Letter to Transportation Conference Committee requesting adoption of House positions on Driver’s License Eligibility and Suspension Reform

May 5, 2021

The Honorable Frank Hornstein, Chair
Transportation Finance and Policy Committee
545 State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155

The Honorable Scott J. Newman, Chair
Transportation Finance and Policy Committee
Minnesota Senate Bldg., Room 3105
St. Paul, MN 55155

RE: Minnesota Catholic Conference requests adoption of House positions on Driver’s License Eligibility and Suspension Reform in HF1684-3

Chair Newman, Chair Hornstein, and Members of the Conference Committee,

As the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, one of the core missions of the Minnesota Catholic Conference is working with political and community leaders to shape legislation that serves human dignity and the common good. We understand that a conference committee’s work is not easy, and we commend the progress you have made in your first three meetings. As you begin working towards common ground on the weightier aspects of House and Senate proposals, we would like to highlight two provisions that will promote safety on roadways and accountability for drivers while also promoting family stability.  We urge you adopt and include these impactful House positions in your Conference Committee Report:

Driver’s License Suspension Reform

Rev. Pages R108, R117, R118, R119, R171, R180 / House Article 6 sections 39, 49-52, 531, 101, 106

Driver’s License Suspension Reform prohibits the suspension of a driver’s license for unpaid traffic tickets and makes licenses currently suspended only for unpaid tickets eligible for reinstatement. Catholic Conferences across the country have routinely supported similar legislative efforts to de-criminalize poverty. Laws should always respect the dignity of each person. When an individual violates the law, they should be punished. At the same time, we must distinguish between laws that render justice and those that perpetuate injustice. License suspensions for payment-related violations primarily impact people with low incomes and little savings. Often, low-income individuals who lose their driving privileges eventually lose their job, which begins a traffic spiral into crippling debt and family distress. The late-payment of fees and fines is not a threat to public safety, but rather a symptom of poverty, and the Legislature should ensure that no policy perpetuates the injustice of poverty.

This reform does not change driver’s license suspensions for dangerous driving violations and does not eliminate personal responsibility. Unpaid traffic tickets are sent to collections, so people are still held accountable for the cost of their ticket. Eliminating driver’s license suspensions for unpaid tickets allows people to continue driving legally for work and to take care of their families while they pay off their traffic debt.

The underlying bill for provision is from a bipartisan measure authored by Senator Ingebrigtsen (Senate File 432) and Representative Becker-Finn (House File 336). It enjoyed bipartisan support through the committee process.

Drivers’ Licenses and Identification Cards for Immigrants

Rev. Page R58 , House Article 5 sections 1-16

Opening our license system to immigrants will allow Minnesota to take action and address one component of our broken immigration system.  Our immigrant brothers and sisters need reforms to ensure that they are not confined to the shadows and margins of our society.

Access to driver’s licenses will help immigrants meet their daily obligations. In many parts of Minnesota, there is no public transportation, and undocumented persons have no ability to get to work, church, health services, or school, other than by driving illegally.  Every day, they live in fear that getting stopped could mean permanent separation from their children, spouse, or parents.

Providing driver’s licenses to immigrants also serves the common good – it is surely in the best interests of our state to have people who are living among us and driving on our roads be able to do so safely and legally.  It is sad to hear of stories where immigrants abandon their cars at an accident or in another situation where they must flee for fear of being deported.

Nor does this legislation “reward” those who have broken the law.  It is a concrete measure of solidarity that looks beyond the myriad reasons why someone is here illegally with their family and seeks to protect their well-being in the reality of their situation and in light of actual prospects for immigration reform and enforcement.

Undoubtedly, immigration policy is complicated.  Absent federal comprehensive immigration reform, offering driver’s licenses is one small measure the State of Minnesota can employ that will make our roads safer and our communities more welcoming to the immigrants who already make important contributions to our economic, cultural, and social life. The Minnesota Catholic Conference is a member of a coalition that is actively working toward securing bipartisan support for this immigrant drivers licenses this session.

We ask that, as you deliberate, please keep our reasons for supporting these two provisions in mind and include them in the final bill that you send to the Governor.

Thank you for all your hard work on behalf of Minnesotans and for your service on the Transportation Finance and Policy Conference Committee.

 

Sincerely,

Ryan Hamilton
Government Affairs Associate

CC: The Honorable Erin Koegel, The Honorable Luke Frederick, The Honorable Steve Elkins, The Honorable John Petersburg, The Honorable John R. Jasinski, The Honorable Jeff R. Howe, The Honorable David J. Osmek, The Honorable Karla Bigham

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