April 24, 2013

Des Moines, Iowa

Iowa drivers would be able to renew their driver's license online instead of travelling to a designated renewal office under a measure unanimously approved by the Iowa Senate Tuesday.

The measure approved 48-0 would allow drivers between 18 and 72 to renew their driver's license through the state Department of Transportation's website without passing a vision test. Under current law, drivers must renew their license at a county treasurer or DOT office.

Those who have license restrictions due to major eye health issues like glaucoma would still need to come into an office and get a test. But the bill limits Iowans to use the online service for every other renewal to ensure vision screenings are still an integral part of the licensing process.

Sen. Tod Bowman, D- Maquoketa, amended the bill so Iowans could wait eight years to renew their license instead of five, what current law requires.

Because of the amendment, the bill goes back to the House for approval before hitting the governor's desk.

Bowman called this bill a "top priority" for the DOT.

"The department wants to increase efficiency by decreasing wait time for Iowans," he said. "It will also be cost-effective in the long run."

The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency estimated 35 percent of Iowan drivers would use the service which equates to a department savings of $1.2 million, the equivalent to the salaries of 17 full-time clerks plus costs to participating counties.

Bowman says he doesn't expect the transition to an online service to initiate any immediate layoffs, "but will they eventually cut down through attrition, probably."

The state House passed the bill last month in 86-14.

Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, says she voted against the bill because renewing online means your license photo isn't updated.

"I think that could be an enormous problem for law enforcement," she said. "People change a great deal over a (five)-year period ... People who are out to deceive the law and use ID for the wrong purposes, we are not putting safeguards in place to prevent that."

She says the Senate amendment only exacerbates her concerns.