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Florida Lawmaker Wants Less Drivers License Suspensions

Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg)
State of Florida

State Senator Jeff Brandes, a Republican  from St. Petersburg,  wants to reduce the number Floridians who get their drivers licenses suspended because they can’t pay fines.


In 2014, the state of Florida suspended about 1.5 million drivers licenses. The top reason - not paying traffic fines. Court clerks argue the suspensions to motivate people to pay. But Brandes said it punishes low-income Floridians - contributing to a cycle of poverty.

“They don’t have the income to pay the fine," he said. "You know, they’re having to say ‘Do I pay rent or buy food or am I paying this traffic fine.’ And if you go on a payment plan, the interest on the payment plan can be up to 40 percent. So at some juncture, you kind of have to get out of this cycle.”

Brandes' proposal would limit costs and give a community service option for minor traffic violations.

“You know, the governor’s focused on jobs, the House and Senate are focused on jobs and our policy should be related to helping people find and keep a job. And if you don’t have a driver’s license in the state of Florida, it makes it a lot harder to get a job.”

Brandes filed a similar bill last year. Legislative analysts suggested it could cost courts up to $84 million. County clerks say the move would blow a big hole in their budgets.

Sarah Mueller is a journalist who has worked for media outlets in several states since 2010. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010 and worked as a print reporter covering local government and politics.