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Lawmakers look for ways to ease license suspensions; payment plan for fines discussed

State lawmakers in Syracuse and Buffalo on Tuesday participated in a national push to limit the suspension of driver’s licenses due to unpaid fines, criticizing the punishment for disproportionately affecting poor people of color.

A national group, the Driven by Justice Coalition, found that over more than two years, New York issued 1.6 million suspensions due to debt. Those suspensions were nine times higher in the 100 poorest communities, and in upstate New York, suspensions were four times as high where people of color live.

“As the data shows, debt-related driver’s license suspensions are drastically higher among low-income communities and especially low-income people of color,” said Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter, a Democrat who represents Syracuse.

“As the representative of one of the most economically disadvantaged communities of color in the country, it is imperative that the driver’s license suspension process is sensibly reformed as soon as possible.”

The proposal to reform the debt collection has the backing of Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Tim Kennedy. The move would create an income-based payment plan and make it easier for the fees to be paid, Kennedy said.

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