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Uncovering America's methamphetamine history; PA Early Intervention programs vital for child development; measuring long-term impact of the O.J. Simpson trial on media literacy.

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President Biden's name could be left off the ballot in Alabama and Ohio, the Justice Dept. mandates background checks for gun show purchases, and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds moves to allow state police to arrest undocumented migrants.

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Housing advocates fear rural low-income folks who live in aging USDA housing could be forced out, small towns are eligible for grants to enhance civic participation, and North Carolina's small and Black-owned farms are helped by new wind and solar revenues.

Alabama's debt-driven license suspensions softened by new law

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Tuesday, November 7, 2023   

A new law in Alabama is helping thousands regain their driving privileges after license suspension for debt-related reasons.

Senate Bill 154 allows individuals to miss one court appearance or two payments before facing suspension. Previously, even a single missed payment or court date could result in a license being revoked.

Leah Nelson, research director with Alabama Appleseed, conducted a survey on fines and found they put a strain on working families and keep them trapped in a cycle of debt.

"People were on the regular giving up things like utility payments, food, medicine and rent, making really desperate sacrifices so that they could make payments toward their legal debt," Nelson said. They were taking out payday loans."

Alabama Appleseed's report, entitled "Under Pressure", reveals that about 40% of people surveyed resorted to committing such crimes as theft in order to settle their outstanding tickets. The bill received bipartisan support.

Nelson explained that the impacts extend beyond individuals and households, affecting economic progress. Alabama faces low workforce participation, and many people with suspended licenses struggle to find work. She says without a license, job opportunities are limited, a crucial point to convey to lawmakers.

"If you have a labor shortage and you have a whole bunch of people who can't effectively work because of an administrative decision that they have made to penalize poverty, maybe you need to reconsider that decision," Nelson continued.

She added while the new law doesn't solve every problem, it does give people more flexibility. Now, those who have suspensions because of missed court dates can take steps to get them reinstated.

"All you have to do to clear a failure-to-appear suspension is appear before a judge, and then they will send a clearance letter. You still have to pay a fee to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, that's our DMV, to get your license back, but you don't have to make any payments towards your ticket," Nelson said.

She mentioned that another major change was made regarding compliance hearings. Now, if you miss one, you won't be suspended. However, you can still face suspensions if you miss two compliance hearings or two payments on a payment plan.


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