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Green-lighting a diversion program

Published (2/18/2011)
By Mike Cook
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A driver’s license reinstatement diversion program established in 2009 is scheduled to hit a red light June 30.

Supporters want it to be green-lighted for another two years and possibly expanded.

Approved Feb. 16 by the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee, HF387 was sent to the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee. It has no Senate companion.

The program provides a different avenue of intervention into the problem of people driving without a license, said Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing), the bill’s sponsor. It is directed at people who want to get valid, but for various reasons, such as limited finances, are unable to do so.

Under the program, eligible participants charged with driving after suspension or revocation, but have not yet entered a plea can participate. In exchange for a diversion driver’s license, participants must maintain insurance, make regular payments toward the outstanding fines and complete a class that teaches life and financial management skills. Offenders pay for program costs.

“The idea is to keep them valid driving, but also make sure that they can pay the citations off,” said Scott Adkisson, CEO and president of Financial Crimes Services and Diversion Solutions, which manages the program at no cost.

Duluth, St. Paul, South St. Paul, West St. Paul and Inver Grove Heights took part in the pilot program and Isanti joined in July 2010. The public safety commissioner may permit other cities to establish a program. The bill would also permit counties to establish a program.

As of Dec. 31, 2010, the program had 1,781 eligible participants, of which the average participant had seven outstanding citations with an average balance of $1,700.

“This program has had a 77 percent rate. It has returned close to $500,000 back to these cities,” Kelly said.

Rep. Ernie Leidiger (R-Mayer) asked about expanding the program statewide.

Adkisson said some bumps have been found along the way, and they’d like all issues worked out before becoming that large.

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