Here is a great letter from Jeff Hild, Representative Stark’s legislative director, explaining the significance of the new GAO report on License Suspensions and Jobs.
Today the GAO released the report: “License Suspensions for Nondriving Offenses: Practices in Four States That May Ease the Financial Impact on Low-Income Individuals” (GAO-10-217) that your organization may find interesting. Representatives Pete Stark, Jim McDermott, and Gwen Moore requested the report out of concern that low-income individuals and their families may be disproportionately impacted by policies that suspend driver’s licenses based on non-driving offenses.
In many communities, access to an automobile is essential for economic mobility and the ability to obtain and retain employment. The GAO found that states suspend driver’s licenses for a variety of reasons that are not directly related to driving safety. Some of these suspension policies are the result of federal mandates (in the case of child support enforcement) and others (such as suspensions for failing to pay fine) are state prerogatives. Unfortunately, little is known about the effectiveness of suspension policies and who is most impacted and the GAO found that this data is not collected or aggregated at either the federal or state level. The GAO report does examine promising projects and policies in four states that help to ameliorate the negative economic effects of license suspension on low-income individuals.
The important themes of the GAO report include:
· The lack of information available on the effectiveness of suspensions for non-driving offenses and the economic impact that license suspensions have on low-income people and their communities. Data from New Jersey showed that suspension rates were four times higher for drivers in extremely low-income ZIP codes;
· States and local jurisdictions have flexibility under existing law to use suspension as a last resort and ameliorate the economic impact of suspensions through exemptions, payment assistance, license reinstatement support, and other means;
· Promising programs exist in some areas to assist low-income individuals who are facing suspension or have already had their license suspended; however, the lack of information on suspension makes it difficult to assess the need for these programs and there are numerous challenges in implementing and bringing to scale effective programs.
You can access the GAO report here: http://go.usa.gov/lPz
If you have questions, please contact Jeff Hild (Rep. Stark), Laura Bernsten (Rep. McDermott), or Eyang Nyambi (Rep. Moore).
Rep. Pete Stark (CA-13)