The Michigan House approved a bill package to extend the renewal deadline for driver’s licenses, state IDs, and vehicle registration after a 15-month backlog at Secretary of State (SOS) Jocelyn Benson’s office due to COVID-19.
The bills aim to prohibit the Department of State from charging late renewal fees for documents unless each branch office offers walk-in services. Any late fees assessed and collected during this time could be refunded upon request if the bills are signed into law.
In April, Benson said she planned to keep the SOS’s office appointment-only system created through the COVID-19 pandemic with no walk-in service, saying technology could help Michiganders skip waiting in long lines.
But the GOP pushed back.
“I have heard from many people regarding their struggles to get key documents renewed and their worry about getting hit with late fees if they aren’t able to renew through no fault of their own,” Rep. Matt Hall, R-Marshall, said in a statement. “Some people do not have reliable internet access to check for appointments online. Others would be more comfortable going into a branch office and getting their stuff taken care of even if it means a little longer wait.”
The bills also provide an increase of 15 days for title transfers to be completed after a sale. Another provision aims to force Benson to provide legislative leaders with a written report of her plan to reopen all SOS offices with walk-in service within 30 days after the bill’s effective date.
Benson welcomed the bill package, a drastic shift from her prior stance on June 4 when SOS spokesperson Tracy Wimmer told MIRS the same bills “demonstrate an outstanding lack of knowledge of the department’s operations and the needs of Michigan residents.”
“Residents should know that as pandemic restrictions have been lifted, our office capacity has increased and will continue to grow,” Benson said in a Friday statement. “This is just the beginning of our post-pandemic operations and we have a strong plan in place to provide an abundance of in-person office availability in coming months to work through the transaction backlog created by the Legislature and to improve upon our model that provides the convenient, efficient and equitable service that Michiganders have sought and deserved for decades.”
Benson said she was disappointed the GOP-led legislature didn’t approve bills that sought to give the her office $25 million to clear the months-long backlog.
However, Benson said she’s working toward the same goals “independently and with supportive lawmakers.”
SBs 507-09 now advance to the Senate.
This article was originally posted on House passes bills extending SOS ID, vehicle registration deadlines