COLUMBIA -- A bill that would prevent teens who drop out of school from getting a driver's license heads to the Senate floor, following a Senate panel's approval Tuesday.
The bill, H. 3645, allows students to obtain a hardship waiver or launch an appeal if their license is yanked due to seven unexcused absences. Eighteen-year-olds would not be affected by the bill.
Bill sponsor Rep. Tom Young, R-Aiken, testifying before a special Senate Finance subcommittee, said he spoke with high schoolers in Aiken County and was told the premise of his proposal offered students an incentive to stay in school.
"I have asked kids in the high schools in Aiken County, especially ones in 11th and 12th grade, 'Think about those who were sitting with you in the 9th grade. How many of you can identify somebody who's not here today?'" said Young.
"Every single one of them raised their hands."
The legislation, which has been introduced before by other lawmakers, drew criticism from some House members earlier this month who said the proposal overlooked the root causes of truancy among the state's high school students.
On Tuesday Young noted that a similar law has been in place in Georgia since 2004, in North Carolina since 1998, in West Virginia since 1989, and Florida, which suspended it temporarily, enacted it in 1988.
Young pointed to data that show nearly 80 percent of dropouts occur in 9th and 10th grade, and that his bill aims to "get them over the hump" and into 11th grade, where they are less likely to quit high school.
The Office of Motor Vehicles Hearings would determine hardship waivers, and appeals would be sent to the Administrative Law Court, a quasi-judicial agency within the executive branch.
Jana Shealy, clerk of the ALC, called the new cases estimated to arise from Young's proposal, "a tremendous burden" to the court.
She said the current caseload is about 6,500 a year, and Young's bill would increase it by 300-400 cases. The $150 filing fee per case would amount to $45,000- $60,000 in additional revenue, she said, offsetting some of the added costs to the court. But that would leave about $90,000 in new expenses associated with adding a hearing officer.
Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Hopkins, noted that Young's proposal, would not go into effect until August of 2011. He said that would give lawmakers time to set aside funds in the the next budget.
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