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- Indiana Needs to Study Problem of Low-Income Hoosiers Suspended from Driving
Monday, May 23, 2016
Do you know a low-income Hoosier family or employer that has been affected by suspended driver's licenses? On Wednesday May 25th, Indiana's Legislative Council will choose from over two dozen topics for study committees to work on during the summer. One of those issues was adopted unanimously by the House in HR 40, "that the Legislative Council is urged to assign to the appropriate study committee the topic of suspension and reinstatement of driver's licenses for those who are indigent". A recent report and guest blog post found a majority of Indiana’s suspended motorists have lost their licenses, "not for OWIs or habitually reckless driving, but for a variety of offenses unrelated to driving safety", resulting in hundreds of thousands of low-income Hoosiers without access to transportation for non-safety reasons. Meanwhile, reinstatement fees for some of these offenses have increased over 200% just in the past two years, creating a self-defeating cycle. And while Indiana doesn't yet have all the data or a remedy in place, we do know the problem is growing for low-income families and employers who increasingly demand a job-ready workforce.
However, due to time and resource constraints, the Council will not choose every topic that was assigned or urged by the Legislature, and that's where YOU come in. Please read the letter below and take a moment to contact the Legislative Council including Rep. Brian Bosma (Chair) and Sen. David Long (Vice Chair) to urge them to study the causes, effects, and solutions to driver's license suspensions for the indigent, because having hundreds of thousands of low-income Hoosiers without access to reliable transportation harms Indiana's families, employers, and our economy.
May 23, 2016
Speaker Brian C. Bosma
Chair, Legislative Council
200 W. Washington St., Rm. 404
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Re: House Resolution 40: Urging the Legislative Council to assign the topic of the suspension and reinstatement of driver’s licenses for those who are indigent
Dear Speaker Bosma:
In 2014 the General Assembly enacted legislation aiming to reduce the number of Hoosier motorists with suspended driver’s licenses. House Bill 1279, which took effect on January 1, 2015, eliminated certain mandatory license suspensions for non-traffic offenses and created a “specialized driving privilege” program.
During the same legislative session, lawmakers enacted House Bill 1059. Under the law, reinstatement fees for persons suspended while driving without proof of insurance rose dramatically, in some cases as much as 233 percent. These costs are often prohibitively expensive and may prevent the restoration of driving privileges indefinitely, even for those who can secure the requisite insurance coverage.
For many low-income Hoosiers—a majority of whom reside in either central cities or rural areas—the growing suburbanization of jobs and the lack of reliable public transportation create significant barriers to maintaining employment. State policies that authorize driver’s license suspensions for non-moving violations, combined with prohibitively-expensive reinstatement fees, exacerbate these barriers, preventing many from becoming economically self-sufficient.
Beyond the cost to the individual, current state policies are counterproductive for businesses. Employers in Hamilton County, for example, have struggled to find a sufficient number of job applicants in recent years despite the growing need for their services, especially in the hospitality and retail industry. Experts attribute this problem to the lack of transportation, among other reasons. And each time an employee loses his or her job from lack of transportation, employers absorb the cost of re-hiring and re-training. This becomes an unnecessary expense for the state as well: payment of unemployment insurance to a former employee who would otherwise have remained on the job.
Finally, a growing body of evidence suggests that states encounter low rates of collection as they increasingly rely on fines and fees without taking into account the offender’s ability to pay. In early 2014, the Indiana BMV reported a total of $131 million in unpaid driver’s license reinstatement fees. The enhanced reinstatement fees under House Bill 1059 were expected to bring in an additional $17.7 million in annual revenue starting in 2015. Actual revenue generated came to only $9.8 million. Although a modest increase over the previous year, the amount fell far short of fiscal projections—nearly $8 million short.
For these reasons, we strongly urge the Legislative Council to assign the topic of the suspension and reinstatement of driver’s licenses for those who are indigent to study committee this summer.
Professor Fran Quigley
Autumn James, J.D.
Ryan Schwier, J.D.
Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law Health and Human Rights Clinic
Indiana Institute for Working Families
KEY FINDINGS OF RECENT REPORT
A recent report published by the Health and Human Rights Clinic at the Indiana University McKinney School of Law examines these issues in greater detail. Among the report’s key findings include the following:
· Of the estimated 420,000 suspended motorists in Indiana, a majority have lost their licenses for a variety of offenses unrelated to driving safety.
· Non-driving-related offenses include, among others: unpaid traffic tickets, bouncing checks, truancy, fuel theft, failure to show proof of insurance, failure to pay child support, controlled substance violations, and graffiti.
· More than than 216,000 Hoosiers have suspended driver’s licenses for unpaid traffic fines, a number roughly proportional to the total populations of South Bend and Evansville combined.
· Current state policies are counterproductive for businesses and generate unnecessary expenses for the state.
· In early 2014, the BMV reported a total of $131 million in unpaid driver’s license reinstatement fees.
· In 2014 the Indiana Office of Fiscal and Management Analysis projected an additional $17,700,000 in annual revenue from increased license reinstatement fees starting FY 2015. Actual revenue generated came to only $9,788,770—nearly $8 million short.
· The 2016 BMV omnibus bill, signed into law March 24, 2016, preserves the status quo for both for driver’s license suspensions and reinstatement fees.
 Lindsey Erdody, Retailers, Restaurants Struggle to Find Staff in North ‘Burbs, Indpls Business J. (Nov. 7, 2015), http://www.ibj.com/articles/55686-retail-restaurants-struggleto-find-staff-in-northern-suburbs.
 Council of Economic Advisors, Fines, Fees, and Bail: Payments in the Criminal Justice System that Disproportionately Impact the Poor 4-5 (Dec. 2015), available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/page/files/1215_cea_fine_fee_bail_issue_brief.pdf.
 Ryan T. Schwier & Autumn James, IU McKinney School of Law, Roadblock to Economic Independence: How Driver’s License Suspension Policies in Indiana Impede Self-Sufficiency, Burden State Government & Tax Public Resources (2016), available at https://mckinneylaw.iu.edu/practice/clinics/_docs/DL_Rpt_2-1-16.pdf.
 See Ind. Office of Fiscal & Management Analysis, Fiscal Impact Statement Related to H.R. 1059, at 2 (2014) (estimating Motor Vehicle Highway Account revenue at $11.7M per year, with the remainder to be distributed to the Financial Responsibility Compliance Verification Fund). See also DL Report, supra, at 11-13.
 See H.R. 1087, 119th Gen. Assemb., 2d Reg. Sess. (Ind. 2016) (enacted).