By Bob Katzen
Rep. Nika Elugardo (D-Boston) and Sen. Julian Cyr (D-Truro) have filed a bill that would prohibit the state from suspending the driver’s license or vehicle registration of a driver because he or she has unpaid fines and fees owed to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
“Our laws are replete with outdated provisions that propagate and perpetuate poverty,” said Elugardo. “It is unfair, unreasonable, and counterproductive to deprive a person who has unpaid debts of a driver’s license, the one sure asset that most people use to get a job and to get to their job. [This bill] continues the unsexy but absolutely essential work of removing structural inequities like this from the Massachusetts General Laws. We need bipartisan support for this just and ethical approach to helping people get back on their feet after hard times.”
“In remote and rural regions with limited public transportation, a debt-based license suspension is a poverty trap,” said Cyr. “They make it harder to travel to a job interview or work while debts continue to fester. Debt-based suspensions are an outgrowth of white supremacy and a punitive approach to justice that disproportionately harms Black and Brown residents—but like most penalties stained by white supremacy, they subject everyone to greater risk of poverty.”