Most of the nation is unaware of it, but there are two states which will take your driver’s license away if you do not pay your student loans.

Alums in both Montana and Iowa, face laws that allow the state to revoke driver’s licenses if the individual is unable to pay back their loans.

This has obvious consequences for potential employment, as well as childcare, creating a downward spiral of self-perpetuating poverty.

The Montana Department of Justice says that those who default on their student loans face “indefinite suspension until student loan association notifies Motor Vehicle Division of compliance.”

The Department of Motor Vehicles in Iowa parallels this legislation almost identically. The law says that the State will “suspend a person’s driver’s license upon receiving a certificate of noncompliance from the College Student Aid Commission in regard to the person’s default on an obligation owed to or collected by the commission.”

But the group Jobs With Justice notes that in October 2010, there were also 42 nurses in Tennessee who similarly had their licenses suspended for nothing other than falling behind on their student loans.

The irony of all of this is that taking away the ability to drive makes student loan defaulters even more certain to fall behind on payments.

In effect, this is little different than debtors prison, which, in a misguided effort to deter loan default, actually perpetuates it

Trans teen takes on the DMV and wins the right to wear makeup.

By Lisa Wade, PhD

Sociologists are interested in studying how our institutions — in addition to our ideologies and interactions — reflect social norms in ways that tend to reproduce the status quo. A great example happened recently in South Carolina. In this case, the institution is the Department of Motor Vehicles, the norm is that boys and men don’t wear makeup, and the case is Chase Culpepper, a male-bodied trans teen who wanted to wear makeup in her driver’s license photo.

The officials at the DMV told her that she wasn’t allowed to wear makeup in the photo because it would be a “disguise.” As reported by NPR:

The department… cited a 2009 rule that prohibited applicants from “purposely altering his or her appearance so that the photo would misrepresent his or her identity.”

They told Culpepper to take off her makeup or go home without a license. She did what they said. She shared these before and after photos with the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, who shared them with the public.

It’s hard to defend the idea that somehow makeup distorts a man’s identity, but not a woman’s. It has exactly the same illusory power on a female face as a male one; that’s exactly why women wear it. The DMV’s policy did nothing, then, to help it do its job, it only served to press citizens of South Carolina to conform to the gender binary, at least as far as their primary form of identification went.

With the help of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, Culpepper sued and the DMV settled. As part of the settlement,

[they] agreed to change its policy to allow people seeking drivers’ licenses to be photographed as they regularly present themselves, even if their appearance does not match the officials’ expectations of how the applicant should look. The department also promised to send Culpepper a written apology and train its employees in how to treat transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals in professional settings.

This is what institutional change looks like, at least potentially. Thanks to Culpepper and her advocates, the South Carolina DMV is a little bit less gender binary than it was before.
Despite strict voter ID laws, Alabama is in the process of closing 45 of 49 driver's license offices
By Jen Hayden

Alabama is taking driving as a “privilege, not a right” very, very seriously.

If you’re going to need a driver’s license in Alabama, you’re most likely going to have to figure out a way to get to one of only four driver’s licenses offices in the entire state:

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said budget cuts will result in closing driver’s license offices across the state.

The agency said the cut will be in phases, with 33 offices closed during the first wave.

In January 2016, a further 12 offices will close. By March, all but four offices in the entire state will shut their doors.

The offices that will remain open, ALEA said, are Huntsville, Montgomery, Mobile, and Birmingham.


Perhaps most frightening about these closures is the effect it will have on voting in Alabama, where a conservative legislature passed a law in 2011 which requires a photo ID to vote. Alabama has already been on a steady decline (41% in November 2014) and these closures certainly won’t help to bring those numbers up.

Intended or not, these office closures and the strict voter ID law will have an effect on government, policy and even safety (more people like[ly] to drive without a proper license) for a long time to come.


10:12 AM PT: Is this merely an empty threat because of cuts to the department’s budget? Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collier is appealing to residents to contact their legislators:

Collier said lawmakers tell him they’re not hearing from voters about the budget shortfall. He urged residents to call their legislators before they end up standing in lines for hours.

“I’m a former legislator, so I get it,” Collier said. “Tax votes are hard. But they are elected to lead.”

And if you want to contact your representatives in the Alabama State Legislature, here you go:

Members of Alabama House of Representatives

Members of Alabama State Senate