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Nov. 27, 2020
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Minutes for SB275 - Committee on Transportation

Short Title

Eligibility requirements for restricted driving privileges and elimination of additional 90-day wait period of suspended or revoked licenses.

Minutes Content for Thu, Jan 30, 2020

The Chair opened the hearing on SB275.

Staff Chris Waggoner briefed the Committee on the focus of the bill.  He stated that the first section would remove the requirement that an individual driving on a suspended or revoked license, if another violation occurred, would receive an additional suspension period of 90 days.  Section two would remove the requirement that to qualify for a restricted driver's license the individual could not have previously received a stayed suspension upon a conviction of driving on a suspended license.

Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau testified as a proponent for the bill (Attachment 1).  She cited previous legislation allowing an individual with a suspended driver's license to apply for a restricted license to enable him/her to drive to work, school, church, court, or to medical appointments as long as insurance and fines were being paid.  She said this bill removes barriers that prevent a person from qualifying for a restricted driver's license.

Peter Ninemire, Owner-Director, The Caring Center of Wichita, before giving testimony as a proponent for the bill, read the testimony of Melissa Lubbers (Attachment 2). Her words indicated she cannot support the bill as it is written, and  recommended the following amendments to the bill:

  • Allow reinstatement under a restricted license for any suspended license except for those suspended because of a DUI or because the offender was arrested following pursuit by a law-enforcement officer.
  • Allow reinstatement of a restricted license by meeting certain payment requirements.

Mr. Ninemire then continued his testimony supporting the bill (Attachment 3).  He noted that 213,000 Kansans presently are driving on a suspended license, and he related stories of individuals who cannot be reinstated with a restricted license, thus resulting in significant hardships in their personal lives.  He commented that, if the provisions of the bill were to be implemented, the labor pool would increase and the crowded court dockets would decline.

Mike Fonkert, Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, in supporting the bill commented that the additional 90-day suspension and the eligibility limit on restricted driving exacerbates people's lives in important ways. Communities are harmed by reducing the labor pool and increasing both unemployment and insurance costs.  He observed that the present system of coercing payment by driver's license suspension is not effective; there are better ways (Attachment 4).

Jim Howell, Sedgwick County Commissioner, Fifth District, commenting on a recent news story, reported that 20% of Wichita drivers hold suspended licenses.  He cited the story of a constituent who was not sufficiently informed that paying a fine could cause her to lose her license.  Losing her license created a cascading effect when she lost her job and then her home.  Mr. Howell stated that SB275 is one step toward remedying these situations.  He recommended in similar situations that a person be informed of the consequences of the penalty and be offered a diversion (Attachment 5).

Charles Merrifield, a retired professor, recounted the story of one of his church members for whom a traffic stop initiated a downward spiral economically and personally (Attachment 6).

Austin Spillar, ACLU of Kansas, outlined the negative effects that this bill seeks to rectify (Attachment 7).  He said drivers' infractions result in some low-income people being punished simply for being poor and the fines often create a constant cycle of debt. He indicated  that the state's economic growth is circumscribed under the current suspension regulations.

The following individuals submitted written-only testimony in support of the bill:

A member commented that the goal of the bill is to change behavior and help set parameters that will allow an individual to pay fines; however, if members or conferees try to address too many issues with amendments, the future of the bill may be in doubt.

In the interest of time, the Chair suspended the hearing on SB275 and stated the hearing will be continued at a later date.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:17 a.m.  The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, February 4, 2020.