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Nov. 24, 2017
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Minutes for SB5 - Committee on Transportation

Short Title

Making certain individuals eligible for restricted driving privileges.

Minutes Content for Thu, Jan 19, 2017

Chairperson Petersen opened the hearing on this bill.  Scott Wells gave an overview, noting this bill applies to any person whose driver's license has expired while on suspension for failing to comply with a traffic citation.  Under current law, the person can apply to the Division of Vehicles (DMV) to get a restricted license if certain criteria and conditions are met.  This bill would remove one of those conditions on Page 2, lines 24-26.  The language that has been stricken indicates the individual has not previously received the stated suspension as a result of driving while on a suspended conviction.  

Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau gave proponent testimony (Attachment 1) noting this legislation has been addressed previously by former Senator Phil Journey, who is now a judge in the City of Wichita, Sedgwick County.  When he left the Legislature, Senator Faust-Goudeau picked this up with 2013 SB 6 to lift the sunset provision from the legislation because it was working well.  Most of the Senate Transportation Committee members supported the current law, enacted in 2013 HB2009HB2009 allows an individual with a suspended driver's license to submit an application for a restricted driver's license to the Department of Revenue along with a $25 non-refundable fee. 

If the person did not receive a citation for driving while suspended, that person, if approved, could receive a restricted driver's license to drive back and forth to work while paying on the fine.  In this way, the person is driving legally and the state is recouping some of the fines.

Senator Faust-Goudeau said she has tracked the legislation to see how it is working.  On September 17, 2016, a workshop was held in Wichita to assist persons in obtaining a restricted driver's license.  Attendees from across the state participated.  The Department of Revenue, including then-Secretary of Revenue Nick Jordan and Jessica Ross, assisted in helping people complete applications. Many persons fell in the category of driving while suspended, and current law did not allow them to participate. Senator Faust-Goudeau worked with KDOR on possible changes to the law.  If enacted, the bill would allow those individuals to participate in the existing program.

Senator Faust-Goudeau noted that attached to her testimony is a communication from Donte Martin, Municipal Court Administrator, City of Wichita, who explains that several amnesty programs were held over the past ten years.  The programs helped to increase compliance with judicial orders, to close court cases, to  resolve outstanding warrants, and assist with license reinstatement.  Citizens had a second chance to comply without the threat of arrest or additional fees.  Nine hundred forty-five persons participated.  Hopefully, more counties and cities will conduct such programs. 

Senator Faust-Goudeau called attention to the written testimony from Iris Evans  (Attachment 2). This bill would also assist a person whose car was hit and car  totaled, the grace period lapsed, and her insurance was canceled.  Eventually, the driver's license was suspended, she lost her job, and could not transport her child to school.  Not having a driver's license affects an entire family.  It took this individual seven years to pay off the fines and to get a driver's license.  Senator Faust-Goudeau suggested to the Police Chief in Wichita that officers, when issuing a citation, should advise the motorist to call the number on the back of the ticket "within ten days" in order to make payment arrangements.  She urged the Committee to support this legislation and she stood for questions.

In response to questions, Senator Faust-Goudeau responded:

  • It was felt the wording in the bill does not coincide with the testimony given and if a person is driving on a suspended license and gets caught, this proposed law allows for application for a restricted license. The Revisors will review this further.
  • The duration of the restricted license is one year.  See Page 2, lines 28-29 of the bill.
  • A $100 ticket could become $1,000 with fees and penalties.  With a restricted license, the motorist could work and pay on the fines.
  • KDOR will answer the question of whether this program could be used twice in one period of time.

Walt Chappell provided proponent testimony (Attachment 3). He noted this is a "baby step" bill, that is, by deleting one part of a sentence, it is hopeful this will make a difference and allow more to get restricted licenses and go to work.  Passing this bill is vital to over 200,000 Kansans, most of whom are Black or Hispanic who have a driver's license suspended.  If a person is driving on a suspended license because they are too poor to pay a traffic ticket, KDOR should still be allowed to reinstate that person's license.   It is not a crime to be poor.  Because a person has not had enough money to pay a traffic ticket in a short period of time, they should not be prevented from driving.

The Senate and House are encouraged to also pass a bill so courts are never allowed to use the removal of a person's license just to collect a debt.  In addition, Mr. Chappell said another amendment to the current statutes needs to be passed so courts will remove the additional fines which have been imposed for driving on a suspended license.

Last September, there was a workshop in Wichita to help persons, who had a license suspended to apply for a restricted license.  There were 275 people that attended.  One hundred seventy-five people paid a non-refundable fee of $25, but only 20 people received a license because of the wording in the current bill.  In the City of Wichita, more than 7,000 people had their licenses suspended in 2015 for non-payment of fines.

Senator Doll stated that he taught in a school where 40% of students were homeless and poor.  Listening to them talk, they knew when their licenses were suspended.  Stating that 200,000 do not know their license is suspended is a stretch.  Peer pressure meant ridicule for the students if they used public transportation.

Mr. Chappell continued by saying this "baby step" bill gets people back into the job market without being fearful of getting a ticket again.  He added that another issue is the Legislature needs to provide a month's amnesty to pay off fines and eliminate extra costs because of driving on a suspended license.  A person's license or property cannot be taken without a court order.  A businessman can't collect a debt until it goes to civil court, not criminal court.  Some of these people haven't had a driver's license in 20 years and the debt due to fines and court costs are ever-increasing.  Let the people pay off the debt.  Mr. Chappell asked legislators to please pass this bill and to think about repealing the statute entirely and/or make sure there is amnesty so these citizens can drive legally.  

In response to questions, Mr. Chappell responded:

  • Figures from Jessica Ross, KDOR, indicate there are 207,580 suspended licenses and 28,449 restricted licenses for all reasons.  Very few actually qualified to get restricted licenses.
  • In response to what is the judge to do when the license is suspended in cases of contempt of court, Mr. Chappell noted the judges say change the law and they can change the way cases are handled.  Work out a payment schedule and have an amnesty program to get the original fine paid without adding additional fines.

Persons providing written proponent testimony were:

Representative Gail Finney, 84th District, Kansas House of Representatives (Attachment 4)          Sheila Officer, Board Chair, Racial Profiling Citizens Advisory Board, Wichita (Attachment 5)          Reverend Ben Scott, Former Member, Kansas House of Representatives, President, Topeka Branch NAACP (Attachment 6)                  Bonita Gooch, President, Kansas Black Leadership Council (Attachment 7)

Djuan Wash, Juvenile Justice Reform Advocate, Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, Wichita (Attachment 8)

There was no opponent testimony.

Jessica Ross, KDOR, gave neutral testimony (Attachment 9) and answered questions raised by Committee members earlier in the meeting. 

  • Drivers who have a conviction of driving while suspended are not eligible to apply for a restricted license.  The reason is that charge requires a mandatory 90-day suspension, and therefore cannot restrict for unpaid tickets.  Consideration needs to be given for the reason(s) for suspension.  If this bill were passed as written, if approved, a person could start their 90-day suspension and be eligible for the restricted license.  Concern was expressed that the language did not correspond with the testimony, and the Revisor will review it again.  
  • There was a question about the number of suspended drivers.  The  270,580 is the total suspended licenses and could include DUI, lack of insurance, or unpaid tickets.  Passage of this bill would expand eligibility.
  • If the Revisor agrees with the stricken language, the suspended driver would still fall under the 90-day suspension period, but it would allow DMV to begin that 90-day suspension.  This would align with the program for DUI suspension.  The 90 days also pertains to someone who surrenders their license. 
  • As of November 2016, the number of licenses suspended due to unpaid tickets was 1,996.  There could be multiple reasons, in addition to unpaid tickets, for the suspension.  Ms. Ross will obtain the number of DUI suspensions each year and report back to the Committee. 
  • The 90-day suspension, in the case of an unpaid ticket, begins upon application at the driver's license office for the restricted license.
  • The persons with this type of restricted license is now allowed to drive to religious services. 
  • Striking this language would make this similar to limited driving restrictions for alcohol occurrences with an ignition interlock device under K.S.A. 8-1015.  There is a list of restrictions that would apply. 
  • The number of unpaid traffic tickets could be double counted for other citations.  They could fall into multiple categories. 
  • A license suspended for medical reasons is completely different. 

Chairperson Petersen closed the hearing on this bill.