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Bill To End License Suspensions For Non-driving Offenses Goes To Governor

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has a bill on his desk that would end the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for most non-moving violations, like unpaid parking tickets.

Backers of the legislation, called the License to Work Act, argue license suspensions become a punitive debt collection tool. They say the current system doesn’t make sense — making it harder to get to work, earn money and pay off debts.

Kim Drew is with the Heartland Alliance. She says of the estimated 50,000 suspensions a year, most are against people who can least afford it.

“We were seeing license suspension show up as a pretty significant barrier to employment, because when someone's license is suspended, it often leads to job loss," Drew said. "Certainly, if you can't work, you're not going to be able to pay back the debt.’’

Advocates for the License to Work Act include both progressive and conservative groups.

While the legislation passed with a large bipartisan majority, it was opposed by 27 state representatives, including Tom Morrison (R, Palatine).

“I felt that the bill was too broad," he said. "For example, it repealed suspension due to motor fuel theft, and I think that there does have to be a consequence for the accumulation of those offenses."

Gov.  J.B. Pritzker’s office says he’s reviewing the measure.

If Pritzker approves the bill, it would take effect on July first of next year.

The Senate approved the bill in March and the House voted last week. Neither vote followed partisan lines.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is news editor and equity and justice beat reporter for NPR Illinois, where she has been on the staff since 2014 after Illinois Issues magazine’s merger with the station. She joined the magazine’s staff in 1998 as projects editor and became managing editor in 2003. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, she was an education reporter and copy editor at three local newspapers, including the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in English from UIS.
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