CLEVELAND, Ohio – Gov. John Kasich signed a bill Thursday that will help low-income Ohioans with suspended driver’s licenses get back on the road.
House Bill 336 allows the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to reduce or waive reinstatement fees for qualifying drivers who have had their licenses suspended for more than 18 months.
Only drivers whose licenses were suspended as a result of an eligible offense will be able to take advantage of the amnesty program. If the offense involves alcohol, drug abuse, a deadly weapon or a sex crime, the driver will not be eligible.
The Registrar of Motor Vehicles has 90 days to set up the pilot program, which will then run for six months. The bureau must also promote the program.
Rep. Dave Greenspan, a Westlake Republican, co-sponsored the bill with Rep. John Barnes, a Democrat from Cleveland. If the pilot is a success, Greenspan intends to introduce legislation next year to make the program permanent, assuming he’s re-elected in November.
The new law will allow eligible drivers to apply for a reduction in reinstatement fees if they have complied with court-ordered sanctions and more than 18 months have passed since their license was suspended.
If they can also demonstrate they are indigent by documenting their participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps, they can seek elimination of all reinstatement fees.
A driver allowed a reduction of reinstatement fees on multiple offenses would pay either ten percent of the total, or the lowest single fee, whichever is greater.
License suspension and the cost of reinstatement has been identified as a major stumbling block for poor people trying to improve their lives. Cleveland Municipal Judge Suzan Sweeney said in an interview with cleveland.com in October that driving under suspension is the most common misdemeanor charge in her court.
A recent study by Massachusetts-based Insurify, an online auto insurance company, found that Ohio has the second highest percentage of suspended drivers in the country after North Dakota.