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Turner Bills to Reduce the Frequency of Suspended Driver’s Licenses Advance

Trenton – A package of bills sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner, which would reduce the frequency of suspended driver’s licenses, cleared the legislature this week. The Governor took action on one of the three bills today.

The first bill, S-1080, which will remove driver’s license suspension as a penalty related to convictions of certain crimes and offenses unrelated to one’s ability to safely operate a vehicle. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 29-10 in March, passed by the Assembly by a vote of 62-15 on Monday and today was signed by Governor Murphy.

“I am delighted that the Governor has seen the value in my legislation to remove license suspension as a penalty for non-driving related offenses and as a sanction for not paying fines and surcharges,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “License suspension creates an impossible catch-22 and exacerbates income inequality by preventing people from going to work to earn a living that allows them to pay their fines and surcharge debt and be responsible and productive citizens. We cannot continue to punish people for being poor and take away their ability to support themselves and their families.”

A second bill, S-1508, would eliminate the points-based Motor Vehicle Violations Surcharge System and the surcharges attached to unsafe driving violations following the retirement of bonds and debts tied to the surcharge system. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 39-0 in March, passed the Assembly 74-0 on Monday, and currently is awaiting the Governor’s approval.

“New Jersey’s surcharge system is a costly, burdensome, and regressive program that creates a financial hardship for drivers who have already paid court-related fines, costs, and penalties related to their motor vehicle violations, and it’s impossible for many drivers to extricate themselves once they get caught in the system,” said Senator Turner. “New Jersey is one of only four states in the country with a surcharge system. It does nothing to deter bad driving, but rather perpetuates poverty. We need to stop putting barriers in people’s way to earning an income. Eliminating the surcharge system is the next step in the fight for economic and social justice and will help get our low-income citizens on the road to economic recovery.”

The final piece of the package, SCR-98, declares opposition to the federal mandate requiring states suspend driver’s licenses for drug related offenses unrelated to driving. The resolution passed the Senate by a vote of 24-12 in March and passed the Assembly by a vote of 56-20-1. If the Governor submits this resolution, along with a written certification of opposition to the mandate to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, the state can stop suspending driver licenses for drug-related offenses.

“New Jersey is one of only seven states that continues to suspend driver licenses for drug convictions,” said Senator Turner.