March 4, 2008

 

Allowing Alternative Penalties for Drug Offenders Would Permit Them to Keep Jobs

MADISON – Tuesday at the Capitol, the Senate adopted on Senate Joint Resolution 82, authored by Senator Lena C. Taylor (D-Milwaukee).  The resolution will allow Wisconsin to opt out of a federal mandate that requires the suspension or revocation of driver’s licenses for six months when a person has been convicted of a drug violation, even if no driving was involved.  Co-author of the resolution is Representative Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee).

“The effect of Wisconsin’s law complying with this federal mandate is hurting a lot of people,” said Taylor. “The number of suspensions is clogging the courts and hampering the ability of working people to get to their jobs, and it prevents some young people from even getting a license.”

The federal mandate, passed during the 1990s “war on drugs,” stated that failure to comply would result in a loss of federal highway aid.  However, the federal government allowed states to opt out of this mandate with the passage of a joint resolution of the legislature, and a letter from the governor, indicating their opposition to the federal mandate.  Thirty-seven states have already done so.

Taylor and her co-authors proposed two other related bills, SB410 and SB412 that will allow judges to impose alternative penalties for drug convictions not related to driving and to pay their fines on an installment plan.  Both passed the Senate today.

“Wisconsin’s experience over the past 15-plus years has been that loss of a driver’s license has not been a deterrent for these non-moving drug violations,” said Senator Taylor.  “Instead it has plunged the poor into a cycle of repeated traffic debt which they cannot pay and deprives them of adequate transportation to work.  These measures will allow judges to impose adequate penalties but still allow those in poverty to drive to work and support their families.”

The joint resolution and related legislation is supported by Legal Action of Wisconsin, Justice 2000, Inc, and the Director of State Courts office.