It’s a problem KAKE News Investigates has been tracking for two years now, some even call it an epidemic.
More than 134,000 Kansans have suspended driver’s licenses. The insurance industry estimates at least one in five of them ends up driving anyway just to get to work and pay the bills.
“But it’s just simple tickets, you know? Parking tickets can make you lose your license,” Daniel Lawrence told us in 2019.
“Since I do not have a driver’s license, I had to move back in with my parents,” Kyle Evans told lawmakers in 2020.
We’ve heard from hundreds of you about the spiral into debt and loss of a driver’s license that can follow a traffic stop, unpaid parking ticket, or late insurance payment.
“As we’ve all seen over the news all across the state of Kansas this issue is affecting so many people,” said Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, who’s been working on this issue since 2009.
She brought the issue back before state lawmakers Thursday, after the pandemic shut down efforts to make changes last year.
“It was devastating to have worked out all the problems from years to get to that point, almost over the finish line,” Faust-Goudeau said. “The bill almost was at the governor’s desk, and then COVID hit.”
One of the main parts of the changes proposed this year would impact the fee Kansans pay to get their license back after paying off their tickets.
Right now, state law says you have to pay a $100 reinstatement fee for every charge leading to a suspension.
With 134,468 Kansans with suspended licenses from 437,005 different tickets, there’s roughly an average of about four tickets per suspended license leading to an additional $400 dollar cost to drive again. That’s after they’ve paid off all their fines and fees from the tickets themselves.
This bill would mean you only pay that reinstatement fee once, no matter how many charges you have.
Even law enforcement associations concerned about holding drivers accountable for things like DUIs support that change.
“I’d like to say that we want to hold people accountable,” said Ed Klump with the Kansas Sheriff’s Association. “But we don’t want to create these hardships that people are telling you about.”
Which is why the lawmakers in the committee room Thursday afternoon say they expect to get some changes across the finish line and to the governor’s desk this year.
“Everybody’s at the table now,” said Faust-Goudeau. “That’s good. It’s good for those thousands of Kansans who are affected by suspended driver’s licenses.”
“I think the legislature sees the need and that we need to address this somehow,” said Rep. Nick Hoheisel, a Wichita Republican on the Kansas House Transportation Committee. “They’re still working on this bill and there’s some amendments being proposed. But I think today was a good start.”
Lawmakers say the issue is even more urgent this year with so many people losing their jobs to the pandemic. They hope to be ready to move the House bill to the next step as early as next week. There’s an identical bill making its way through the Senate process as well.
This article appeared on the KAKE website, here.
Paid for by The Senate Democrats Committee, Cory Sheedy, Treasurer.