Proximity Bill, Driver’s License Suspension Reform Act, Save Our Stages: Recently Enacted Legislation

Driver’s License Suspension Reform Act

The Criminal Justice Operations Committee (Tess M. Cohen, Chair) supported the Driver’s License Suspension Reform Act (DLSRA). The DLSRA ends license suspensions due to non-payment of traffic fines and makes affordable payment plans available for the incremental payment of fines and surcharges imposed as a consequence of a traffic violation. Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers have their driver’s license suspended each year because they cannot afford to pay fines, fees, and other monetary penalties imposed for traffic violations. Two-thirds of all driver’s license suspensions in New York occur not because of dangerous driving, but because of unpaid traffic fines and missed traffic hearings. Losing the ability to drive can mean losing the ability to get to work, itself creating a host of negative consequences. This tension is especially felt by Black and Latinx New Yorkers, who are disproportionately stopped, ticketed and arrested. The devastation caused by debt-based license suspensions is disproportionate to the punished act. While the DLSRA ends driver’s license suspensions for unpaid traffic fines, it does not alter the consequences for dangerous driving or the “points system” for traffic violations. In sum, the Committee supports the DLSRA because it will maintain public safety while ending a counterproductive collection practice that disproportionately affects low-income communities and communities of color in New York. This bill was signed into law by Governor Cuomo on December 31st; however he has requested a chapter amendment removing a provision from the law which would have allowed for the elimination of suspensions for failure to answer a summons or appear at a hearing.

Proximity Bill Placing Incarcerated Parents Near Children

Just before the holidays, Governor Cuomo signed into law the Proximity Bill, which will require The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to place incarcerated parents at correctional institutions closest to their children’s home. This bill was supported by the Council on Children (Dawne A. Mitchell, Chair), Children & the Law Committee (Melissa J. Friedman, Chair), and Corrections & Community Reentry Committee (Gregory D. Morril, Chair). In a press release issued by the Osborne Association, City Bar President Sheila S. Boston stated: “We commend the Governor for signing the Proximity Bill into law. In doing so, he recognizes the importance of children being able to visit their parents during periods of incarceration. In many cases, this contact is critical to children’s well-being and healthy growth and development. Distance has for too long been a barrier that severed essential ties between children and parents. Keeping parents closer also means that foster care agencies will be able to ensure that visits happen more often, so that children in foster care may stay connected to their parents when it is in their best interests. This is an important moment for thousands of children and families.”

Save Our Stages Act

The Entertainment Law Committee (Randy Friedberg, Chair) supported the federal Save Our Stages Act, which would provide, using certain formulas, federal grants to eligible live venue operators, producers, promoters and talent representatives to mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19 on their operations. Live performance venues are among the hardest hit industries by COVID-19, and because many cannot reopen, a grant program is necessary to prevent Americans from losing them forever. We were pleased to see relief provided for these venues in the most recent COVID relief package passed by Congress.