News Briefs

Kansas attorney general asks feds to ease driver’s license reinstatment

By: - August 5, 2020 5:46 pm
The Kansas Supreme Court issued an opinion Friday overturning a Kansas Court of Appeals decision in businessman Gene Bicknell's legendary tax case. The Supreme Court said Bicknell was a resident of Florida, which has no state income tax, during the period in which Kansas officials claimed he owned millions of dollars in state income taxes on sale of a company comprised of Pizza Hut franchises. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

The Kansas Supreme Court issued an opinion Friday overturning a Kansas Court of Appeals decision in businessman Gene Bicknell’s legendary tax case. The Supreme Court said Bicknell was a resident of Florida, which has no state income tax, during the period in which Kansas officials claimed he owned millions of dollars in state income taxes on sale of a company comprised of Pizza Hut franchises. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The Kansas attorney general is part of a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general requesting Congress offer financial incentives for states to reform laws that stand as obstacles to low-income people reinstating their driving privileges.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, signed onto a letter to the U.S. Senate requesting adoption of legislation that extended federal funding to states that repealed unreasonable license suspension laws. Forty percent of U.S. driver’s license suspensions are issued for conduct other than improper driving.

Nearly two-dozen state prosecutors, including those of Colorado and Iowa, argued for federal action to reward states that did away with laws leading to suspension of licenses for failure to pay unrelated fines and fees.

“Without a license or access to a strong system of public transportation, these individuals lack the means to get to their jobs, bring children to child car. And to get groceries, medical care and other necessities in the most cost-effective way,” the attorneys general said. “They end up in the loop of higher expenses and lower income, and potentially steeper fines.”

In the 2020 legislative session, a bill mirroring the federal reform sought by the attorneys general was introduced in the Kansas House but didn’t advance.

The Kansas Criminal Justice Reform Commission recommended legislation in 2019 to ease re-entry of inmates into their communities by making reinstatement of a license more practical.

Law enforcement officers devote valuable time to processing suspension orders, transporting a driver to jail and waiting for tow trucks when there was no reasonable suspicion the driver posed a threat to motorist. Loss of a license adds obstacles to going to work and completing basic household functions.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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