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WISCONSIN STATE LEGISLATURE DECREASES LICENSE SUSPENSION FOR NON SAFETY-RELATED MONETARY JUDGEMENTS

L to R: Vicky Selkowe, Legal Action of Wisconsin; James A. Gramling, Jr.; advisory board member
and volunteer attorney for the Center for Driver's License Recovery & Employability; Nichole Yunk
Todd, Director of Policy & Research for Wisconsin Community Services (WCS); Governor Scott
Walker (seated); Matthew Gralinski,staff member in Senator Jerry Petrowski's office; Senator Jerry
Petrowski,the bill's lead author in the senate; and Molly Gena, Legal Action of Wisconsin.

Not pictured: Rep. John Spiros,the bill's lead author in the assembly, Senator Nikiya Harris Dodd,
the bill's second author in the senate; and Rep. Cory Mason, the bill's second author in the assembly.

 


Madison, WI – On February 18, 2016, the Wisconsin State Assembly approved a bipartisan measure that will change the maximum length of a driver’s license suspension for failure to pay a forfeiture (“FPF”) from two years to one. The bill passed in the state senate earlier this month and is now headed to Governor Walker.

According to Wisconsin Department of Transportation data, FPF suspensions represent nearly 60% of all reasons for license suspension or revocation in the state at over 235,000. The second highest category is only 12%.

Two-year FPF suspensions are longer than many safety-related suspensions, including first and second offense Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), reckless driving, and the accumulation of over 31 demerit points within just one year.

The courts will still collect what they are owed as defendants who have monetary judgements earn income. The Wisconsin Department of Revenue collected over $21 million dollars for the courts in 2014 through its efficient Tax Refund Intercept Program (TRIP).

The authors of the bill include Senators Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon) and Nikiya Harris Dodd (D- Milwaukee) and Representatives John Spiros (R-Marshfield) and Cory Mason (D- Racine).

Senator Petrowski championed the effort: “This common sense bill will help make sure people can get to work so they can pay their debts and continue to support themselves and their families.”

The bill was also endorsed by key system stakeholders as a way to better focus our limited resources, including the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, Wisconsin Trial Judges Association, Wisconsin District Attorneys Association, Wisconsin Public Defender, and Wisconsin Insurance Alliance.

The Center for Driver’s License Recovery and Employability helped to advocate for this reform as part of its goal to increase the number of legally licensed drivers on Wisconsin roads. Since 2007, the group has worked with the legislature to pass three bipartisan reforms that have made our roads safer and brought more valid drivers into the system. This reform is the fourth major change and the second to be signed by Governor Walker.

The Honorable James A. Gramling, Jr. served as a municipal court judge in Milwaukee for 21 years and has been a pro bono attorney for the Center for Driver’s License Recovery and Employability since he retired from the court in 2007. He says that this change strikes a balance between personal accountability and making sure that drivers on our roads have valid licenses.

“Drivers who do not or cannot pay their traffic fines will still be suspended for up to a year, which is a very long time. A longer suspension is not effective,” said Gramling. “The legislature should be commended for taking this responsible step.”
The Center for Driver’s License Recovery and Employability (“Center”) is part of Wisconsin Community Services, Inc. (WCS), the state’s oldest and largest social services agency that works with individuals in the justice system. Other major direct service partners of the Center include Legal Action of Wisconsin, the City of Milwaukee, and Milwaukee Area Technical College.

Additional co-sponsors of the bill included Senators Dave Hansen (D- Green Bay), Frank Lasee (R- De Pere), and Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee); and Representatives Joan Ballweg (R- Markesan), Terese Berceau (D-Madison), David Bowen (D-Milwaukee), Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee), Dave Considine (D-Baraboo), Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee), Gary Hebl (D- Sun Prairie), Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton), Cody Horlacher (R-Mukwonago), LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee), Robb Kahl (D- Monona), Debra Kolste (D-Janesville), Bob Kulp (R-Stratford), Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton), Alvin Ott (R-Forest Junction), Sondy Pope (D-Cross Plains), Daniel Riemer (D-Milwaukee), Keith Ripp (R-Lodi), Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee), Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit), Leon Young (D-Milwaukee), and Lisa Subeck (D-Madison).

Nichole Yunk Todd, Director of Policy & Research
for Wisconsin Community Services (WCS) and
Governor Scott Walker