Virginia May End Driver's License Suspensions for Unpaid Court Fees After All

Apr 1, 2019

Credit MBandman / Creative Commons

Lawmakers will return to Richmond this week to finish up some loose ends from this year’s General Assembly session. And one issue that is expected to be at the top of the agenda is suspended drivers licenses.

Should people who have outstanding court fines be able to keep their driver’s licenses? Lawmakers considered that idea this session, and it got out of the Senate but it was scuttled in the House. Now a broad coalition from both sides of the political spectrum is pushing to make it happen during the veto session this week.

“We are very confident that the legislative relationships as well as the coalition partners we've been working on throughout session will be able to push us across the finish line,” says Jacob Fish with the right-leaning Americans for Prosperity.

The cost of reinstating more than 600,000 suspended drivers’ licenses is about $9 million.

Laura Goren at the Commonwealth Institute says that’s because the reinstatement fees would be waived.

“That is a lot of money," says Goren. "But when you consider that it’s about one in six adult Virginians who are impacted by this issue and currently aren’t able to drive to get to their jobs, to get to their church or their children’s school, I think it’s an important investment.”

Now, although the House Courts Committee killed this idea as a policy directive, the House and Senate budget committees chose to leave the money in. That means lawmakers are already halfway there on this one. They don’t need to find money to pay for it. They just need to determine if it’s a policy objective they want to pursue.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.