Mississippi will stop suspending driver’s licenses purely because old court fines havent been paid because the practice discriminates against the poor, officials say, and cities are seeking relief from the Legilsture.

A resolution calling on the Mississippi Legislature to allow municipalities to submit delinquent court fines and fees to the state Department of Revenue for collection was adopted by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen in an effort to try and recoup, in part, about $3 million, some of which dates back 10 or 15 years.

Mayor James A. Young told aldermen that many Mississippi cities were expected to pass similar resolutions at the recommendation of the Mississippi Municipal League calling for the state to collect the fines and fees from state income tax refunds owed to the debtor.

The state would receive about 50 percent of any recouped outstanding fines and fees owed, the resolution said.

Aldermen said in the resolution that they “strongly urge the Mississippi Legislature to support and pass this type of legislation.”

The Mississippi Municipal League has recommended that municipalities pass this type of resolution to help in the collection of old fines, Young said.

“We want a bill that would allow governing authorities to submit a form for outstanding fines and fees to the Department of Revenue,” Young said. “ The state will get half of it and the city will get the other half from the debtors’ state income tax refunds.”

Young said some individuals owe as much as $10,000 in fines through Philadelphia Municipal Court.

“It doesn’t do any good to put them in jail,” he said. “If you lock them up, they lose their jobs.  You can take their driver’s license but then they can’t get to work or they get a ticket the next week for no driver’s license. It’s one big ball of confusion. People just fail to do their part and we are stuck with the bill.”

Young said delinquent fines are a problem all over the state.

“The cities are looking for another way to legitimately get some of the funds back. Some areas have kept people in jail for X number of days for old fines. We started trying to do the work program for some who don’t have a job and need to work their fine off. We let them pick up trash, etc. That has been a plus but some have failed that.”

It was announced last month that Mississippi will stop suspending people’s driver’s licenses purely because they haven’t paid court fines and fees, meaning tens of thousands of people who lost driving privileges could get them back in coming months.

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Marshall Fisher made the joint announcement with lawyers from the MacArthur Justice Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center, after advocates complained that it was another way the state was criminalizing poverty.

It parallels a court rules change enacted in July that requires a judge to determine whether a person can afford to pay a fine before jailing anyone for nonpayment.

More than 100,000 people have had their Mississippi licenses automatically suspended at the request of a court clerk. MacArthur Center lawyer Cliff Johnson said it’s hard to tell how many will get their licenses back, although he estimated it would be in the tens of thousands.

Young supports doing away with the license suspension.

“I’m glad they are stopping taking licenses because they can’t pay fines,” he said. “People can’t get to a job without a license. I get a lot of calls about that. People say, ‘If I drive, I get a ticket.’ Then they lose their jobs.”

The state will begin reinstating licenses starting this month. Mississippi will waive its $100 reinstatement fee, sending letters to anyone who benefits. Officials say people should await written notification before driving again. People whose licenses were suspended for additional reasons, such as reckless driving or driving under the influence won’t get them back. Licenses will continue to be suspended for people who don’t respond to a citation or if a judge holds someone in contempt for failing to pay fines.

“We will continue to suspend licenses for other reasons allowed under Mississippi law, and we certainly take it seriously when people drive with suspended licenses,” Fisher said in a statement. “The reinstatement of these licenses will not relieve the drivers of the legal obligation to pay the fines, fees or assessments.”

Mississippi becomes the fifth state to require a consideration of ability to pay before suspending a license.

– The Associated Press contributed to this article.