A proposal to allow drivers to make monthly payments on overdue traffic fines is a practical fix for a system that isn't working as well as it should for all of the people of New York state.
State Assemblywoman Pam Hunter, of Syracuse, is pushing for a measure that would eliminate the suspension of driver's licenses over unpaid fines and allow people to make monthly payments, based on their income, to get caught up.
The problem, Hunter said, is that automatic suspensions under current guidelines disproportionately affect low-income residents and people of color. The state suspended more than 1.6 million licenses for unpaid traffic violations over a 28-month period beginning in 2016. A portion of Hunter's district, she said, has the highest rate of suspensions in Onondaga County and also has the highest rate of poverty among people of color.
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To be clear, nobody is suggesting that some drivers should get a pass while others pay fines. The payment plans would simply give low-income people a reasonable opportunity to pay what they owe without suffering even greater consequences by losing their driving privileges. Penalties for serious traffic offenses such as driving while intoxicated would not be affected by this change.
This is how working on behalf of constituents is supposed to work. When it can be shown that a law isn't working fairly, then that law should be amended. The measure was passed by the Senate in June but hasn't yet been brought to a vote in the Assembly. There is no reason this proposal shouldn't receive bipartisan support when the state Legislature returns for session in 2020.
The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Michelle Bowers, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.