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Republicans propose another extension of expired driver’s licenses and plates

The proposal differs from the secretary of state’s request for $25 million to create more appointments
A Michigan driver's license (Source via WJRT )
A Michigan driver's license (Source via WJRT )(NBC15)
Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 3:48 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Republicans responded to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s $25 million plan to work through a backlog of in-person transactions with an entirely new proposal on Thursday.

Instead of the additional staffing and overtime to create 500,000 appointments at Secretary of State branch offices that Benson called for, Michigan Senate Republicans are proposing another extension for expired driver’s licenses and state ID cards until Sept. 30.

Republicans also renewed calls for Benson to allow walk-in visits to branch offices without appointments. Late fees for transactions would be waived until branch offices are open 25 hours per week for walk-in traffic.

“People should not be getting $200 tickets for expired plates or licenses because the current Secretary of State’s Office can’t get their act together,” said State Sen. Ruth Johnson of Holly, who also served as secretary of state from 2011 to 2019. “They need to open their branches, turn the MI-TIME Line system back on and restore options to customers.”

Benson reopened the 210 Secretary of State branch offices across Michigan by appointment only last summer during the coronavirus pandemic. The appointment system was designed to limit crowds waiting for in-person transactions in the offices.

She announced in April that the appointment-only system will continue indefinitely after the pandemic. However, residents have complained of months-long waits to set appointments at several branch offices, causing licenses to expire while they wait for a required branch office visit to obtain a new one.

A three-bill package that Johnson introduced to the Michigan Senate on Thursday would temporarily block the $200 fine for carrying an expired license or state ID card while waiting for a Secretary of State appointment.

“This is on government and specifically the secretary of state,” Johnson said. “If citizens are unable to do what they need to do in a timely manner, we should not be penalizing them. These bills will hold Michigan residents harmless if they can’t get their renewals done on time because of Secretary Benson’s refusal to reopen offices to serve customers.”

Most Secretary of State transactions to renew license plates, registrations and driver’s licenses can be completed online, by mail or at one of about 140 self-service kiosks at grocery stores around Michigan. In-person visits to a branch office are required for new photos, eye tests and cash transactions.

“We had appointments when I was secretary of state too,” said Johnson. “But when people are waiting three to five months to get one, that cannot be the only option.”

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