BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A bill making its way to Governor Kay Ivey for signature could make it harder for the state to suspend a driver’s license if someone misses a court date or payment towards a traffic violation.
Every person we talked to in Birmingham hopes to see Governor Ivey sign Senate Bill 154 (SB154) into law, saying it would help alleviate pressure from people trying to make ends meet.
“I’m all for that because I’ve lived that,” Winston Bess, a Birmingham resident, said.
Bess says years ago, his license was suspended for four years after he missed a court date for a traffic violation. Bess says making a bill like this law would be great for helping people be able to continue moving forward.
“If there was a way to pause that or some understanding that’s to be given to just us as humans, then I support that,” says Bess.
The nonprofit Alabama Appleseed helped lawmakers develop SB154. The organization says 170,000 people had their licenses suspended in 2021 for poverty-based reasons.
The bill states people can miss one court hearing after the initial hearing where a payment plan is created or up to three payments without their license being suspended.
“It will give grace to a lot of our working drivers. These are a lot of low-income people,” Frederick Spight, policy director of Alabama Appleseed, said. “This will help a lot of people one, stay on the road, allow them to continue getting to work, safely get their kids to school and really just participate in daily life. We don’t have a robust public transportation here in the state, so you can imagine losing your driver’s license is very difficult to say the least.”
Supporters of the bill say that drivers with suspended licenses are caught in a catch-22 — if they’re suspended because they can’t pay or make it to a court date, then they can’t get to work to make money to pay the ticket.
“They’d be like not so stressed about having to pay another bill on top of the other bills they already have to pay and maybe not, just relieve them in that sense,” Birmingham resident Katie Reese said.
“A lot of people having problems with their finances so this would put even more burden on them if they need to come with the money right away because they missed a court date. It’s possible they couldn’t get off work on their second job,” Birmingham resident Kent Porterfield said. “I think that if you would just consider them not being able to reinstate their license if the fee is not paid in full at that time.”
Governor Ivey’s office says SB154 has not yet crossed her desk but that she looks forward to reviewing it soon.