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Senate: Let drivers renew license in person less frequently

picture of license with star
State of Michigan

Michigan drivers could renew their licenses more frequently online or by mail instead of having to go to a secretary of state branch office under bipartisan legislation that received unanimous Senate approval on Thursday.

Residents now can renew their driver’s license or state ID card by mail or the internet once, for a four-year term, but must go in person every eight years to get a new photograph. The bills, sent to the House in the closing days of a two-year session, would allow for an in-person renewal once every 12 years.

Sen. Ruth Johnson, a former secretary of state who is sponsoring one of the measures, said the change would improve safety and convenience for people and help the Department of State address a backlog of transactions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“By reducing the number of people who need to come into the office simply for a license renewal, we can free up appointments for other types of transactions,” said Johnson, a Holly Republican.

Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson supports the legislation and her office helped to work on the bills, a spokesman said. It was not immediately clear if the House will pass them before the Legislature adjourns next week, after which legislation must be introduced again in the 2021-22 session.