Plan would put some bus drivers again behind the wheel by tweaking youngster assist license suspensions

Changing a bureaucratic Catch-22 could help ease a growing shortage of school bus drivers by letting some whose licenses have been suspended over child support payments back behind the wheel.

Illinois law allows the state to suspend the driver’s license of someone who is more than 90 days delinquent on child support payments. A reinstatement often requires paying any overdue support.

That can lead to problems for those who need to work to make money to pay support, but cannot work because they can’t legally drive, as state Rep. CD Davidsmeyer recently found out.

“A driver who wanted to work, but couldn’t, contacted my office and asked for help. His license was revoked not because of a driving infraction, but because of past debt,” the Jacksonville Republican said.

With the help of Sen. Steve McClure, a Springfield Republican, Davidsmeyer’s House Bill 4230 passed both legislative chambers and now is on its way to the governor.

It would let school bus drivers have driving privileges restored by setting up and sticking to a payment plan for child support delinquencies.

It does not apply to those whose licenses were suspended because of traffic violations.

“This bill not only puts the parent back on the path to full payment, but also ensures that they have the employment opportunities to stay on track,” Davidsmeyer said.

School districts have been grappling with a shortage of bus drivers, with many having to come up with clever approaches to address the problem. Triopia schools, for example, have staggered dismissal times, and other schools are consolidating routes or exploring other alternatives.

“Schools, especially in rural areas, rely heavily on their school bus drivers. Unfortunately, there is a severe bus driver shortage right now across Illinois,” McClure said.

He said the legislation could help schools get children to classrooms while also putting people back to work.

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