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Transportation bill could update license fee collection, distribution in effort to better match customer needs

Changing technology, COVID-19 and the advent of REAL ID have changed the way driver’s licenses and identification cards are issued. The fee structure and how those fees are allocated has not kept pace, according to Rep. Steve Elkins (DFL-Bloomington).

Much more of the workload is on the front end, requiring additional work from deputy registrars. Some of those offices have closed. Others have been operating at a deficit. Elkins said Hennepin County is putting $2.5 million to $3 million annually into driver’s license offices.

The issues have diminished the customer experience for those seeking a new or renewed license to such an extent that the state requested an independent expert review.

Building off that report and a bipartisan bill from last year, Elkins sponsors HF2183, a bill which would update some of the workload requirements and fee distribution to help both providers and recipients of driver’s licenses.

The bill was laid over Friday by the House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee.

Among its provisions would be one to provide deputy registrars a greater share of license fees collected. It would appropriate $14 million in the next biennium to be distributed based on the number of fee-based transactions a deputy registrar performs.

The bill would also increase filing fees for REAL IDs from the current $8 to $16 for a new card, and $11 for a renewal.

Other provisions would require the Department of Public Safety’s Driver and Vehicle Services Division to:

  • make available for no cost study support materials for driver’s license tests that focus on areas most commonly failed by applicants;
  • ensure there are at least 50 exam stations around the state located so that applicants can get to one in their own county, or at a reasonable distance in another county;
  • waive an exam requirement for adult, licensed drivers moving to Minnesota; and
  • create a plan to implement other recommendations offered from the expert review.

Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls), the committee’s chair, expects conversations to continue on several areas of the bill including fee sharing, reporting requirements, the cost to get a license or identification card, and the number and location of driver exam stations.

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