Taking the next steps in an effort to "produce a substantive bill to reform the inequities in the practice of driver license suspension," the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday asked two state agencies and court clerks statewide to gather information and provide it to senators.
The requests by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, come about a week after the first of what is expected to be several committee hearings on the topic before the 2016 legislative session starts in January.
A report last month by The Miami Herald found that 77 percent of all license suspensions in Florida between 2012 and 2015 occurred because of a failure to pay fees. In Miami-Dade County alone, 29 percent of all drivers had their licenses suspended, many of them the working poor who can't pay the high fees to get reinstated.
In letters to the heads of the Departments of Corrections and of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the president of the Florida Association of Court Clerks and Comptrollers, Brandes asked for data including:
-- how many drivers had their licenses suspended or revoked last year because they didn't pay a fine or a fee or because they didn't comply with a financial obligation;
-- how many people are incarcerated in state prisons for driving on a suspended or revoked license and how much those inmates are costing the state;
-- and what court clerks are doing to work with drivers who have financial hardships, such as making them aware of available community service alternatives to paying fines or fees they owe.
"Failure to comply with the payment of certain fines and fees is an area of particular interest under review by the committee," Brandes wrote to the county clerks association. "The options for repayment by an offender experiencing financial hardship is a major area of concern."
Lawmakers return to Tallahassee for committee work on Oct. 5.