Oregon House passes bill to end driver license suspensions for fines and fees

By Jamie Parfitt

SALEM, Ore. — After the second day of the 2020 special legislative session, Democrats in the Oregon House of Representatives are applauding the passage of a bill that would end the practice of suspending Oregon driver licenses for overdue fines and fees.

House Bill 2020 also declares an emergency, making it effective immediately if passed and signed into law.

“This bill is especially important as we confront some of the inequities and institutional bias in our systems,” said Rep. Chris Gorsek, D-Troutdale. “We know that Black and Latinx Oregonians are disproportionately stopped, ticketed, charged and convicted, and we know that this cycle of debt and punishment especially burdens communities of color. Increased frequency of being stopped and cited for driving offenses, along with increased fine amounts, puts communities of color at greater risk of license suspension for inability to pay.”

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.

"As a result, fine and fee-based license suspensions disproportionately impact communities of color, in addition to low-income Oregonians," House Democrats said.

HB 2020 passed with 44 in favor and 13 against. The bill now heads to the Oregon Senate for consideration.