New York State has thirty-four cities that receive 10 percent of their revenue through fines and fees, twelve of which receive 20 percent of their revenue that way. Such a policy perpetuates cycles of racial and economic injustice. In New York, nonpayment of fines and fees related to traffic violations, many of which are excessive and are adjudicated in a way that deprives people of their rights to due process, leads to the suspension of driving privileges. In fact, between January 2016 and April 2018, New York issued nearly 1.7 million driver’s license suspensions for Traffic Debt. Traffic Debt suspensions force an impossible choice: Stop driving and lose access to work, childcare, health care, food, and other necessities, or keep driving on a suspended license and risk criminal charges and more unaffordable fines and fees.
To help fix these issues, the New York State Legislature passed The Driver’s License Suspension Reform Act under which the state will no longer suspend driver’s licenses for unpaid fines and fees as well as not suspending licenses for failure to appear in court. Furthermore, The, bill creates payment plan options that consist of either $10 per month or 2% of an individual’s monthly income, whichever is greater. Also, the bill will retroactively reinstate driver’s licenses that were previously suspended for unpaid fines, fees, and failure to appear in court.
The bill has been sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo and awaits his signature which is no given with bills such as this. Twice the state legislature has passed the Toll Payer Protection Act and twice Governor Cuomo vetoed it at the last minute. Since cashless tolls made their New York debut motorists have reported a wide range of problems from excessive, non-negotiable late penalties many times that of the original tolls, not receiving notices, registration suspensions, and refusal of the agencies to offer payment plans. That Governor Cuomo did not consider such a vital bill a priority is bad enough but given New York’s dire financial outlook as a result of Covid-19 will he do the right thing by New Yorkers?
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