State says new driver’s license law will cost several million dollars

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(Host)State officials say they believe it will cost the state several million dollars to comply with a new federal law that requires uniform standards for driver’s licenses throughout the country. The legislation will require the state to verify the authenticity of all documents used by individuals who are applying for a license.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Tucked away in a bill that allocates nearly a one-hundred-billion dollars for the war in Iraq is a provision that’s designed to make it much harder for terrorists to obtain legal government documents such as a driver’s license. The law requires that all states adopt uniform regulations concerning the types of documents that are needed to prove a person’s identity.

Currently, a number of states use different procedures and they’re not required to verify the supporting documents. Under this bill, states will have to prove that birth certificates, Social Security cards, and residency documents are valid before they can issue a driver’s license. This process could take several days.

Backers of the new law say it’s needed because state licenses are often used as official identification to board airplanes or gain access to federal buildings. The new law will be phased in over a three-year period. And current drivers will be subject to the new regulations when their licenses expire.

Motor Vehicle Commissioner Bonnie Rutledge is concerned because the federal government isn’t providing any additional money to help states with the cost of running the new program.

(Rutledge) “It will be more work than we’re presently doing in verifying the authenticity. We already require that you produce those documents. It’s just we have not in the past verified that. So yes, it will be more work for the Department.”

(Kinzel) Despite the uncertain cost of administering the new law, Rutledge thinks the proposal has some merit:

(Rutledge) “If someone moves here to Vermont, I can be assured that that state has asked them for the same type of identification documents to prove who they are.”

(Kinzel) Some groups are concerned that the law creates a national ID card but Rutledge says that’s not really the case:

(Rutledge) “I can understand why people feel it looks like a national ID. But there’s not a big data base in the sky sort of thing. Every state will have their own system.”

(Kinzel) The new law will also require all drivers to obtain a mandatory photo license. Vermont is one of the last states in the country to allow existing drivers to hold a non photo license but that will change when the law is fully phased in.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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