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By going easier on license suspensions, will Gov. J.B. Pritzker be providing license for citizens to ignore their civic obligations?

Gov. J.B. Pritzker faces a decision on whether to sign or veto legislation that would eliminate the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for failing to pay a fine or fee or committing a variety of other non-traffic offenses.

The legislation is backed by a variety of organizations that argued that license suspensions have “become a punitive debt-collection tool.”

“Over 50,000 Illinois licenses are suspended each year because drivers can’t pay tickets, fines or fees, or for other reasons unrelated to bad driving. If you can’t work, you can’t pay. If you can’t pay, you can’t work. The debt cycle continues, hurting individuals, families, businesses, communities and taxpayers,” said one supportive group.

It would not be surprising if Pritzker signs this legislation. It falls within the category of what he could consider to be social equity.

There’s no question that having one’s driver’s license suspended can be a harsh penalty, particularly for those who do not have the financial resources to pay fines they have incurred.

But one thing is certain. If an individual doesn’t pay a fine that is owed, unless he faces a threatened driver’s license suspension, he certainly won’t pay it if there is no consequence for not paying it.

The question then becomes the following — what’s the greater cost? Is it better to turn a blind eye to enforcement and hope that people who haven’t complied will or simply allow scofflaws to ignore their obligations?

The legislation was approved on a bipartisan vote. One of the objectors, state Rep. Tom Morrison of Palatine, said the idea has merit, but the legislation is too broad.

“For example, it repealed suspension due to motor fuel theft, and I think that there does have to be a consequence for the accumulation of those offenses,” he said.

Among the offenses excused from potential license suspensions under the legislation are most non-driving violations, including unpaid tolls, truancy (for minors), motor fuel theft and, in some cases, failure to pay parking tickets.

It’s hard to see what some of those offenses, like truancy, have to do with driving, except perhaps as a deterrent to would-be truants. It’s a different story altogether when it comes to fine money that won’t be collected under the approach Pritzker is likely to adopt.