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Senate passes bill to repeal increase in driver’s license fee

The Alabama Senate passed a bill Tuesday night that State Law Enforcement Secretary Spencer Collier says jeopardizes law enforcement in Alabama.

Senate Bill 44, sponsored by Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, would repeal the 54 percent increase in the driver’s license renewal fee that was implemented in February. The change increased the cost of a license from $23.50 for four years to $36.25 for four years.

SB44 requires that any such fee increase must go through the Administrative Procedures Act, a rule-making process for state agencies that requires a public comment period.

Collier said that repealing the increase will be a blow to State Trooper funding.

“The Senate voted to effectively take State Troopers off the road and scale back Alabama’s state narcotics enforcement,” said Collier. “Many of our State Troopers and Special Agents are putting their lives on the line at this very minute and they deserve better than the message the Senate sent them (Tuesday).”

Collier said Alabama has just 431 State Troopers patrolling the highways.

“There is one county without a State Trooper, four counties with just one, and a dozen Alabama counties with only two State Troopers,” he said. “For comparison, the Montgomery Police Department has 453 officers, meaning there are more officers in the capital city than there are State Troopers in the entire state.”

Collier said that if the fee increase is repealed, the number of State Troopers patrolling the state could decrease.

District 90 Rep. Chris Sells said the bill has not yet been discussed in the House, and that he plans to review it carefully before making a decision on which way to vote.

“I’d like to review it a more closely, so I understand what the costs are that go into producing a driver’s license before I make a decision about it,” Sells said.

Alabama Law Enforcement Agency public relations director Anna Morris said the cost for the state to produce and issue a driver’s license “far exceeds” the cost charged to obtain the license.

Sells acknowledged that the bill could become a priority in the House if lawmakers feel it’s an issue of importance to their constituents.

“To be honest, it could zoom right through,” he said.

Sells did caution that should the increase be reversed, the funds to reimburse those who have already renewed their driver’s licenses following the change won’t appear out of nowhere. That money will have to be reimbursed by ALEA.

“It’s important to remember that if it’s changed, someone is going to have to pay for refunds,” he said.

Collier said he hopes to see the bill defeated in the House.