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California Traffic Amnesty Program Ends Friday  

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By Lookout Staff

March 29, 2017 -- Friday marks the end of a Traffic Court Amnesty Program that has allowed low-income Californians, including low-wage workers and those on fixed incomes in Santa Monica, to reduce unpaid court debt, State officials said.

Launched in October 2015, the program has helped some 200,000 motorists clear their debts and have their licenses reinstated, State officials said. Under the program, the state has collected $35.5 million in revenue.

Applications started by March 31 must be processed by the court under the Amnesty, even if they are not completed until after the deadline, officials said.

The legislation does not apply to offenses involving reckless driving or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Senator Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, who authored the Amnesty Bill, has proposed new legislation to address similar issues.

His bill would reduce all traffic fines and fees for low income persons by 80 percent and allow for reasonable payment plans for many drivers on public benefits or who earn less than 250 percent of the federal poverty line.

The proposed bill, which is making its way through the state legislature, also would allow traffic courts to order fines only according to a person’s ability to pay and end license suspensions, misdemeanor convictions and bench warrants for missing ticket payment dates.

When Hertzberg's current bill was approved, Santa Monica Councilmember Sue Himmelrich predicted the amnesty would help Santa Monica's growing populations of the working poor, the impoverished and the low-income elderly ("Santa Monica Official Backs Legislation to Restore Revoked Drivers Licenses," May 4, 2015).

While the city’s median income is nearly $75,000, 11 percent of the population lives below the poverty level and 15 percent is 65 years of age or older, according to the U.S. Census.

There are also some 13,500 workers in the tourism industry, many of whom hold lower-paying jobs in hotels and restaurants.

“We have a large percentage of the population that isn’t as affluent as it used to be,” Himmelrich said at the time.

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