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Lawmakers vote to eliminate driver’s license suspensions

April 3, 2019

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Latest on Virginia’s one-day legislative session to consider Gov. Ralph Northam’s vetoes and amendments (all times local):

7:30 p.m.

Virginia lawmakers have voted to eliminate the suspension of driver’s licenses for motorists with unpaid court fines and costs.

The Senate voted Wednesday evening in favor of Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed budget amendment to reinstate driving licenses for more than 627,000 Virginians who currently have suspended licenses. The House approved the measure earlier in the day.

Current Virginia law mandates the automatic suspension of licenses for unpaid court debt.

Virginia collects about $10 million a year from people who pay to reinstate their licenses after they’ve been suspended for unpaid fines and costs.

The Legal Aid Justice Center of Virginia has sued over the practice, arguing that it unfairly punishes poor people. Supporters of the law say ending the license suspensions would reward criminals.

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5:10 p.m.

The Virginia House of Delegates has approved a budget amendment that would eliminate the suspension of driver’s licenses for motorists with unpaid court fines and costs.

The House voted in favor Wednesday of Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposal to also reinstate driving licenses for more than 627,000 Virginians who currently have suspended licenses.

Current Virginia law mandates the automatic suspension of licenses for unpaid court debt.

Virginia collects about $10 million a year from people who pay to reinstate their licenses after they’ve been suspended for unpaid fines and costs.

The Legal Aid Justice Center of Virginia has sued over the practice, arguing that it unfairly punishes poor people. Supporters of the law say ending the license suspensions would reward criminals.

The measure now moves to the Senate for a vote.

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4:25 p.m.

The Virginia General Assembly has approved higher truck registration fees and regional gas tax increases to pay for improvements to Interstate 81.

Both the House and Senate voted Wednesday to accept an amendment proposed by Gov. Ralph Northam that included the tax and fee increases.

Supporters said the increases would raise prices on taxes in areas around I-81 by about 7 cents a gallon. They said the extra money raised would pay for urgently needed upgrades to the highway to improve safety and traffic flow.

Opponents said the legislature was rushing through a major tax hike without sufficient public input. A proposal to put tolls on the highway failed earlier this year.

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9:15 a.m.

Virginia lawmakers will take up Gov. Ralph Northam’s vetoes and suggested amendments during a one-day session.

Northam’s proposals to be considered Wednesday include a hike on gas taxes to pay for improvements to I-81 and a ban on the use of hand-held cellphones on state roads.

The session could see the GOP-led General Assembly knock down some of the Democratic governor’s proposals, while failing to overturn his vetoes.

The Democratic governor has been trying to recover since a blackface scandal almost forced him to resign two months ago. He’s won praise from black lawmakers for focusing his legislative agenda on efforts to address longstanding racial inequities.

But Republicans have signaled opposition to some of Northam’s other proposals, including his push to limit smartphone usage by drivers.