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Florida lawmakers eye new pilot program to reduce license suspensions

'This is kind of an Achilles heel around the state,' Sen. Doug Broxson says
Posted at 5:06 PM, Dec 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-03 17:06:42-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A bipartisan pair of lawmakers is eyeing a way to keep Florida offenders on the road with their licenses, despite struggling to pay owed fines and fees.

Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa and Sen. Doug Broxson, R-Pensacola, are behind the forthcoming bill.

The pair said too many Floridians have a suspended driver's license due to an inability to pay court-ordered fines and fees. The current pay structures are too burdensome, they believe.

"And so, then they can't get to work," Driskell said. "Which is how they make the money to pay the fines and fees."

Rep. Fentrice Driskell speaks on legislation to help drivers keep their licenses
Rep. Fentrice Driskell is among the lawmakers who support helping drivers keep their licenses if they owe fines.

Driskell said the legislation is still in the writing process.

Once finished, and if approved, it would create a pilot program to give court clerks tools to keep licenses active while drivers work on what they owe. She told us to expect more flexibility and better payment plans.

"They can, yes, pay the debt that they owe for whatever fines and fees that they have," Driskell said. "But, also, being able to have their driver's licenses so they can stay employed and continue to fulfill their other obligations in life as well."

Sen. Doug Broxson speaks about the burdensome fees for driver facing license supension
Sen. Doug Broxson speaks to members of the clerks association about the high fees that the drivers face, causing them to possibly their license.

Broxson also mentioned the idea during a Justice Committee meeting held earlier in the week. He told members of the state's clerks association that Florida needed a more "humane payment system."

"This is kind of an Achilles heel around the state," Broxson said. "I know you're under tremendous restraints as far as having to generate your own income stream, but we have got to do a better job."

Once filed, the bill will have to clear the GOP-controlled Legislature and tough-on-crime Republicans. It was unclear if they'd see the change as a loosening of crime deterrence.

Driskell hoped to have the legislation ready in time for the regular lawmaking session, which begins in January. She called it one of her top priorities for next year.