for those who cannot pay court fines and costs. The amendment would restore driving privileges for more than 627,000 Virginians with suspended licenses. 

"The practice of suspending a person’s driver’s license for nonpayment of court fines and costs is inequitable. It's past time we end it," Northam said. "A driver’s license is critical to daily life, including a person’s ability to maintain a job. Eliminating a process that envelops hundreds of thousands of Virginians in a counterproductive cycle is not only fair, it’s also the right thing to do."

Northam proposed the bill in the House and Senate during the 2019 legislative session addressing the issue of suspending licenses. Senator Adam Ebbin and Delegate Alfonso Lopez backed him. 

Northam also included funding in the proposed budget to address concerns about lost revenue from the Department of Motor Vehicles reinstating licenses and the Trauma Center Fund. Although the bills failed, the funding still remained.

"Suspending a driver’s license for a non-driving offense is ineffective and has broadly negative consequences for Virginians," Ebbin said. "Unwarranted license suspension disproportionately impacts the most economically-disadvantaged Virginians without making our communities safer."

"Taking away someone’s driver's license can be devastating for a family’s economic security to do this to people who have already demonstrated an inability to pay court fees and fines is cruel and counterproductive," Lopez explained, "After working on this issue for years, I’m very happy that this action to try and eliminate this practice in the Commonwealth is being taken today."

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