Why does California always revoke driver’s licenses as a punishment?

The 2022 bill-signing season marked a turning point in California’s approach to improving the economic and social mobility of its disparate residents. As Governor Gavin Newsom signed and blocked some 550 bills, news outlets and online commentators buzzed about new policies that extended state ID cards to immigrants, lifted restrictions on the development of multi-family dwellings and removed parking requirements that prioritized dwelling vehicles over people. .

Under SB1055, the California Department of Motor Vehicles can no longer automatically revoke a low-income parent’s non-commercial driver’s license if they fall behind on their child support payments. The law reforms a counterproductive licensing policy but fails to repeal it. Instead, it sets a floor on those eligible to lose their license, which protects some indigent parents but does not protect arrears who earn more than 70% of their county’s median income.

In a society largely based on driving, a license suspension is a terrible punishment. Any parent who loses a license must resort to California’s often unreliable public transit systems, expensive ride-hailing services, or risk a misdemeanor for driving with a suspended license. They can quickly find themselves without a job and, predictably, are even less able to pay their child support.

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