Gov. Charlie Baker says the repeal of a state law that automatically suspended the driver's licenses of drug offenders for up to five years is a positive step forward.

Surrounded by Democratic leaders in the Legislature, the Republican governor on Wednesday signed a bill that ends the 27-year-old policy.

Critics said the automatic license suspensions — even for less serious crimes that had nothing to do with driving — were an obstacle to drug offenders trying to get jobs and turn their lives around.

Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler of Worcester said the new policy will immediately help about 7,000 people who have completed their sentences.

The bill also waives a $500 reinstatement fee that drug offenders had to pay to get their licenses back.