Eight-year drivers’ license might be

This state’s implementation of the requirements for a new federal REAL ID plan as West Virginia residents obtain or renew their driver’s license got under way back on Jan. 3, 2010. Two adjoining states — Maryland and Ohio — are also on board but Pennsylvania and Virginia are refusing to participate.

However, there’s still time for those two states bordering West Virginia to comply with the federal requirement — signed into law by former President Bush in reaction to the 9/11 terrorist attack — because the so-called “drop dead” deadline isn’t until Dec. 1, 2017.

Steve Dale, a deputy commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles, told members of a legislative study committee last week in Charleston that this state has already met most of the requirements.

Proof of any name change is one of the key documents required for these five-year renewals of a state driver’s license. And Dale pointed out to legislators that the new requirements place an unfair burden on women since they are the ones that are more likely to have name changes by marriage while a name change for any male resident is extremely rare.

The new requirements for five-year renewal of a driver’s license at the Division of Motor Vehicles in West Virginia requires: (1) an original or certified copy of a birth certificate or a valid U.S. Passport; (2) one document that provides proof of a Social Security number; and (3) two proofs of West Virginia residency such as a voters registration card, a West Virginia utility bill that is not more than 60 days old or one of several other documents.

Currently West Virginia residents are required to renew their state driver’s license every five years. Dale hinted at last week’s legislative hearing that DMV is considering a proposal to recommend to the Legislature that the state law be changed so that a driver’s license would only need to be renewed every eight years.

He also said once West Virginia residents bring in the necessary documentation such as birth certificates, proof of legal name changes, etc. for the first renewal under the new system, it will not be a requirement at subsequent renewals. Instead, DMV will scan and store the documentation electronically for future verification of the applicant’s identity.

This will enable West Virginia residents to renew their licenses on the Internet or at a kiosk so it won’t be necessary to go to one of the DMV office locations around the state, Dale said. And he assured concerned legislators that ample security is a part of this new system so that none of this data can be lost.

Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, led the effort to pass a state law in 2008 that would have put West Virginia on record as opposing the requirements of the federal Real ID law. But that measure died in the House of Delegates.

Meanwhile, a 19-page audit released last week recommends that the state ‘s Department of Health and Human Resources be stripped of its authority to award contracts independently without the consent of the state’s Division of Purchasing. And DHHR agrees with that position, but only after it awards one of the most valuable contracts in state government without that oversight.

Legislators and auditors alike are concerned that DHHR has not done enough to make sure it has the best possible deal in a proposed 10-year contract that is worth about $20 million a year. No wonder state Sen. Evan Jenkins, D-Cabell, told a DHHR official at a meeting last week in Charleston that it doesn’t make sense for agency leaders to agree that it shouldn’t be able to award contracts on its own while at the same time it is planning to do just that.

The contract now pending involves a complex computer system that processes claims for the state’s Medicaid program, which provides health care for about 420,000 West Virginians.

In addition to the legislative audit, lawmakers are also concerned about nearly $11 million that DHHR has paid to a Maine-based consulting firm for work helping the agency put together the bid requests for the Medicaid computer system.

Finally, there is one statistic that could well defeat efforts to require businesses engaged in sales on the Internet to start collecting consumer sales tax on those transactions and sending the money to the various government jurisdictions that impose this tax.

According to an official who handles government relations for eBay, there are more than 9,600 tax jurisdictions in this nation that would qualify for these tax collections.

The proposal to impose the sales tax on Internet purchases is pending in Congress and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is a co-sponsor of that bill. The owner of one West Virginia business who sells auto parts online, who claims he has sales in 48 of the 50 states every year, said he doesn’t work for all these taxing entities but only for the state of West Virginia. California already has a law that requires nonresident firms to collect the sales tax but only from firms with more than $1 million in annual sales.

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