A plan is being fast-tracked to let some Garden State residents perform community service instead of paying motor vehicle surcharges.

State Sen. Ron Rice, D-Essex, said the idea of the Motor Vehicle Surcharge Community Service program would be to help people who get caught up in a catch-22 situation.

“The bill would allow a person who is unemployed presently but enrolled in an education or job training program to perform community services as an alternative to paying their motor vehicle surcharges.”

He said to be eligible for the program, “an applicant has to demonstrate they are unemployed and they are enrolled in a job training program or an education program and they are unable to pay the fine.”

He said there are many valuable job training programs offered by the state, but what’s happening is people who are enrolled may be offered employment but they can’t accept it because their driving privileges have been suspended.

“That means the very people we’re spending money on trying to get them employment and get them off systems, are people who wind up losing the job opportunity," he said.

He said the legislation is a common sense way to help people help themselves but still takes responsibility for their situations.

“We’re not telling people not to meet obligations. Give them community service time and find a way to work it off on their time but give them the license," he said.

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Rice said individuals owing surcharges for DUI related offenses would not be eligible for the program.

“I’m a former cop and I’m telling you I’ve written tickets and the next thing you know warrants were issued,” said Rice. “A ticket blows off your windshield, you don’t know it and the next thing that happens is you go to court, the surcharges have gone up and they want to take your license," he said. “It’s something you don’t think about. Sometimes we compound a problem instead of fixing it.”

The legislation has been released by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and faces additional review before being considered for a vote by the Senate.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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