WA seeks to end driver’s license suspensions due to unpaid debts

This policy was one of Solomon’s first activities when he took office with Senate Bill 6153 in 2020. The reason for its failure? According to Solomon, money.

Bill 2020 is said to have cost the state approximately $ 2.3 million over the next five years. To avoid this budgetary impact, the 2021 version adds $ 1 to the cost of driver’s licenses and $ 4 to the displacement of fines for infractions.

What seemed like a fix for Democrats turned out to be a problem for some Republicans – namely the only Republican co-sponsor, Senator Ronald Muzzall, of R-Oak Harbor.

As a proponent of what he describes as “redemption, rather than retribution” in the criminal justice system, Muzzall has also worked on the issue of debt-based license suspensions in 2020.

But when it came time to vote on the 2021 version, after the bill saw many amendments, Muzzall changed his mind on SB 5226.

“I signed this bill to accommodate the dialogue,” Muzzall said. “… In the end, I couldn’t support him because he is forcing society to pay for someone else’s mistakes.”

Although Republican caucus leaders, Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia and Senator Ann Rivers, R-La Center, gave the project bipartisan support, Muzzall and members of the Senate for Freedom voted against the measure in because of how it would allocate the costs. of politics to a larger part of the population.

Solomon takes issue with this argument (“we are socializing our roads,” he said, but he’s not upset that the Republican co-sponsor has gone back to the original support.

Muzzall preferred a version of the bill presented by Senator Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver. Rather, his proposal would reform the practice of debt-based suspensions by giving drivers what Salomon calls a “free” offense before their license is revoked. According to Solomon, this change “would destroy the intent of the bill.”

Entering caucus negotiations, Solomon feared the bill would repeat itself in 2020, when, he said, other lawmakers “stripped down [his] bill, but kept the title “by adopting a policy similar to Cleveland’s suggestion.

According to Solomon, the compromises over the years have been made for the proposal’s main opponent: the debt collectors.

Lobbyists for the Washington Collectors Association have expressed concern over a Public hearing of February 4 before the Senate Committee on Law and Justice that the organization believes that this measure would eliminate the incentive to pay fines. According to Kelsi Hamiliton of the Washington Collectors Association, when Washington stopped suspending licenses for non-mobile traffic violations, revenue from those quotes fell by more than $ 10 million in the first year.

“They want people to go into debt,” Solomon said of debt collectors. “They are trying to run a policy to make money off people who go into debt. It is offensive.

In the end, Solomon said, the Senate Democrats accomplished a “good feat” with a compromise that keeps what he calls “the heart of the bill” intact.

Under the measure the Senate has just passed, drivers would not have their license suspended for default of payment. But they should respond to their tickets. Failure to respond may result in license suspension. Drivers can choose to pay, dispute, or set up a payment plan. Failure to complete a payment plan will not result in license suspension.

“I wanted this to be a transformational policy and I think it still is, even with these changes,” Salomon said.

CORRECTION: This story and title has been corrected to show that state law no longer allows license suspensions for unpaid parking tickets.

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