Governor JB Pritzker today signed the License to Work Act, which eliminates driver’s license suspensions for most non-moving violations and allows tens of thousands of Illinoisans whose licenses were canceled, suspended or revoked to have their driving privileges reinstated.
“With this bipartisan legislation, Illinois now recognizes the fact that suspending licenses for having too many unpaid tickets, fines, and fees doesn’t necessarily make a person pay the bill — but it does mean that people don’t have a way to pay,” said Governor JB Pritzker, who also has called for reform for the past several years. “We, as a state, have a vested interest in making sure all our residents who need their licenses to apply to a job or an apprenticeship program, or who already use their licenses to drive to work, to the grocery store, or to the doctor, don’t lose those opportunities because of a practice that reinforces cycles of instability.”
More than 50,000 Illinois licenses are suspended each year because drivers cannot afford to pay tickets, fines, and fees. Suspended licenses hinder an individuals’ ability to maintain employment and pay off fines and fees, keeping people trapped in a cycle of debt and unemployment.
“For years, Illinois has held driver’s licenses hostage when people couldn’t pay excessive parking and vehicle tickets. That drives people into poverty and keeps them out of work. Using license suspension for debt collection is cruel, counterproductive, and frankly embarrassing,” said Sen. Omar Aquino (D-Chicago). “I am proud to stand with my colleagues, community leaders, and partners and say; this practice ends today. No more will Illinois take driver’s licenses away and turn lives upside down because of parking and vehicle compliance ticket debts. This is an important victory in the fight to end policing for profit and stop funding government through tickets, fines, and fees - especially on the people least able to afford them.”
“The License to Work Act was truly a labor of love. This piece of legislation has taken over two years to introduce and pass and I am honored to have championed it. This new law doesn’t just restore drivers licenses to tens of thousands of Illinois residents, it restores dignity, equity, and quality of life. It eliminates driver’s license suspension as a penalty for most non-driving violations,” said Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Champaign). “I am grateful that Gov. JB Pritzker understands that when we take basic life necessities away from people, we perpetuate a downward spiral of financial despair. This legislation was designed to ensure that over 50,000 licenses are restored, jobs are restored, economic growth is restored, community is restored. Today, that downward spiral of financial despair ends, and we starting building up.”
“For far too long, thousands of residents in Chicago and around the state every year have had the experience of having their driver’s license taken away — in turn putting them at risk of losing their car, their job, or worse, and often inflicting the most harm on our Black and Brown communities,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “Today we applaud Governor Pritzker and the General Assembly for taking a giant step forward for Illinois and its communities by signing SB 1786 into law today to prevent driver’s license suspensions for minor offenses. We know that suspending driver’s licenses has a severely detrimental impact, with one study showing that 42% of those who had their licenses suspended lost their jobs. The City of Chicago was proud to take the step of halting driver’s license suspensions for non-driving violations last year, and we’re elated that not only will driver’s licenses now be reinstated, these new policies will also be true throughout the state.”
“Over 50,000 Illinoisans have suspended licenses because they simply can’t afford to pay tickets or fines,” said House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R- Burr Ridge). “This bill stops a practice that doesn’t fit the times and is the right thing to do.”
Senate Bill 1786 takes effect on July 1, 2020.