The House barely passed a bill Wednesday that would suspend the driver’s license of a student who drops out of high school. It was approved by a razor-thin 55-54 vote.
Rep. Tom Young (R-Aiken) is behind the legislation. He says the idea was first proposed by a bipartisan commission 22 years ago.
This is not the silver bullet… but it’s part of the solution. We’ve got to encourage more students to stay in school. This is part of it.
The bill includes some exceptions, such as if the teen is working to support themselves or their immediate family, is in the military, or has a medical condition that requires them to drive to and from the doctor.
Rep. John King (D-Rock Hill) opposed the bill, saying a person should only lose their license if they violate a traffic law. He said school attendance has nothing to do with that.
In taking a license from someone who may have dropped out of school, what law have they violated… that would even prompt something like this?
If a student appeals the suspension, the law would allow them to keep their license until their appeal is heard.
The bill has almost no chance of passing the Senate this year. It’s the second time the House has approved such legislation, but the vote was much closer this year than 2010. That bill (also proposed by Young) did not make it through the Senate before the session ended.
In a stroke of irony, the deciding vote for the bill may have been Rep. Leon Stavrinakis (D-Charleston) — who had been its most vocal opponent. Stavrinakis moved to support the bill after getting assurances that any dropouts caught driving under suspension would not face jail time and would only have to pay a fine.
He worried that, without a last-minute amendment, some teens would continue driving after their licenses were suspended and get caught in a cycle of suspensions and jail time.
People don’t drop out of school because they think it’s good for them… If they know it’s not good for them, are they really going to change their minds because you suspend their driver’s license? Deep inside, they know that they’re handicapping themselves for the rest of their lives, but they have challenges… that seem insurmountable at that time. That’s why most people drop out of school.
Young said he hopes the law, if passed, might cause some potential dropouts to reconsider.
I’ve talked about this bill for over two years to kids in my district. It is unanimous (among them) that it would make a difference for some people… The only thing that might be a better incentive… would be to take their cell phone.
The support was mostly among Republicans and 6 Democrats. Democrats led the opposition, although 21 Republicans joined them in voting against it.