Key committee advances McNamara's bill getting Hoosiers back to work, bad drivers off the road

Posted by: Jordan Wallace  | Wednesday, February 3, 2021

STATEHOUSE (Feb. 3, 2021) – The House Courts and Criminal Code Committee recently voted to support State Rep. Wendy McNamara's (R-Evansville) legislation helping Hoosiers with suspended licenses get back on track.

According to the Indiana Prosecutor Case Management System, driving with a suspended license has been the top misdemeanor every year from 2015 to 2019. McNamara worked with Gov. Eric Holcomb on House Bill 1199, which would provide the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles more flexibility when working with Hoosiers whose suspended license is a result of not having insurance.

"Being caught driving without insurance can be like quicksand for low-income Hoosiers, because losing your license could mean losing your job and the ability to make ends meet for your family. Some people can't bounce back from that, and we've got to do more to help," said McNamara, chair of the committee. "By no means is this bill a get-out-of-jail-free card for those who intentionally break the law, but it's a helping hand for Hoosiers whose insurance coverage lapsed accidentally. For motorists who work quickly to correct this, this bill would soften the consequences and they can get back on the road faster."

According to McNamara, her bill would allow the BMV to lift a license suspension if an individual can provide proof that they maintained insurance for a period of 180 days. She also said if a person fails to show proof of insurance, pay outstanding court fines or appear in court for a traffic violation case for a misdemeanor or felony charge, the suspension on their license would continue.

Additionally, McNamara said this bill would allow the Indiana Department of Correction and BMV to help nonviolent offenders reentering the workforce by delaying their license reinstatement fees. Those who have completed their sentence, are serving time on probation or are currently enrolled in job training courses, and maintain consistent employment for at least three years could be eligible for this flexibility. She also said this bill gets Hoosiers back to work while also ensuring dangerous drivers are not on the road.

"Inmates released early for good behavior, parole or because they have completed their sentence, are likely to experience difficulties transitioning back into normal life," McNamara said. "This bill attempts to ease the financial requirements to reinstate their license upfront, so they can obtain a job and take care of immediate expenses before paying back the fees."

This bill would also extend the Traffic Amnesty program for one year. The program, which was created last session, allows Indiana residents with suspended drivers licenses or unpaid traffic fines imposed before Jan. 1, 2019, the option to petition the court for a reduced fine of up to 50 percent. 

HB 1199 now moves to the House Ways and Means Committee for further consideration. For more information, visit iga.in.gov.

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State Rep. Wendy McNamara (R-Evansville) represents House District 76, 
which includes portions of Posey and Vanderburgh counties.

Click here to download a high-resolution photo.