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Jeff Brandes wants answers on ‘cruel’ driver’s license suspension regime

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State Sen. Jeff Brandes dashed off a flurry of letters to state agency heads on Tuesday asking for more details on Florida’s system of revoking and suspending drivers’ licenses — and the financial strain, even incarceration, that often comes with it.

Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, which he says will draft a new law during the upcoming Legislative Session to reform a suspension regime called “cruel” and “relentless” during the panel’s most recent meeting last week in Tallahassee.

Brandes wrote letters to the executive director of the state’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, president of the Florida Association of Court Clerks and Comptrollers, and secretary of the Department of Corrections requesting detailed information about how suspensions and revocations are processed, what outcomes those processes produce, and at what cost to the taxpayers.

“I am requesting from the department a count of the current inmates held in any state corrections institution, or private institution contracted with the department, whose sentence reflects a conviction from driving on a suspended or revoked license,” Brandes wrote to Corrections Secretary Julie Jones.

“In addition to this, I request that the department also identify the number of inmates with a conviction of driving on a suspended or revoked license as the only conviction resulting in their sentence. Furthermore I would like details on the cost of the incarceration for these specified inmates.”

Brandes began the letter, “It is the intent of the [Transportation] committee to produce a substantive bill to reform the inequities in the practice of driver license suspension.”

It’s a refrain that appears in all three letters.

The transportation panel helmed by Brandes is next slated to meet during the next scheduled committee week in Tallahassee, on October 8.

The panel’s five Republicans and three Democrats are likely to find common ground on the license issue.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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