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Green-lighting a diversion program

Published (5/6/2011)
By Mike Cook
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A driver’s license reinstatement diversion program established in 2009 may be green-lighted for two more years and expanded.

Sponsored by Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing), HF387 would extend the driver’s license diversion pilot project that is scheduled to sunset on June 30, 2011, for another two years. It would also permit counties to establish a program, not just cities.

Approved 130-0 by the House May 2, the bill goes to the Senate where Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) is the sponsor.

The program provides a different avenue of intervention into the problem of people driving without a license, Kelly said. 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.

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.

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 success rate. It has returned close to $500,000 back to these cities,” Kelly said.

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