SALEM, Ore. — A bill that would end the practice of suspending Oregon driver licenses for overdue fines and fees has passed the Oregon Senate after passing the House on Thursday. It now heads to Governor Kate Brown's desk.
Oregon Senate Democrats applauded the bill as it sailed through on the third day of the 2020 special legislative session, passing with 20 in favor and 7 against.
In addition to changing policy on license suspensions, House Bill 2020 declares an emergency — making it effective immediately if passed and signed into law.
“An individual’s inability to pay their fines and fees should not be the reason to suspend a license,” said Senator Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, a longtime champion of this proposal who chairs the Senate Committee on Judiciary. “The cycle of debt-punishment is unfair, and under our current law, it may make it so one cannot get to work, take their kids to school or seek medical care without violating the law.”
Democrats cited the Oregon Law Center, which found more than 334,000 license suspensions over the past decade. Many of those were for people who could not pay court fines and fees from other infractions, perpetuating "cycles of debt and poverty," and restricting the ability for someone to go to work, school, or the doctor.
According to data from a recent Oregon Criminal Justic Commission report, Black and Latinx people are disproportionately stopped, ticketed, charged, and convicted for traffic infractions.
“Fee-based license suspensions disproportionately impact people of color,” said Senator James I. Manning Jr., D-Eugene, who carried the bill on the Senate Floor. “We know our constituents of color will benefit from this. This is an equity issue and it’s the right thing to do. Especially now while so many are struggling economically.”
HB 2020 passed the House with 44 in favor and 13 against. Governor Brown will now decide whether to sign the bill into law.