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House Passes Bill To Repeal Suspended Licenses Linked To Fines, Non-Traffic Violations

The House passed a bill Wednesday that would help many Vermonters with suspended licenses get back on the road.

The bill would repeal suspended licenses for many non-traffic violations like underage tobacco or alcohol use. Traffic tickets that are more than 26 years old would be wiped clean as well.

The bill will also expand the driver restoration program to a three-month period from September to November this year.  Residents will be able to come in and pay $30 for tickets they received before Jan. 1, 2015, and have them dismissed.

About 59,000 licenses have been suspended in the state, and over half are from failures to pay accumulated fines. Advocates say low-income residents often can’t afford to pay off those fines, and may continue to drive illegally to get to work.

House Speaker Shap Smith says the bill is focused on helping that population. “This is meant to give them some level of comfort, do the things that we want them to do without facing fear of prosecution and fines,” he says.

Some legislators voiced concerns about the bill's fiscal impact. Dorset Republican Patti Komline said she’s concerned about how the state will make up for the lost revenue.

“There’s a significant cost to this and these will be in increase of registration fees and the people who are paying these tickets are going to absorbing that along with the rest of us,” she says.

Beyond suspensions, the bill also imposes higher penalties for drivers who text or use electronic devices. Advocates say it’s another move to tie driver’s license suspensions with traffic safety, instead of old infractions. 

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