TRENTON – Senator Shirley K. Turner welcomed final Senate approval of her package of bills that would implement several of the recommendations of the Motor Vehicle Affordability and Fairness Task Force aimed at making it easier for individuals with driver’s license suspensions to get their driving privileges reinstated.
“It is virtually impossible to live and work in New Jersey without a license,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “For New Jersey’s working class, driving is a necessity, not a luxury.”
As part of the Senator’s package, the Committee approved a pair of bills that would reduce the severity of license suspensions for certain offenders. Bill S-2326 (approved 31-6) would provide judges or the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) with the option to suspend an individual’s vehicle registration rather than driver’s license if the person has not answered or appeared in response to a failure to appear notice or has not satisfied outstanding parking fines or penalties.
“The loss of a driver license can jeopardize one’s job and one’s the ability to support a family,” added Senator Turner. “Even if the job doesn’t involve operating a motor vehicle, employers will ask applicants if they have a driver’s license. It is critical that we develop alternatives to license suspensions so that we can this remove barrier many face when trying to enter the workforce.”
Bill S-2328 (approved 27-11) would change the mandatory suspension of a driver’s license for driving without liability insurance from one year to a period of two to twelve months and allow the court to take into consideration if the owner acquired liability insurance coverage prior to conviction.
“There need to be more incentives for people to get auto insurance,” explained Senator Turner. “Judges should be allowed to take into account s driver’s efforts to get coverage when it comes to determining penalties in these cases.”
Two of the Senator’s bills were aimed at making it easier for individuals to pay outstanding fines and surcharges and get their license reinstated because of a failure to pay such fees. S-2331 (approved 38-0) would modify the MVC’s license surcharge repayment program to require only 5% of each surcharge be paid before a license suspension can be lifted and allow payment plans of up to 36 months. S-2332 (approved 39-0) would allow judges to work out payment plans for motor vehicle fines and fees for drivers who can show that they meet certain financial hardship criteria and waive up to $200 dollars of any non-alcohol-related fine owed by such an individual and replace it with community service.
“Many suspensions are the result of individuals not having the money to pay fines and fees or buy insurance and it makes no sense to take away their means of getting to the job they need to afford those costs,” added Senator Turner. “It’s far too easy for these situations to spiral out of control without a real solution. These proposals are the solutions.”
Bill S-2330 (approved 38-0) would separate violations for not complying with a time payment order or for failure to respond to or pay a parking judgment from those of driving related offenses. The bill is in response to a recommendation that non driving related offenses not be penalized with the severity of driving related offenses.
The Committee also approved S-2329 (approved 38-0), which would require the MVC establish within six months a public awareness campaign to inform the public about the importance of maintaining a current address with the Commission.
These changes to the law are part of a larger effort by Senator Turner to enable individuals to keep their driver’s licenses so they can continue to drive to work, apply for jobs that require a valid driver’s license, and earn an income while ensuring the State receives the money that is owed from these penalties and fines.
All six bills now go to the Assembly for their approval.